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.
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 â€” 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 Souderâ€™s downfall has everything to do with abstinence-only education is because if even the biggest nanny in Congress doesnâ€™t have the ability to abstain from sex that he knows could have serious consequences, very few teenagers out there do either. Thatâ€™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.
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 â€” 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.