In my post last night, I criticized Dobson, a long-time evangelical culture-warrior and the man who has done more than anyone else to shape the evangelical understanding of “family values,” for throwing his support behind a presidential candidate who, by all accounts, exemplifies very few signs of Christian character.
Dobson’s embrace of Trump is particularly disturbing in light of what he said about Christian character and the presidency in the 1990s. Earlier this week, two friends and colleagues dug-up a letter Dobson wrote to his constituency in the wake of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal.
You can read the long letter here.
I have posted the entire letter below and have highlighted some of the things Dobson has written that could also be applied to Donald Trump’s candidacy. This is VERY revealing. Dobson seems to have forgotten his own lessons about the moral character of the presidency. (Sorry that this is such a long post, but I wanted to print the entire letter just in case it disappears from the web at some point).
This is a great primary source. I encourage you to interpret it with your students and friends.
Greetings to you all. Shirley and I have been visiting the historic city of Boston for the past few weeks while working on a new book called Coming Home. I’ll tell you more about that at Christmastime. We have loved being together and are particularly grateful to God for His healing touch after my illness. Toward the end of our trip, however, we were shocked and dismayed by the admission of the President’s affair with “that woman — Miss Lewinsky” — which brought humiliation on himself, his family and our nation. Millions of words have been written and spoken about that sordid story, which I have chosen not to address during these past seven months. But now I want to express some passionate views that are on my heart.
As with many Christians around the country, Shirley and I have been in prayer for our leaders in government who must deal with the fallout from this scandal. They will need great wisdom and discernment in the days ahead. Our most serious concern, however, is not with those in Washington; it is with the American people. What has alarmed me throughout this episode has been the willingness of my fellow citizens to rationalize the President’s behavior even after they suspected, and later knew, that he was lying. Because the economy is strong, millions of people have said infidelity in the Oval Office is just a private affair–something between himself and Hillary. We heard it time and again during those months: “As long as Mr. Clinton is doing a good job, it’s nobody’s business what he does with his personal life.”
That disregard for morality is profoundly disturbing to me. Although sexual affairs have occurred often in high places, the public has never approved of such misconduct. But today, the rules by which behavior is governed appear to have been rewritten specifically for Mr. Clinton. We now know that this 50-year-old man had sexual relations repeatedly and brazenly in the White House, with a woman 27 years his junior. Then he spoke on national television while shaking his finger at the camera, and denied ever having a sexual relationship with Miss Lewinsky. He was the most powerful man in the world and she was a starry-eyed intern. That situation would not have been tolerated in any other setting — ever. And yet the apologists for the President have said endlessly, “It’s just about sex,” as though cheating on your wife was of no particular significance. But the majority of the American people replied, “I support the President.”
Let me ask, in what other context such behavior would have been acceptable? When a professor is known to have had consensual sex with a student, the university dismisses him or her forthwith. Academic institutions recognize their responsibility to protect the interests of younger and more vulnerable individuals. When a corporate executive is similarly accused, especially if numerous women claim to have been “groped” or abused in the manner of Kathleen Willey or Paula Jones, that man is fired. Period! If a middle-aged physician had sex with a younger patient in his office, he would probably lose his medical license. If a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor entered into a sexual relationship with a patient of any age, he would be charged with malpractice. It is stated in the code of ethics for these professions.
How about the stories reported in the military this past year? Lt. Kelly Flinn was charged with having sexual relations with a subordinate and was forced to resign to avoid a court-martial. Sgt. Major Gene McKinney, the U.S. Army’s highest ranking enlisted man, went through a five week trial after being charged with sexual misconduct. Air Force General Joseph W. Ralston was denied an assignment as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because of an affair occurring 14 years ago. 3 Given these and other examples, how can people rationalize the dalliances of the Commander in Chief when those to whom they are accountable are held to a higher standard? Yes, the rules have changed for the President.
How can we forget the excruciating confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas in the U.S. Senate?. Even if Anita Hill’s accusations had been accurate, the worst possible interpretation of Thomas’ behavior was that he “talked dirty” to her. That probably never happened, but even if it did, there was no sex. There were no lies or coverup. No one was involved who was half his age. And yet, many of the same feminists and liberal politicians who viciously sought to destroy Justice Thomas have rallied to support the President. Indeed, Anita Hill showed up on television a few days ago to defend Bill Clinton and to attack the independent counsel, Ken Starr.
