Family Values?

The most overused and most ill-defined political catch phrase in the current political circus is "Family Values". I say ill-defined because I have yet to find any two articles, speeches, politicians or any other sources who agree on exactly what those two words mean.

"Family Values" is just simplistic bumper sticker politics. It sounds uncomplicated and reasonable but means absolutely nothing except what the current speaker wants it to mean. The very politicians and religious leaders who have fallen in love with this particular phrase are the same ones who wouldn't recognize it if it bit them on their backside.

Whose family are we talking about, anyway? Yours? Mine? A single mother's? Jerry Falwell's? Jim and Tammy Faye Baker's? David Duke's? A Republican's? A Democrat's? An Islamic Militant's? Jeffery Dahmer's? Just who is setting the criteria when the phrase "Family Values" is tossed around as if it actually meant something? If it has no precise meaning to all people then we should quit using it as if it can quantify someone's morality or qualifications for office or even their right to the services of their government or their right to marry. The only meaning this phrase has is simply this: Whatever I choose to define "Family Values" as is good and wholesome. Others who don't fit my narrow-minded definition are bad and immoral people.

Take a few prime examples of this disease of absurdity.

Bob Dole dated airline stewardess, and future Mrs. Dole, Elizabeth, while still married to his first wife. Newt Gingrich forced his first wife to sign divorce papers while she lay in a hospital bed awaiting cancer surgery and then refused to support his ex-wife and children until the family was eventually compelled to accept charity from their church.

What do these two have in common? They both have dedicated their political lives to vilifying President and Mrs. Clinton for moral and/or ethical lapses. Why does this astonish me? Perhaps it is because the Clintons have acknowledged that theirs has been a sometimes rocky marriage but, and here is the difference, they not only worked through these difficulties but have provided a warm, loving and stable home for their daughter, Chelsea (who is not pregnant, not on drugs, not a drop-out nor in need of support from a church or Welfare).

These two moralistic Republicans have also spent tens of millions of your tax dollars trying desperately, for four long years, to find any shred of evidence to prove the First Family guilty of any crime in a minor speculative land deal in Arkansas that went sour. These Republicans have not only failed completely to indict the President and First Lady in any way, save through innuendo and unfounded accusations, but they have continually fed the nastiness and compulsion for gutter politics that so many Americans seem to live for.

What is my main point in all of this? Simply put it would be that if "Family Values" is the topic of the campaign then it would appear that the Clintons own the moral high ground over Dole and Gingrich.

Rather than accepting this "guilty by slur" campaign as an acceptable form of politics, why can't we cease with the childish antics of trying to belittle the opponent's morals and families and get back to the substance of what a presidential campaign should be about?

Why don't we ask the candidates, "What will you do about crime, foreign policy, taxes?" We should expect definitive answers to these questions. Not sound bites, but in-depth answers. If a candidate offers a tax break and a balanced budget, then exactly which current programs are to be trimmed and by how much in order to pay for these tax cuts? If new government programs are offered then exactly how do they propose to pay for these expenditures without increasing the national debt? If entire federal programs are to be dismantled then how do they propose to shift the burden to other government departments without shifting the costs to those offices, as well? No more generalities. Without actual and precise details on the candidate's promises we have nothing but worthless slogans. Is this really good enough for you?

Finally, inspect the record of each candidate and decide if their ability to lead and the direction they would lead is agreeable to us as individuals. Then you the voter can decide which candidate best reflects whatever your political views are and your decision will be informed rather than manipulated.

In closing, if I had one opportunity to improve our political process it would be the complete elimination of all political parties. Humans only seem to act this viciously when they have the support of others with the same uniforms or skin color or dress style or political affiliation. If politicians had to represent themselves without the protection of these parties then, perhaps, their style of campaigning and governing would be a bit more civilized.

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