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From Under The Rubble
November 27, 2012

Scandals and the Scandalous
by Christopher Manion
fitzgerald griffin foundation

FRONT ROYAL, VA — Here’s our laugh of the day: The Petraeus Scandal isn’t really scandalous at all.

That’s according to the Washington Post, published in the city where “I Don’t Believe The Post” buttons have been a popular gift item for years.

The Post not only likes to play referee in the Beltway’s Blue-Team, Red-Team game, it also insists on conveniently moving the goalposts, erasing the line markers, changing the rules, and altering the record books as ideological whim dictates.

The Post’s latest thigh-slapper advises us that the Petraeus scandal constitutes “just a few steamy e-mails.” To emphasize its authority, we are given the Word from the Mountaintop: “President Obama said he sees ‘no evidence’ that national security was compromised,” veteran Postie Dana Milbank observes, with wonder and awe, “and there’s no serious allegation that the affair harmed Petraeus’s spy work.”

Notice the implication: Obama rules. If he says it isn’t so, no one else can say it is. “Seriously,” anyway. This is truly the way they think.


Mr. Milbank exonerates Petraeus. Can you reach any other rational conclusion after reading his cogent, penetrating analysis? Oh, you can? Well, you’d better let Mr. Milbank take you by the hand: “it’s baffling that the director of national intelligence suggested, and the president accepted, Petraeus’s resignation,” he marvels.

Please, Dear Reader, don’t baffle the Post. They take it personally.

Well, admittedly it’s the Post that is truly scandalous, day in and day out. But the Milbank absolution treads on serious ground. In a former life, your humble Rubbler was a designated spy-hunter working from Capitol Hill with the FBI to root out the bad guys, so we find a few salient facts in the fog surrounding those “steamy emails” that merit brief mention.

The CIA Director is the nation’s number one intelligence official. For good or ill, secrecy is central to the success of his efforts, and the prospect that a potential blackmailer might know that the CIA Director has something to hide is a veritable time-bomb waiting to go off. Petraeus did the right thing by resigning, and he shouldn’t have waited to be asked to do so.

Catholics are familiar with the potential impact of such perfidy. Some years back, former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland was blackmailed for years by his former boyfriend. His Excellency paid his lover off with the Sunday collection money, insisted on staying on as archbishop, and wound up virtually destroying the archdiocese. He’s still at it. Like the Washington Post, the retired archbishop denied any scandal, wrote a book celebrating his homosexuality, and today lives on in retirement at the expense of the people in the pews whose money he stole. Had he resigned his office thirty years ago, when the first threat of blackmail came, the faithful and the Church of Milwaukee would have been spared.

Petraeus knows better. He has wisely chosen to concentrate on healing his family’s wounds. Someone else can be CIA Director. No one else can be husband and father to the Petraeus family.

Embrace of that simple wisdom is unusual in Washington. The number of politicians of both parties who dump their first (and occasionally their second) wives as they climb fame’s flimsy ladder is legion. So all of us should pray for Mr. Petraeus and for the rest. Augustine didn’t call the lust for power the libido dominandi without reason: need we underscore libido?

The Dan Quayle Test
As far as the Posties are concerned, here is a universally applicable test to detect political hypocrisy. Just ask this: What would the Post say if Dan Quayle had done it? If Dan Quayle had appointed unconstitutional czars, launched illegal wars, given hundreds of weapons to drug dealers who killed Americans with them, or — horrors! — had a mistress, what would the Washington Post say about it?

Chemistry has its litmus test. Now politics has the Dan Quayle test.

By the way, some thirty years ago the newly-minted Senator Quayle was invited by some lobbyists to go a (legal) golf outing in Florida with some other members. Quayle was indisputably the best golfer on Capitol Hill, and undoubtedly enjoyed the chance to play some southern links. Unfortunately, word later got out that a certain lady had been introduced into the group’s sleeping quarters. Paul Weyrich steamed at his weekly conservative luncheon that “this could ruin several careers.”

Was Dan Quayle’s career one of them? His wife Marilyn, a very smart lady, settled the argument quickly, once and for all. “Are you kidding?” she said publicly. “Dan likes golf too much.”

Hmmm. Maybe Mr. Petraeus should take up golf.

One might think that Mr. Milbank is channeling the Marquis de Sade, who opposed capital punishment because there was no such thing as a crime. But, as Richard Nixon would say, that would be wrong. For the Posties there is one unforgivable capital offense: disagreeing with the Post. Agree with the Post, whatever the crime, and not a single eyebrow is raised. Disagree, and you’re toast.

Hypocrisy? Of course. And yet, in the eyes of the popular culture, the Post is a pillar of the New Morality. Why, firing Petraeus was such an anachronism! That view is hardly surprising: in Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s memorable phrase, the Post has long been a leader in the effort to define deviancy down. And that celebration of deviancy has managed to wear the public conscience away to the point of brain death.

There’s a lot more to this collapse than sex. The deterioration of language itself has simply made it impossible for us to communicate intelligibly. When people hold no self-evident truths in common, the notion of community gives way not to “diversity” but to chaos, and pursuing the common good becomes a raw power play.

This loss of rational discourse has caught many in the Catholic Church unawares, and it shows. Take the notion of "rights."

  “The deterioration of language itself has simply made it impossible for us to communicate intelligibly.”

The so-called Human Rights Campaign is a homosexual activist organization. Admittedly, they haven't read Confucius, so they have no regard for what the Chinese sage called the restoration of the proper meaning of words. Instead, they embrace Humpty Dumpty — when they use a word, it means whatever they want it to mean. They acknowledge no standard by which we can challenge the assertion of such bogus “rights” as wrong.

The question is crucial: how can the Church fight this campaign — “Gay marriage” and the rest — that seeks to seize every sexual issue and make it a matter of “rights”? After all, like me, our bishops grew up in the civil rights era, and as young priests and seminarians they supported the civil rights movement. Back then, such “rights” were connected with metaphysics, with reality, with truth; but that was fifty years ago.

This time around, however, our bishops are confronted by another "civil rights" movement, and this time they have not prepared their flock. For 50 years they have not taught us why homosexual acts are immoral. In fact, they haven’t even told us that they are immoral. That was apparently one of the issues that they have found “too hot to handle,” according to Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

“At the Post, the drumbeat of the sexual revolution harmonizes with the heartbeat of the Libertine Left.”   Well, it wasn’t too hot to handle for the Post. They routinely savage the Church for its teaching on homosexuality, whenever a Catholic has the temerity to defend it. At the Post, the drumbeat of the sexual revolution harmonizes with the heartbeat of the Libertine Left. Anyone who defies the consequences must be excoriated. Moral anarchy must rule.

The Petraeus Affair should be instructive. Actions do have consequences. But countless politicians have committed far worse sins than Petraeus, and stayed on the job. So have a few bishops. That’s why a lot of folks might be tempted to agree, however quietly, with Mr. Milbank: so what’s the big deal with adultery? Everybody does it. And yet, adultery has consequences. So does fifty years of silence from our bishops on sexual morality. We have a steep mountain to climb.

The laity must pray for our bishops and urge them — and support them — to teach us the truth, all of it. My former Bishop once told me that a Bishop never gets good advice or a bad meal. Well, my friends, let's prayerfully and respectfully give our bishops some good advice.

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From Under the Rubble is copyright © 2012 by Christopher Manion. All rights reserved.

Christopher Manion, Ph.D., served as a staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years. He has taught in the departments of politics, religion, and international relations at Boston University, the Catholic University of America, and Christendom College, and is the director of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae, a project of the Bellarmine Forum. He is a Knight of Malta.

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