A New “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” For Conservative Politicians? You Wish, Jennifer Rubin…

creationismOne 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.”


Incredibly wrong.

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.

63 thoughts on “A New “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” For Conservative Politicians? You Wish, Jennifer Rubin…

  1. Agreed! We have a situation here, in my community, in which incorporation has been, possibly illegally, certainly unethically, forced down our throats. In an effort to mitigate the damage done to our largely rural sub-division, I am running for alderman (city council). I personally think it is absolutely imperative that the few people who care and want to vote know both where I stand now and what my past history is (I don’t really care what the meaning of the word “is” is). Fortunately, my current belief system is such that I am NOT in favor of raising the property tax on a community that can ill afford it for the private aggrandizement of a few of the property owners association board members. If they want the advantages of living in a nearby big city (San Antonio), then they should move there. Let them pay for their own benefits instead of financing them by personal property taxes from the rest of us.

  2. In a perfect Universe I would agree with you Jack. However, when conservatives are expected to abide by Marquess de Queensberry rules and the left is given a pass to lie about anything they please by the media excluding Fox and The Spectator, what advantage is there spill the beans about everything? In a street fight, you do not fight by Marquess de Queensberry rules. That was Romney’s mistake.

      • To be clear, we’ve been in a death spiral to chaos since the leftist media repudiated its duty long ago. We’ve just been accelerating as of late. But no because your opponents cheat doesn’t mean you get to.

        • But no because your opponents cheat doesn’t mean you get to.

          The problem is, when you have a contest which tolerates cheating, only cheaters will play.

          • This is what happens when the press becomes as corrupt as the politicians they’re supposed to guard us against. When a statement of truth becomes something to be used as a weapon against you by such persons, you either have to wordsmith your answers like crazy or just tell them to bug off.

  3. We have to educate the voters, though, because they’re the ones in charge of electing politicians, and we’re highly unlikely to get a politician that’s intellectually honest if the voters aren’t. Fundamentalist voters elect fundamentalist politicians, because people naturally will want to have people in power who believe the same things they do. So in order to stop the fundamentalist politicians, we have to somehow educate their voter base.

  4. This sounds too much like an ideological test for high office, or like there is only one set of valid beliefs that public officials can have. Sorry, Jack, but I think that’s a step too far down the road toward creating a separate political class set above everyone else and to which you can only belong by espousing the correct views. I’m a public official, and I make no bones about the fact that I consider homosexuality disgusting and dysfunctional, should I be stripped of my office and declared ineligible to hold further office? If you go that far, it isn’t much farther to disenfranchising people based on their views, and I know you don’t believe in that.

    • No, of course you shouldn’t be “stripped of your office.” But voters who care about these issues should get to make the call — pro or con — next time they go into the voting booth.

      It goes both ways. Americans generally are religious — especially compared to people in other 1st world industrial nations. Because of this, you don’t see a lot of atheists elected to office. It is one of the reasons why I can never run for office — I live in a religious district. If asked about my beliefs, I would have to answer truthfully. That doesn’t mean that I am unfit for office — it just means that the voters do not want me in that office.

      • I would have no problem voting for someone who was a benign unbeliever, i.e. someone for whom religion just didn’t play a big part in his/her life. If you tried to chip away at others’ freedoms, i.e. kicking up a stink about a non-sectarian invocation at a meeting or starting a suit about a war memorial that had a cross on it, then you should not be elected, because it means you are essentially a troublemaker.

        • Yep, those are important considerations for you to know to make an educated vote. Others might feel that they need to know if your views on homosexuality would influence decisions about rights to marry, adopt, etc. in your State.

          • Unfortunately most of that’s already decided here for the moment, because Christie decided he’d rather stomp his opponent last November without the question of the brown, stinky tide muddying the water, but it’s not changing my views.

