JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Jacob SullumJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / March 24, 1998 / 26 Adar, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Jerry Springer's America

THOSE LOOKING FOR ENLIGHTENMENT about President Clinton's strong poll numbers despite (because of?) his scandal troubles should perhaps look to "The Jerry Springer Show."

Thanks to Bill Bennett and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), those of us who managed to live in happy ignorance of what passes for entertainment on that program have recently been brought up to date. "The Jerry Springer Show" is evidence of the proposition that in cultural matters there is no such thing as the lowest common denominator. You can always aim a little lower. Where other daytime talk fests have eagerly served up alcoholic 12-year-olds, wife-swapping couples, mothers who date their teenage daughters' boyfriends and other cretins, the Springer show has added a certain frisson by actually encouraging on-air violence among guests. This is greeted by hoots and grunts from the Neanderthal audience.

Hoping to shame the corporate purveyors of this stuff, Bennett and Lieberman have awarded Seagram's Corp. the first "Silver Sewer" award. There will, alas, probably be many, many more recipients.

What has all this to do with Bill Clinton?

One recent program (in early March) excerpted by Bennett and Lieberman featured the following scenario: Springer interviews a teenage couple. At some point during the discussion, Springer confronts the young lady with the fact that her boyfriend is cheating on her. She turns to the young man and demands, "How long has this been going on?" A few months, he replies. "Who is it?" she inquires. "Your best friend," he responds. The audience hoots. Springer then presents the tease for the next segment: "Coming up, we'll meet the friend who is sleeping with her boyfriend."

Following the commercial break, Springer asks the friend, "So why are you sleeping with the boyfriend of your best friend?" The young lady doesn't hesitate. "It's only sex," she explains, "nothing personal."

According to Nielson ratings, 1 million children tune in to Springer each week. Millions more see one of the other programs with similar moral instruction. And of course, movies, popular music, magazines and MTV offer variations on the theme. Our entire culture has taught children (and millions of former children) that sex is nothing personal, that it represents mere physical pleasure and that the way people seek physical pleasure has as much moral relevance as the way they like their steaks broiled or the way they squeeze the toothpaste tube.

Welcome to the world governed by the Playboy Philosopher. The only sexual sin is repression (I actually heard a caller to C-SPAN ask, "Do we really want a president who is sexually frustrated?") or, even worse, judgmentalism. People seem to think it is a mark of sophistication to refuse to be shocked -- no matter what the sexual allegation. Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards once remarked that he could be politically damaged only if he were found with "a dead girl or a live boy."

Bill Clinton's sexual misbehavior, far from his undoing, may look in retrospect like his ace in the hole. As Mark Steyn shrewdly observed, Clinton used sex to shield himself from all integrity questions during the 1996 campaign. Anyone who even considered "the character issue" was accused of mucking about in Clinton's sex life. And so he may have been able to break campaign finance laws, offer hush money, misuse the FBI, rifle the private files of leading Republicans, offer government jobs to girlfriends, and rent out the Lincoln Bedroom. And lie and lie and lie.

For a time, feminists added a cautionary note to the libertine celebration of carnality this culture pushes. But it has now become clear that their complaints about powerful men abusing their positions to have their way with female underlings were misunderstood. What we never heard, because the feminists must have been mumbling at the time, is that they meant "conservative" men, not charming, pro-choice, have-another-day-in-the-hospital-when-you-give-birth men.

We're all sophisticates now. We're not shockable. We separate the private from the public. And we don't even notice what we've lost in the process: our honor, our ideals, our sense of reverence for our institutions and something noble to bequeath to our children. Maybe when sexual morality goes, so does everything else.


3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
3/17/98: Skeletons in every closet?
3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
3/10/98: Better than nothing?
3/6/98: Of fingernails and freedom
3/3/98: Read JWR! :0)
2/27/98: Dumb and Dumber
2/24/98: Reagan reduced poverty more than Clinton
2/20/98: Rally Round the United Nations?
2/17/98: In Denial
2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
2/10/98: Waiting for the facts?
2/8/98: Cat got the GOP's tongue?
2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
12/26/97: Food fights (Games children play)
12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.