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Washington's Morality Play

There's more than one American morality play going on in Washington that has potentially destructive consequences for America. In "An American Morality Play" (Jan. 28), Rev. William Willimon says that the Monica Lewinsky controversy is indicative of the type of moral activity that cannot be separated from the political character of the official concerned. This is well and good if true.

The problem with that analysis is that it has not been credibly established that President Clinton committed this alleged dalliance. And the typhoon of rumor, gossip, and spin that have characterized this controversy are the second, less-noticed but more pernicious, morality tale being taught.

Whether or not there's a specific conspiracy to discredit Mr. Clinton present in this matter, the level of hatred and disdain for him (and for the Democratic Party) that has characterized the perspectives of the party in opposition (and very possibly the special prosecutor; certainly the spinmeisters of Ms. Lewinsky) threatens to shred the fundamental fabric of the American political community. For example, "Judge Lynch" commentators have already condemned the president to perdition based on this bile without any more reflection or accountability than the news media have shown reporting the matter.

Over time, Clinton will be long out of office and perhaps even the Republicans will no longer control the Congress, but the "dark side" of the golden rule will still become the norm: "What goes around, comes around." In the race for power, it's no longer becoming necessary to sell one's political perspectives or engage in an exchange of ideas to establish credentials for office: The standard, the acceptable level of discourse, will be abuse and scorn. And it's inevitable that the standard we see accepted at high levels of government will soon characterize the ordinary lives of the rest of us - as America picks up the pace to abandon a once-cherished role as the last, best hope on earth.

Robert H. Brandon

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