        • A non-sectarian yet still religious invocation at a meeting SHOULD be unconstitutional. Government should be taking no position on God. That means that Government should not say “there is a God” and that also means that Government should not say “there is no God”. That means that Governments should not erect religious symbols as monuments (or, when told no, should also not sell off public land for the specific purpose of allowing a private entity to build the same symbol)

          The existence of a Deity has nothing to do with the day to day operations of Government and I really do not understand how Conservatives can claim to want small government except for when using it as an evangelical arm (even if the evangelization is restricted to just praising Him at a meeting).

          • Liberal Dan, but Steve-O is right in the sense that he should be able to ask any question he wants of a person’s atheist’s views. What’s right for him is not right for me, but he still should be able to make an educated vote.

            I would never vote for someone who was anti-gay marriage, but that candidate deserves to hold office if the populace was aware of his beliefs and voted him in anyway.

            As for religion — I fondly remember singing Christmas carols in public high school choir — along with songs from a variety of religions. I have no problem with religion in school — as long as it is taught as comparative or cultural studies, not “truth.” In fact, I think it belongs in our schools — otherwise, we are raising our children to be ignorant of entire populations and conflicts, and it makes study of certain events (e.g., Protestant Reformation) meaningless without some context.

            I also don’t care if someone says a prayer before a public meeting — it’s meaningless to me so I don’t care. I would care if a town council voted to spend tax payer money on a statue of the Virgin Mary or something along those lines. I think any discussion on these issues requires a bit of common sense.

            • He can ask a person’s religious views but doesn’t have a right to them (IMO) if the candidate would not use those views in his forming of law.

              I would vote for someone who personally believed gay marriage was a sin but didn’t believe it was the Government’s job to prevent it (assuming other positions held made that person the best candidate).

              As the lone Jew in my high school I had a big problem with the “Christmas assembly”. Want to teach about all religions? Cool. Want to celebrate Xmas in public school? No.

              • We sang Hebrew songs too. We didn’t call it a Xmas concert — I think it was a Holiday concert if I remember correctly.

                • Well then that is better. Of course there are many “Christmas Songs” that have nothing to do with Christ. So I have no problem with those in a holiday type celebration. Jingle bells, for one.

              • Christmas is a date on the calendar and a time of year, clearly identifiable, as well as a cultural holiday. Celebrating the cultural holiday is not religious observance. I understand why this is hard to make clear from the government’s stand-point, but it was something we all once chose to understand and accept. Now, for an assortment of reasons, many people don’t. I’m not sure how I see anyone has benefited, anywhere from that breakdown in consensus.

                • Christmas is a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Christ. That is why it is called CHRISTmas. It is Christs mass

                  • I celebrate Christmas and I am an atheist. It has purely cultural significance for many people. It is a date chosen by the Roman Catholic Church anyway to compete with the pagan celebration of the winter solstice. And this is why religion should be taught in schools.

                    • I know all that. I also choose to celebrate certain aspects of the holiday with my family. But that is my choice. I don’t believe it belongs as a part of any governmental “thing”.

                • Because now it’s the thing to do to wear your difference as a badge and insist no one else can celebrate the majority holiday because of your special difference. I also don’t see how anyone benefits from the single non-practicing Jew in the classroom insisting that Christmas be stripped of any aspects that have even a whiff of religiosity or he will stamp his feet and file a lawsuit. Tell me, Dan, did you, or did you not take off for the high holy days that no one else got? Because if I were the teacher and you insisted on those days, while kicking up a stink about Christmas and Easter, I’d make sure to have tests scheduled that day with an automatic loss of 10% for not showing up.

      • I can never run for office — I live in a religious district. If asked about my beliefs, I would have to answer truthfully. That doesn’t mean that I am unfit for office — it just means that the voters do not want me in that office.
        That’s kind of a shame when you might be the best person for the job.

            • Probably — but they have lied about it, thus failing many of the Jack-integrity tests. Truly honest people typically don’t go into politics at the national level. That’s why I’m always amused at your demand for ethics in politics. There has never been and never will be ethics in politics. Ethical people won’t run for office — or they do and lose.

              • Glad to amuse you. But there are ethical politicians within the special culture pf politics, which is an extreme utilitarian setting. That does not preclude honesty, conflicts and integrity, and certainly does not preclude responsibility, fairness and competence. The attitude you display allows unethical politicians to flourish, because you will tolerate the intolerable on a theory of “everybody does it,” and false equivalence. Some politicians are clearly more ethical than others.

            • OK, now you have me curious. Apart from Jefferson and Lincoln, who professed unconventional beliefs, and Nixon, who had drifted far from his Quaker roots, who do you think was an atheist and why?

    • What are you talking about? I have a right to know what I think is relevant to who should be an elected leader, and to vote with full disclosure thereof. Nobody’s talking about stripping anyone of anything. This is a dodge, and you know it. I wouldn’t strip anyone of office because they once belonged to the American Nazi Party or the Communist Party or Occupy Wall Street or Move-On—that would be breach of American values— but yes, it tells me something useful that they did, and if they did, I want some answers. You and Jennifer think they just need to say “None of your business.” It’s my vote, and I get to decide what’s my business, not those who are trying to package themselves as smarter, fairer, less biased and more rational than they really are, or that I may think they are.

      • And I really think you should consider shelving your “brown, stinky tide” metaphor for homosexuality. It’s pretty clearly a slur, and intended to be, and it’s beneath you, and everyone else here.

        • Actually it’s a metaphor for the gay marriage movement, no pun intended. Yes, maybe it’s not a nice way to put it, but it’s based in fact, and frankly given the level of discourse from the other side, yourself excepted, of course, I don’t see why I should play nice when the other side is all fuck-this, fuck-that, send-this-guy-dirty-sex-toys.

            • You know who I’m talking about. Your friend Savage and his dirty, sleazy following who do nothing but spew hate and curse words at those who oppose them. I don’t see why those who oppose them shouldn’t fight back just as hard and dirty.

              • Because then you’re acting like stupid jerks while not solving anything. I admit, acting like a stupid jerk is fun sometimes if you think there’s no marginal cost, but you’re really alienating yourself from any reasonable people out there (and we’re here.) Also, it’s a rather petty rhetorical trick to assert that the person you’re talking to is friends with someone you consider sleazy and hateful just because they share a single opinion (and go about expressing it in very different ways.)

                • I’m not apologizing for my views, no one should ever be made to do that. I will apologize for the overreach and use of the word “friend” (I don’t think you know Dan personally or you would have mentioned it) when what I meant was this person you agree with on this one issue, and maybe even the term “fellow traveler” would be a reach. I didn’t like that you said his tactics were understandable in another post, to me, that’s a step too close to agreeing with them. However, in the posts involving his sleazy attack on Rick santorum and his inexcusable spewing of hate at what was suppose to be an educational gathering, you roundly and rightly condemned what he did.

                  You and I are just going to have to agree to disagree when it comes to what he stands for. Although I am paraphrasing, I think you believe he has reached the right conclusions, but is going about it wrong or has gone about it wrong on some occasions, I consider him the second biggest jerk and hater in this country, second only to propagandist Michael Moore, and I think he only didn’t make Bernard Goldberg’s list of the 100 people who were screwing up America because that was written in 2005 before gay marriage and gay issues really took off. Just thinking about him raises my blood pressure 10 points.

                  Maybe this is my “ethical blind spot” but I have a really tough time seeing why, when the other guy takes the gloves off, and is being cheered on (come on, anybody who’s read the comment sections on ANY of his columns knows they’re 99.9999% “yeah, what he said” and “rock on!” comments) specifically for doing that, why I shouldn’t follow suit.

                  • P.S. I guess there’s only one guy here who can really channel rage well, and that’s not me (he’s been surprisingly AWOL for these discussions).