Where, may I ask, have other feminist leaders been during this scandal, including Eleanor Smeal, Patricia Ireland, Gloria Steinem and Kate Michelman? Obviously, they are motivated not by the welfare of women but by raw political power.
How did our beloved nation find itself in this sorry mess? I believe it began not with the Lewinsky affair, but many years earlier. There was plenty of evidence during the first Presidential election that Bill Clinton had a moral problem. His affair with Gennifer Flowers, which he now admits to having lied about, was rationalized by the American people. He lied about dodging the draft, and then concocted an incredulous explanation that changed his story. He visited the Soviet Union and other hostile countries during the Vietnam War, claiming that he was only an “observer.” Numerous sources reported that he organized and participated in anti-war rallies in the United States, Great Britain, and Norway. Clinton evaded questions about whether he had used marijuana, and then finally offered his now-infamous “I didn’t inhale” response. There were other indications that Bill Clinton was untruthful and immoral. Why, then, did the American people ignore so many red flags? Because, and I want to give the greatest emphasis to this point, the mainstream media became enamored with Bill Clinton in 1992 and sought to convince the American people that “character doesn’t matter.”
Let me share just a few of the hundreds of statements, in print and in the media, that exist on the record. You’ll quickly recognize this effort by the press to undermine the moral values that we called “character.” Hold on to your hat.
“… we can remember that we are electing not clergy but political leaders — who need to be principled and devious, compassionate and brutal, visionary and, sometimes, utterly egotistical. If we try to do much better, we will end up doing worse.” — Suzanne Garment, San Diego Union-Tribune.1992
[Speaking on behalf of New York University media scholar Jay Rosen], “there is an important distinction between public and private character.What candidates do in private is largely irrelevant, says Rosen. What matters is their public conduct.” — Jeremy Iggers in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 1992
“He [Clinton] will shave, wheedle, compromise and cajole until he finds — or creates — common ground. He is notorious for his ability to impress strangers and disarm opponents. He is notorious for leading people to believe that he agrees with them entirely…without ever committing himself to their position. This is a gift given only to the best politicians. It is how difficult things get done.” — Joe Klein, Newsweek magazine. 1994
“Whether character is a factor or not is relevant only as it relates to what the people want in terms of a President. They’re looking for someone with the character to get the economy back on track and answer the more serious questions facing this country.” — Max Parker, a Clinton spokeswoman during the 1992 Presidential campaign.
“Voters re-elected Clinton despite widespread doubts about his character. In CNN’s election day exit poll, most voters continued to say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy. They’ve re-elected him because of his job performance — and crossed their fingers that character would not prove to be a major problem.” — Bill Schneider, CNN. 1996
“He has vacillated on issues large and small, and at times he has conducted himself like a man with something to hide. Nevertheless, we think he is still a better choice …”
“… Clinton was able to defuse the ‘character’ issue by focusing on voters’ own wants and needs. They put their own interests above that issue, and thus relegated all the stories about Clinton’s character to the back burner, or to the trash can. …it means that women and families have decided that it’s more important to have their own issues addressed rather than worry about the character issue.” — Robert A. Jordan of The Boston Globe. 1996.
Clinton is not the only politician in either party who lacks character, certainly, but he is the only one in American history, to my knowledge, who has been specifically applauded for his deceit. Let me share one of the most graphic illustrations of that support. Please read carefully the following statement by noted syndicated columnist, Richard Cohen, after Clinton’s first term.
“… he [Clinton] has been accused of adultery, sexual harassment, and ducking the draft — allegations that send some people into a frenzy of Clinton-hating. The President’s ultimate sin, it seems to some people, is that he appears to have broken the rules — and gotten away with it. That is unforgivable. But to the rest of us, the character issue just hasn’t taken. If we have learned anything over the last four years, it is that strictly personal behavior — in other words, sex — might be interesting, might be titillating, and might be even downright riveting…. One can argue that in both his triumphs and his failures there is a connection between the private and public Bill Clinton. But once the public man is known, the private one just doesn’t seem to matter anymore…. In his own way, Clinton taught us all a lesson about personal character that we should all remember the next time around: It’s sometimes more interesting than important.” — Richard Cohen of The Washington Post. 1996
I wonder what words of wisdom Cohen has to offer about the President now. We don’t have to guess about his colleague at The Washington Post, Michael Kelly. He said a few weeks ago: “[Clinton] will never stop lying. To borrow a hyperbolic description of another of the century’s historic prevaricators, every word he utters is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ He will lie until the last dog dies.”
