- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009


The opportunity to knock down what inevitably is described as a holier-than-thou, self-righteous conservative is irresistible for the left. Within minutes of the revelations of payments made to Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign’s former mistress, the Daily Kos, thrilled to have the story back on Page 1, could barely hide its smirk, asking, “What does the Promise Keeper handbook say” about today’s addition to the “annals of Republican sex scandals.”

The “distractions,” to borrow one of President Obama’s oft-used words, give Democrats the opportunity to further kick the Republican Party when it’s down, keep their collective foot on the party’s throat and attack a Republican they claim still reels from electoral smackdowns in 2006 and 2008.

The left has never forgiven Republicans for claiming the mantle of family values. For them, the Republican Party of 2009 is the party of 1992, when Pat Buchanan lit a culture war and Vice President Dan Quayle criticized Murphy Brown. The left seeks to portray any politician supporting pro-life, pro-marriage legislation — let alone one who talks about his or her Christian faith — as a hypocrite-in-waiting, then celebrates when such a politician is caught red-handed.

Yet in every campaign, candidates emphasize family to demonstrate to voters that they “share your values.” Whether the candidate, Republican or Democrat, runs for the White House or the statehouse, we all have seen the brochures and television ads — the candidate is walking with his spouse or the entire family, having a serious chat or sharing a laugh. And anyone who has received a holiday card from a politician knows the familiar photo — the family gathered together, possibly in matching sweaters, the youngest one in curls. If the family owns a dog, you had better believe “Baxter” is in the photo.

Family values, however one defines them, were a bipartisan theme in 2008, in a campaign where we met two impossibly cute daughters named Sasha and Malia, where we met five Romney brothers, and where Chelsea Clinton and Meghan McCain stumped for their respective senatorial parent.

With the attacks, and the glee with which the left made them — one could almost hear champagne corks popping at the Sierra Club — the left immediately began using South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s recent admissions to raise money. It’s as if the Democrats have forgotten their own recent history or an era called the Clinton years.

As a native North Carolinian, I remember all too well how, from Day One, Sen. John Edwards made his family a central part of his political career, citing his son’s fatal and tragic automobile accident as an impetus for entering politics and introducing the world to his wife, Elizabeth.

Another family man was former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Married more than 20 years and father of three daughters, Mr. Spitzer put values into action by aggressively seeking to protect the daughters of New York from the dangers of prostitution.

Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey was happily married to Dina Matos McGreevey, with whom he had a daughter, before giving a speech that stunned the political world.

Married to his wife, Carolyn, for more than 30 years before meeting Chandra Levy, former Rep. Gary Condit remained a family man throughout his very public ordeal, during which his biggest supporters/surrogates were his son and daughter.

These scandals held shocking revelations: a presidential candidate possibly fathering an out-of-wedlock child while his wife had cancer; a governor caught with his pants down (but socks up!) on an expensive, illegal date; a neighboring governor telling the world he was a “gay American”; and a congressman who had an affair with a young intern, whose life was cut tragically short.

While these sad, unfortunate situations put the media into overdrive, they did not draw the opposition party into rubbing its hands together and salivating over the latest political “gift.” Nor did those scandals, all occurring when Republicans controlled the White House, lead to overhyped and incessant questioning on whether the Democratic Party could ever come back.

Of course it was going to come back. That’s what political parties do; they win, they win again, they overreach, they lose.

Those for whom any Republican scandal represents schadenfreude at its purest would do well to remember that believing in an ideal and failing to live up to it does not diminish that ideal. It reinforces both its importance and our own human frailty.

No doubt, these can be tough times for Republicans, always wondering when the next shoe will “tap.” Yet even through this, Republicans often outraise Democrats and attract better recruits, including Rep. Mark Steven Kirk in Illinois and New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte, both of whom this week jumped into their state’s respective Senate campaigns. Meanwhile, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, both Democrats, deny personal overtures from Mr. Obama.

Instead of high-fiving each other over an individual’s shortcomings in a political “gotcha” game, finding good candidates ought to be of greater concern to the left.

Doug Heye has served in the House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and Bush administration and is a veteran of political campaigns throughout the nation.

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