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Jewish World Review Jan. 24, 2001 / 29 Teves, 5761

Cal Thomas

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Jesse's loss of moral authority --
ON A MARCH, 1998 trip to Africa with President Clinton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was serving as Clinton's "spiritual adviser'' and seeking to stem the fallout from the Monica Lewinsky affair, told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, "Sex is not the one string on the guitar. There are nine other commandments.''

Perhaps Jackson could so easily offer absolution to the president because Jackson was breaking the same commandment.

Jackson says he had an extramarital affair with a woman on the staff of his Rainbow-Push Coalition and fathered a now 20-month-old child with her. He added, "I fully accept responsibility and I am truly sorry for my actions.'' He says he has asked God, his family and friends for forgiveness and their prayers.

That, of course, is between Jackson, G-d, his family and his friends. True repentance is a beautiful thing and no one is above the temptation to which Jackson has succumbed. But as a very public man who has been one of Bill Clinton's chief defenders and organizers of support within the African-American community, Jackson's incredible hypocrisy deserves at least as much scrutiny and comment as that given in the 1980s to fallen television evangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. The extramarital activities of those men were the subject of entire "Nightline'' programs and numerous jokes by late-night comedians.

Most people expect clergy to practice what they preach. Jackson has frequently spoken to groups of young people, urging them not to engage in sexual activity before marriage and pleading with them not to father or mother children out of wedlock. Can he ever deliver such a message again and expect to be taken seriously?

Thankfully, the woman Jackson impregnated was pro-life, at least regarding this child. Jackson, himself the product of an out-of-wedlock conception, is radically "pro-choice.'' He even opposes legislative attempts to restrain the procedure known as "partial birth abortion,'' which sucks the brains out of a fully-formed baby in the process of emerging from the birth canal. He says he loves the child he recently fathered, which makes one wonder if others might not come to love children conceived in difficult situations if those babies were allowed the privilege of their endowed right to life. None of us has control over the circumstances of our conception.

Jackson's defense of President Clinton was part of the web of deception that surrounded the president as he sought to avoid impeachment and then conviction by Congress. It showed that even while Jackson was engaged in the very activity in which Clinton busied himself, he was willing to mortgage whatever credibility he had and heap shame on the God he was supposed to be serving in order to provide spiritual cover for Clinton. This is the ultimate temptation of political power. One can desire power so much that he is willing to sully not only his own name and reputation, but that of G-d, Himself, in order to maintain his access to it.

Jesse Jackson will probably not suffer the same ostracism and rejection experienced by Bakker and Swaggart. The reasons are that he is treated differently by liberals in the media and that anyone who criticizes a black person for even legitimate reasons runs the risk of being called a racist, a charge against which it is nearly impossible to defend yourself. Ask John Ashcroft.

Jackson says he will take an "indefinite hiatus'' from his political activities "to revive my spirit and reconnect with my family.'' While that is a good thing to do (does he have an alternative?), he will be back. He is too useful to the Democratic Party, which cares little about what they can do for God, but cares much about how clergy on the left, as on the right, can be manipulated to remain in the fold of their respective parties.

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