It is obvious that the media now realizes they misled the American people. Most of the largest and most influential newspapers in the country are calling for Clinton’s resignation. Maureen Dowd, writing in The New York Times, said, “Mr. Clinton has killed something worthy and important in public life. All this carnage, and for what? To cover up some seamy sexcapades? His game has grown exhausting.”
Noemie Emery spoke of Bill Clinton “trailing his fragrant scandals behind him.” Let’s look at the record in the past five years. The American people have been subjected to a barrage of lies and half-truths — from Whitewater, to Filegate, to Travelgate, to Paula Jones, to Kathleen Willey, to the mysterious disappearance of subpoenaed documents, and ultimately, to alleged campaign finance illegalities that may yet bring down the President. If you followed the stories during the past six years, you’ll recognize the names of numerous people associated with convictions or allegations of wrongdoing, including David Hale, David Watkins, Mike Espy, Joycelyn Elders, Henry Cisneros, Webster Hubbell, Ron Brown, Jim Guy Tucker, Hazel O’Leary, Jim McDougal, Susan McDougal, Craig Livingstone, Dick Morris, John Huang, Johnny Chung, Charlie Trie, Al Gore (regarding the Buddhist monks and the illegal telephone calls), and finally, Hillary Clinton, who has been subpoenaed by the independent counsel and given sworn testimony on five separate occasions. 21 There’s a story behind each of these names that are linked to the President. All of this from the man who promised “the most ethical administration in the history of the Republic.” 22
As it turns out, character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world! Nevertheless, our people continue to say that the President is doing a good job even if they don’t respect him personally. Those two positions are fundamentally incompatible. In the Book of James the question is posed, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring” (James 3:11 NIV). The answer is no.
Speaking again of the First Lady, we’re being asked to believe that she knew nothing about the President’s escapade. I don’t want to be insensitive during her very difficult trial, but there is something strange about that explanation. After all, Hillary has been over this road before with her husband. Remember her appearance on 60 Minutes in 1992 when candidate Clinton admitted he had “caus[ed] pain in [my] marriage” regarding the affair with Gennifer Flowers? Hillary has dealt with infidelity at least once. Wouldn’t that have unsettled Mrs. Clinton, especially when she knew about the charges made by Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and possibly others. Are we to believe that this brilliant woman, a highly respected lawyer, neither saw nor heard anything leading her to conclude that her husband was lying? Did their private conversations reveal anything suspicious to her? How could she not have known about Monica these past seven months when the entire world was digging for information? It doesn’t sound believable to me.
This, then, is the key question. If Hillary did know about the affair, does that mean she lied too? And if so, was it not inexcusable for her to appear on the Today Show in January to blame the “right-wing conspiracy” for trouble that she knew was of her husband’s own making?
One thing is certain: Mr. Clinton has betrayed some of his closest friends, many of them being women who were pressed into his defense. Included among them were Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, Betty Currie, Ann Lewis, Dee Dee Myers, Mandy Grunwald, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, among others. Columnist Thomas Sowell wrote, “What could be more selfish or more gutless than a man hiding behind a woman, especially a woman young enough to be his daughter.” Noted in the President’s weak and defensive explanation on August 17 was no mention of Monica Lewinsky and the other cast of characters. The President owes all his defenders an apology.
I think it is also appropriate that the President’s spinmeister, James Carville, apologize to the independent counsel, Ken Starr, for saying “what the man [Starr] ought to do is close up his little obsessive sex shop and go back to whatever he’s doing. And I’m saying this: that this little pygmy of a public man, Ken Starr, this is all he’s got. This is his last dying gasp to save his reputation for history, and it’s not going to work.” Carville also stated that Starr was “about as independent as a turkey is bright,” 29 “a right-wing partisan hack,” 30 and accused him of “scuzzy, slimy” tactics.
