It’s hard for me to say this, but my Baptist upbringing tells me I must. That upbringing taught me that all of us were born scumbags and that the only way to have our scumbaginess forgiven was to admit we were evil, to undergo a total immersion baptism, then to go forth and convince others to take the same glory path to heaven.
Forgiveness, both in the receiving and the giving, was the key—especially when granting forgiveness made the forgiven appear, at best, pitifully wrong-headed, unspeakably evil, and well on the way to their reserved hot seats in the fiery pit of hell.
So today, I’m forgiving Republicans, having pretty well given up on forgiving Democrats, most of whom seem to feel no need to be forgiven.
I begin with William Bennett. You remember William Bennett, the fellow who used to be the Official Morality Adviser to the Republican Party. He wrote “The Book of Virtues” and shortly thereafter was revealed as a gambling addict.
Well, that very same William Bennett said something awful the other day. He was directly quoted saying this: “You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”
Democrats, of course, were shocked. Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee Chairman, said Bennett should apologize for his “hateful, inflammatory remarks regarding African Americans….Are these the values of the Republican Party and its conservative allies?”
And GOP National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said Bennett’s comment was “regrettable and inappropriate,” but added that “What’s much worse is the hypocrisy we’ve seen from the left.” Meaning, of course, the Democrats.
As one who worries a lot about being perceived as a hypocrite, I hereby forgive Mr. Bennett for what must have been a slip of the tongue—although I have no idea what innocent thing he might have meant to say.
My next forgiveness is aimed at Tom “The Hammer” DeLay. You surely remember him too. He’s a Republican Congressman from a place in Texas called Sugarland. I’m not kidding.
And he was the GOP House Majority Leader right up until he ran into some money-laundering charges. Now I don’t even know for sure what it means to launder money, but apparently it’s something they take very seriously in Congress. It seems like an odd thing to do to your money, and so far as I know I’ve never done any of it, although I did fall off a boat once and got all the money in my billfold awfully wet.
Anyway, I have a hard time working up any hard feelings toward The Hammer for laundering his own money instead of having the maid do it.
The Truth, Mainly
So I hereby forgive Rep. DeLay (R) for cleaning up his money.
But the Republican I’m most sympathetic to is Colin L. Powell, former Army General and former Secretary of State. He actually seems ashamed of what he’s done—which probably puzzles Mr. Bennett and Mr. DeLay.
Powell says that the speech he gave to the United Nations shortly before our invasion of Iraq in 2003 greatly pains him now because it turned out that the Iraqi weapons he described didn’t—and don’t—exist. He says the misinformation he gave the U.N. was “painful” and would be a permanent “blot” on his record.
“I’m the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world,” he said last month, and that’s an error that “will always be a part of my record….it was painful. It’s painful now.”
After finding out that he had been misled by others in the Bush government, Powell said he felt “terrible.” He said it was “devastating” to find out later that our intelligence agents knew his information was unreliable but hadn’t told him that before his U.N. presentation.
As a one-time enlisted man addressing a general, I take some pleasure in forgiving Colin Powell.
And his moral dilemma reminds me of another Republican who must be preparing his own mea culpa about the war in Iraq—one that would, I assume, follow Mr. Powell’s example. But it would have to be on a grander scale because he has not only been given lots of bad advice, he’s also been the generator of that advice.
I’m talking about the President. People tell the President what they believe he wants to hear. And he doesn’t seem to hear what he doesn’t already believe.
But for a fallen Baptist trying to be forgiving in the case of a leader who seems incapable of admitting error, forgiveness is going to be gloriously difficult. And hence gloriously pious.
I can hardly wait.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail