The Common Good
January-February 1997

A Failed Moral Test

by Raymond Neudecker | January-February 1997

IN "HEARTS & MINDS" (September-October 1996), Jim Wallis refers to President Clinton's character problem as though it is a clearly defined, verified fact, rather than a generalized ...

IN "HEARTS & MINDS" (September-October 1996), Jim Wallis refers to President Clinton's character problem as though it is a clearly defined, verified fact, rather than a generalized accusation. Wallis claims to provide both clarity and evidence in these words: "In deciding whether or not to sign the Republican welfare bill, Bill Clinton faced the most serious moral test of his presidency....He failed that test and more clearly than ever defined the character problem...." The line of reasoning that arrives at that unambiguous moral condemnation is murky.

Since two previous welfare bills were crafted by the Republican Congress and vetoed by the president, it is reasonable to conclude that Congress would pass into law a similar or worse bill should Clinton not be re-elected. Vetoing this third bill would have become a major campaign issue against Clinton. Paradoxically then, only by signing the bill into law to assure his re-election does Clinton retain the option to have it amended. [These] are complex political decisions with moral consequences that certainly rest on presidential shoulders more than on individual voters, but dumping an unwarranted share of national sin on the president does not serve social justice.

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