ISSUES IN FOCUS
Week of August 23, 1998
THE RULE OF MEN, NOT OF LAW
According to most polls, a substantial majority of Americans do not wish to see Clinton removed from office even if it is proven that he has committed perjury on numerous occasions and is guilty of suborning perjury. If these polls are accurate, then America is on the brink of a momentous change, one which will accelerate its descent into totalitarian rule.
If it is proven that Clinton has broken the law, law which he has sworn to uphold and defend, and Americans give him a pass, let him off the hook, then these Americans will be sanctioning the precedent established by kings, by emperors—and by dictators: that the president is above the law, not subject to the rules by which ordinary men must abide.
Never mind that some of the laws in question are laws which should never have been enacted. It is grimly fitting that some of Clinton’s problems have come from laws, such as those regarding sexual harassment, created out of the doctrine of statism, a doctrine for which Clinton has been the chief spokesman. Sexual harassment laws are vaguely defined and should be repealed. It should not be illegal for Clinton, as it is alleged, to ask Paula Jones for a certain kind of sex. In a free society, the Paula Jones suit would never have a basis in law. But the fact is this: these laws are on the books and, until they are repealed, they must be obeyed.
Never mind that some of Clinton’s lies have been about intensely personal matters. The private life of a public official is properly the subject of scrutiny if actions taken in private demonstrate dangerous character traits. Alarmingly, a majority in this country apparently think it isn’t dangerous to have a self-confessed liar holding the highest office in this land.
It is bad enough that Clinton’s example as a known liar has provided a rationalization for millions of our children to engage in the same behavior and worse. If Clinton continues to receive approval for his deceitful ways and never pays a penalty for his lies, the message to children will be unmistakable. If the president lies, then why not me? If the president doesn’t obey the law, then why should I? Such ideas are the incubator which transforms a child into a criminal. And if these ideas continue to be endorsed by a majority of adults, you can take it to the bank that there will be a surge in criminal activity as today’s children gradually grow up.
Most ominously, however, is the fact that Americans appear to be on the verge of departing from the rule of law. Until now, most have believed that we are a nation ruled by law, not by men, that no man is above the law. For decades, statism has gradually been transforming America from the rule of law to the rule of men by granting regulators arbitrary powers. In spite of this practical reality, most Americans have still supported the abstract ideal of a nation ruled by law. This will change if it is proven Clinton has broken the law and if he is not held accountable for his actions by the American public.
If this happens, it will bring us the rule of men, not of law. The message to government officials, elected or not, will be clear: they will know that not only can they get away with lying but that they do not have to obey the law. This will bring us a rash of lawless behavior by government officials, unleashing a tidal wave of unbridled, arbitrary power exercised by statists over private citizens. We will have established a double standard: there will be one set of rules for state officials and one set of rules for private citizens. It will mean that private citizens must obey the law, but public officials are free from such obedience to law and are free to follow whatever whim they wish to follow.
America is going to reap a terrible harvest if it continues to approve of liars and if it sanctions, as the polls indicate it will, criminal behavior by Clinton. A nation of liars and lawbreakers has a dark future, one which will eventually implode into the black hole of tyranny.
You would not marry someone who is a known liar. You would not work for someone who is a known liar. You would not entrust your health to a physician who was known as a chronic liar. You would not risk your life flying on an airline run by a known liar. Yet most Americans continue to entrust the safety of America to Clinton, a known liar, a man who is charged with the responsibility of protecting us from possible nuclear and/or biological terrorism.
As long as most Americans continue to give comfort to liars, then the real terror is the one that will be coming: a nation ruled by dishonest men not bound by law.
August 23, 1998
© Copyright 1998 Fulton Huxtable