One of the Washington Post’s rare conservative columnists has a solution for GOP candidates and office holders whose views on some subjects are likely to make them targets of furious criticism: refuse to express them. She writes in her latest column:
“Not everything is a political issue, nor one on which politicians have any particular insight. Candidates are not asked their views on divorce, for example. Each state has laws on the topic, and one’s religious views aren’t a topic for public debate. It is not (and shouldn’t be) asked of nor answered by politicians…Creationism? Unless you are running for school board and intend to be guided by your religious convictions, it does not matter. Born again? None of my business.
“…[Q]uestions about creationism, gay marriage, the nature of homosexuality and other value-specific questions serve no purpose other than to provide targets for faux outrage. These questions are designed to divide the population into believers and nonbelievers, between those who share the same cultural touchstones and those who differ.
“If a topic has no relevance to public policy or character or fitness to serve, why ask the question and why answer it? We aren’t electing pastors, family counselors or philosophers; we’re electing politicians whose job description and qualifications don’t include a great many topics. If we are heading for a more tolerant society, we have to agree to disagree on some issues and to respect some realm of private opinion and faith. For Republicans running in 2016, I would suggest a simple response to the sort of question intended to provoke divisiveness over irrelevant topics: “I can’t think of a single instance in which [creationism/the origin of homosexuality] would be relevant. I’m not here to sow division or take sides in faith-based debates. Let’s talk about something germane to the presidency.”
I wonder if Rubin realizes, in her desperate and misguided effort to insulate conservatives from the consequences of opinions and beliefs that compel unflattering verdicts about their character, critical thinking skills and trustworthiness, that she has adopted wholesale the very argument (and very cynical and invalid argument) used to defend Bill Clinton from impeachment. “These are just personal flaws and personal misconduct! They have no effect on ability to govern!” Rubin seems smart (most of the time); I’m sure she could explain why that was utter crap during L’affaire Lewinsky, as I have, and she probably has. There is no separation between the personal and the public for an elected official, unless you are willing to start a Draft John Edwards For President movement.
We have a right to know who our leaders are, how clearly they think, and what their beliefs and biases are, whether those beliefs directly affect public policy decisions or not. Would I vote for a candidate who believed in leprechauns, the Tooth Fairy, poltergeists, that Dick Cheney bombed the World Trade Center or that the Holocaust is a sham? No. Would you? No candidate whose mind is so weak and biased as to embrace any of these should hold high office, and I don’t care whether any of these issues are likely to be the subject of legislation. The same goes for believing in Creationism, and that the Earth is 10,000 years old or less. In fact, this belief is more harmful and alarming that several of the others. It shows utter scientific ignorance , and a rigid, closed mind. If a candidate is like this, we not only have a right to know, we need to know. And run away.
Would it be germane that a potential President believed that men were inherently superior to women, or that Blacks were an inferior race? How are those beliefs more significant than the belief that gays are inherent sinners, and should be denied rights that heterosexuals enjoy? Of course these beliefs have relevance to character and fitness to serve: Rubin is either deluded, or being dishonest. Answers like Perry’s ridiculous alcoholism-homosexuality analogy are instructive—they show me that Perry is a dolt (which I knew) and also a bigot. Both are relevant.
This has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with encouraging a tolerant society. We shouldn’t be tolerant of lazy thinking and ignorance in our leaders. I don’t blame my auto mechanic for having some strange beliefs, but then I’m only trusting him to fix my car, not chart my nation’s future.
Nice try, Jennifer, at trying to inoculate backward conservative candidates from the just consequences of their own deficits of character, reasoning and education. Actually, I take that back: it was a pathetic try.