Judgment Day at the White House: A Critical Declaration Exploring Moral Issues
By Paula R. Kincaid, The Presbyterian Layman, in our present context, where people deny the connection between the capacity to keep marital covenants and the capacity to keep covenants that are decisive for professional and public life, it is being argued not only that people have made grave mistakes, but that these mistakes are morally and socially irrelevant. In fact, the grave mistakes of others are often hidden precisely because people in other times and places recognized that such errors of judgment and behavior do, in fact, affect the public good, the capacity of leaders to claim a moral legitimacy for the policies they advocate, and the well-being of public life itself,” he wrote.
Stackhouse also points to the mounting evidence that the crisis in family life in society is a “very serious time bomb, only partly exposed by ingenuous rhetoric about ‘family values’ and not yet widely acknowledged by academics and clergy who passively accept or overtly celebrate those forms of sexual liberation that erode family stability.”
In part one of the book, “Declaration Signatories Make Their Case,” Stackhouse is joined by Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago, who discussed the role of forgiveness and the use or abuse of that role for political ends, and Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University, who made one of the strongest statements against Clinton, “The question before Christians is not whether Bill Clinton should be impeached, but why he is not excommunicated.”
In Part two of the book, “Declaration Critics Respond,” John P. Burgess writes that he shares the Declaration’s concern that the president be held accountable, “but I believe that the Declaration misses a critical point: in politics, truth is sometimes more important than justice.” In his essay, “Why Truth Matters More than Justice,” Burgess, associate professor of systematic theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, gives his opinion on how “morality, law and politics appropriately relate to each other, and why establishing the truth is sometimes the only kind of accountability possible in politics.”
In “The Case of Bill Clinton and Catholic Teaching,” William J. Buckley, visiting scholar at the Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University Medical Center, writes, “Rather than covering or uncovering infidelities, we need more frank discussions of gender justice, equity, and broken relationships. It is this kind of call for justice that I found lacking in the Declaration. This is why I didn’t sign it. But I remain glad that others did.”
Also included in the book are reprints of essays from national columnists Stephen Carter, Andrew Sullivan and Shelby Steele, and reprints of President Clinton’s August 17 televised statement and his September 11 Religious Leader’s Breakfast speech.
Neither the Declaration’s signers nor its critics agree on how the current crisis at the White House should be resolved. Instead, it is the public discussion of the underlying issues that they find most important. This book can help readers deepen their understanding of the issues involved, without the partisan political rhetoric.