Can you imagine the President of the United States being represented by such an undignified character? Mr. Starr is a courageous public servant. He has taken the heat to get at the truth, and we haven’t seen all the facts to date. This Christian man, who was asked by the Attorney General to do this thankless job, will be vindicated in the end, and indeed, he has already!
Well, that brings me back to the issue with which we began. The American people have now heard the President’s dramatic confession of adultery. There is no longer any reason to speculate, and yet, the media reports that the majority continues to believe “it doesn’t matter.” At one point during the shocking revelations last month, Clinton’s public approval rating approached 70 percent! I just don’t understand it. Why aren’t parents more concerned about what their children are hearing about the President’s behavior? Are moms and dads not embarrassed by what is occurring? At any given time, 40 percent of the nation’s children list the President of the United States as the person they most admire. What are they learning from Mr. Clinton? What have we taught our boys about respecting women? What have our little girls learned about men? How can we estimate the impact of this scandal on future generations? How in the world can 7 out of 10 Americans continue to say that nothing matters except a robust economy?
I am left to conclude from these opinions that our greatest problem is not in the Oval Office. It is with the people of this land! We have lost our ability to discern the difference between right and wrong. Biblical moral principles have guided us since the Pilgrims came to these shores. In his farewell address to the Congress in 1796, George Washington said:
“Of all the disposition and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports…. And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion … reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Clearly, this nation has been blessed because it was based on a commitment to biblical morality. But that is changing. Eleven years ago, Gary Hart was forced to withdraw from the Presidential race after a brief tryst, and yet the majority today seems to find nothing wrong with behavior that is too disgusting to be reported on the evening news.
We are facing a profound moral crisis — not only because one man has disgraced us — but because our people no longer recognize the nature of evil. And when a nation reaches that state of depravity — judgment is a certainty.
As for the future of Bill Clinton, who knows where his presidency is headed. Because I’m writing this on September 1, he may or may not still be president by the time you read this. I see the President as a prize fighter who’s been staggered by a succession of blows, but he’s still standing. One more solid punch and he could go down.
Only time will tell. Regardless of his personal future, I hope that Mr. Clinton will, as William Mattox suggested, “choose to follow in the path of Watergate figure Chuck Colson, a man who came clean with the truth, owned up to his misdeeds and found, at the height of his public humiliation, a new life and a new purpose.” As with all of us sinners, Jesus Christ is the atonement.
Pray with us for our country, won’t you? Nothing short of a spiritual renewal will save us.
James C. Dobson, Ph.D
A Footnote: There are a few very important quotes that help illuminate this present scandal. In 1974 when Bill Clinton was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Richard Nixon was fighting for his political life after Watergate, he was very outspoken in calling for impeachment. Here are three quotes that take on new significance in the light of Mr. Clinton’s current troubles:
“There’s nothing left to say. There’s not any point now in his putting the country through an impeachment since he isn’t making any pretense of innocence now.” 37 (1974)
“I think it’s plain that the President should resign and spare the country the agony of this impeachment and removal proceeding.” 38 (1974)
“I think the country could be spared a lot of agony and the government could worry about inflation and a lot of other problems if [Nixon would] go on and resign….[there is] no question that an admission of making false statements to government officials and interfering with the FBI and the CIA is an impeachable offense.” 39
Let’s fast forward to 1992 when Clinton was campaigning against George Bush. Here are two quotes that appear relevant today:
“Every time Bush talks about trust, it makes chills run up and down my spine. The very idea that the word ‘trust’ could come out of Mr. Bush’s mouth after what he’s done to this country and the way he’s trampled on the truth is a travesty of the American political system.” 40
“There’s just no such thing as truth when it comes to him (Bush). He just says whatever sounds good and worries about it after the election.” 41
Let me also remind you of a comment made by Mrs. Clinton during that interview on The Today Show on January 27, 1998. When asked, “If an American president had an adulterous relationship in the White House and lied to cover it up, should the American people ask for his resignation?” she said, “They [the American people] certainly should be concerned about it… I think that if all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense.” 42 That may be the most accurate statement of the interview.
Finally, in 1995, President Bill Clinton made a speech at the University of Connecticut, during which he said:
“The road to tyranny, we must never forget, is the destruction of the truth.” 43
There you have it. Perhaps I will post this again and replace “Clinton” with “Trump.” After reading Dobson’s remarks here it leads me to believe that it really is all about politics.