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The absence of grace

Michael Gerson, in the Washington Post, thinks we’ve been too hard on Mark Souder, the drug warrior and abstinence warrior who recently resigned from Congress because he had an affair with a staff member.

Mark Souder and the case for grace

Gerson is disturbed by the “national mirth” over Souder’s departure, and notes that Souder was decent to him.

Not long after I started working there, my father died suddenly. Mark drove from Washington to Atlanta to attend the funeral. I won’t forget.

That’s nice. And completely irrelevant to the national discussion about the hypocrisy of Mark Souder. I’m sure that even mass murderers have done nice and decent things for their friends and associates.

Gerson also notes:

The failure of human beings to meet their own ideals does not disprove or discredit those ideals.

Of course not. People are imperfect. It is not the moment of Souder’s fall that disproved his ideals. They had already been clearly disproved. His fall was merely the “I told you so” moment. And that’s what made it worthy of national mirth.

Mark Souder promoted failed and bad policy because it fit his own personal sadomoralistic views. This was not a matter of someone doing good things, but having a moment of weakness — I’m not bothered by that at all. Mark Souder was constantly shown that the policies he promoted (in both the drug war and abstinence education) didn’t work and caused harm. And yet he used his power to force his personal morality onto others, despite the damage.

Lee at HorsesAss had already said it clearly last week:

The reason that Mark Souder’s downfall has everything to do with abstinence-only education is because if even the biggest nanny in Congress doesn’t have the ability to abstain from sex that he knows could have serious consequences, very few teenagers out there do either. That’s the basis for why comprehensive sex-education is more realistic and more effective than trying to scare teens into keeping their pants on.

And of course the same is true for drug policy.

Legislation isn’t about deciding what you personally believe to be morally correct and then turning it into law. It is about crafting public policy that serves the greater good (you know, that actually works). Souder had long been a horrible failure as a legislator and deserved a kick out the door many years ago for his legislative work. Again, the affair was just the “I told you so” moment.

Gerson says:

But I would rather live among those who recognize standards and fail to meet them than among those who mock all standards as lies. In the end, hypocrisy is preferable to decadence.

That, of course, is a distortion of what really is going on. Souder didn’t “recognize” standards. He imposed them (and failed to meet them). And we don’t mock all standards as lies — only those that are lies.

Michael Gerson wants us to show Mark Souder a little grace. Not divine grace, but merely some mercy. That’s hard. I keep wondering where the grace was for all the young people whose lives were destroyed by Mr. Souder’s drug and sex policies.

The sad thing to me in this affair (even though I did take considerable pleasure in the “I told you so” moment), is that it took an affair for him to leave office. The right reason for him to leave office was not the affair, but because his public policy efforts were so damaging.

Yet by calling his agenda “morality,” Souder was able to convince the voters in Indiana (who apparently never read the first four books of the New Testament) to put him in office time and again. That’s the real tragedy.

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10 comments to The absence of grace

  • kaptinemo

    Souder was and is a perfect example of karma in action; it can take years, but it catches up to you.

    And as for ‘grace’…well, I am always mindful of something I read a long time ago:

    “Justice is what we deserve; mercy is in not getting it.”

    Mad Mark Souder was always the sort who believed himself uniquely qualified to swing the sword of Justice, and because he was so ‘righteous’, never get cut by it. People like that invariably step over the line and wind up impaled on that sword. But far too many are maimed or killed by that same sword before the hypocrite wielding it is stopped. That’s the real tragedy in all this…

  • ezrydn

    Markie’s Whiners are in full tilt, it seems. And not one of them ever mentions the mangled, uneducated bodies laying in the wake of that man’s tenure. Mercy? Forgiveness? You’re looking in the wrong pickle barrel!

    If he want’s to redeem himself, then let’s see him set right what he mucked up during his stay in politics. And there’s going to have to be a hellova lot of doing the right thing to ever recoup any endearment from anyone NOT a Markie Whiner today!

  • BluOx

    The inqusitionist got his titty caught in a rack of his own device. I write to kick him again…and again…

  • Cannabis

    “Michael Gerson is senior research fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement’s Center on Faith & International Affairs, and a columnist for The Washington Post. He served as a policy adviser and chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush from 2000 to 2006. Before that, he was a senior editor covering politics at U.S. News & World Report. His book, “Heroic Conservatism,” was published by HarperOne in 2007.”

    Does that tell you enough about the writer?

  • Duncan

    Pete: “I’m sure that even mass murderers have done nice and decent things for their friends and associates.”

    What a coinkydink. I just saw a fellow on TV talking about Dennis Rader, self proclaimed as BTK, which meant Bind, Tortue, Kill. He also stole his victims panties and wore them himself.

    From wikipedia: “Rader served on both the Sedgwick County’s Board of Zoning Appeals and the Animal Control Advisory Board (appointed in 1996 and resigned in 1998). He was also a member of Christ Lutheran Church, a Lutheran congregation of about 200 people, near his former high school. He had been a member for about 30 years and had been elected president[6] of the Congregation Council. He was also a Cub Scout leader. His son became an Eagle Scout.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Rader

    Interesting example of synchronicity. I didn’t know this until the day before yesterday.

  • rhetorical

    Is there anyone in the District of Corruption that isn’t a douchebag or whore?

  • Just me.

    Where theres big money..theres crooks and whores. Hello washington !

  • Duncan

    I’m in DC and don’t think about myself as a douche bag. I probably qualify as a whore though, the only reason I’m not is because I’m really pretty ugly.

  • Hope

    Duncan…

    :0)

    You’re funny.

  • rhetorical ?'s

    I need to clarify that remark. I meant the politicians not the everyday people.