                  • The two biggest jerks in the US are Michael Moore and Dan Savage? I find that to be an incredible statement. I could get to 101 on my personal list staying within the confines of politicians and Wall Street.

                    • That’s just my personal list, Beth, and I’m dealing in people who engage in jerky, unpleasant behavior. Those who abuse or misuse political power are on a different list, although Rahm Emanuel, with his famously foul mouth and tendency toward cruel and abusive behavior almost crossed over onto the jerks list. Wall Street is more on the list of the frankly criminal or near criminal, although Jack Welch, GE’s famously abusive CEO, merits a place on the jerks list.

                    • And yes Beth. Really. Wait till Carter takes the dirt nap. I have an essay almost ready to go that spells out how bad he was that I will post as soon as his death hits the press.

      • It’s no dodge, Jack. The initial post sounded like advocacy that only those who meet your particular standards should be eligible to be elected, and everyone’s views on everything need to be ferretted out. Even if I am a political candidate, that doesn’t mean I have to answer every question that everyone throws at me, and a refusal to do so isn’t automatically cause for an adverse inference. You may think it’s relevant what kind of music I like or what movies I have or haven’t watched, or any number of other things, but those don’t really bear on my ability to be an effective leader, and I think I have every right to say NYFB if pressed on questions like that. The same holds true of faith-based stuff. It isn’t one little bit of your business what church I attend or how closely I cleave to its tenets. Thankfully, no public official can be forced to answer those kind of questions unless under subpoena, and can either change the subject or give a non-answer or, if pushed, go Michael Grimm, although that’s a last resort and not recommended.

        • Religion crosses over into policy all the time, so you have to answer those questions. Lumping “faith-based stuff” in with music or movie preferences is ridiculous.

          And Jack is right about your metaphor — it is awful.

        • MY standards? Where did the post talk about MY standards, except as a stand-in for anyone’s standards? I used the examples used in the referred Rubin post…I could have easily used support for abortion. Or believing that flag burning is Constitutional and should be allowed and never prohibited. Or supporting the holding in Citizens United.

          If a candidate refuses to answer a question, I will assume the worst. Example: do you believe peoples should be faithful in their marriages? Should people be married before having children? Should people have children that they can’t afford to provide for? I have a right to know these questions, and a candidate has a right to refuse to answer them, and I have a right not to vote for the candidate as a result. And I won’t.

  5. If the politician isn’t going to push a belief on other people via legislation then I have no problem with that belief not being shared.

    Otherwise, the politician should be considered to have the responsibility to make all such beliefs (i.e. beliefs that will impact their decisions while crafting and/or voting for legislation) an open book.

    Those that do not, well, should be made to suffer at the polls.

  6. For gay rights issues (and I’m gay myself), Rubin was complaining about a supposed “witch hunt” against gay marriage opponents. The thing is, if she thinks it’s a private issue that doesn’t affect policy, then those politicians have an easy out: Say that they support legal equality but that their personal beliefs are private. No need to discuss their private opposition if they will admit that the issue is settled – on the pro-legality side.

    If Rubin really thinks it’s like divorce, then the reason nobody is asked about their feelings on divorce is because *it is assumed that the issue is settled, on the pro-legality side*. There is no state where divorce is illegal, and no major politicians trying to make it illegal. Gay rights activists prefer pro-gay politicians, but they won’t go out of their way to fight against politicians who won’t bother opposing our legal rights. The “witch hunt” is against people who oppose gay rights, not people who have personal/religious private beliefs.

    I agree that whether a politician is a Creationist is something I’m interested in regardless of what their political plans are based on that, since it reveals that they don’t understand even basic science. But even without talking about that, Rubin’s argument is idiotic on her own terms.

    • So you’re OK with me being very much in favor of legal equality but dead against changing the definition or marriage? Wow. If I am reading your comment right, you’re way more reasonable than most gay people.

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