Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Voters' `New Tolerance' May Go Too Far

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Voters' `New Tolerance' May Go Too Far

Article excerpt

THE young woman in the televised panel discussion was speaking about Bill Clinton and the talk of out-of-marriage relationships that he has had to deal with throughout this campaign, starting with the primaries.

She said that Mr. Clinton's alleged involvement in such affairs was a private matter, one which he and Hillary Clinton should be allowed to handle by themselves. She added that this aspect of a politician's life had nothing to do with his "professional" life - how, for example, he would conduct himself as president.

Further, she took the firm position that this subject was already losing its impact in presidential campaigns and would be lost forever after this election.

When the other young panelists didn't put up an argument, I turned off my TV. I try to keep an open mind on all subjects, but I thought that this matter deserved a spirited discussion, at the least.

As I have thought about it since, I've had to admit - reluctantly - that there is growing evidence that voters, particularly those young to middle-aged voters, are becoming increasingly tolerant of what they call individual lifestyle choices, and that tolerance includes infidelity and extends to presidential candidates.

The new young voters in coming years may make this "tolerant" view the prevailing one. To me, it is a disquieting thought. Substantial numbers of voters still reject such "new thinking." This was evident in the primaries when Clinton's campaign was nearly destroyed under the weight of the so-called "women stories" - together with the charges that he was a Vietnam War draft dodger.

Clinton battled back, asserting that he and his wife had dealt with what he called "these problems" and that they were behind them. This seemed a satisfactory answer to many voters.

He still is under heavy criticism for his Vietnam War-related conduct, but not so much for his avoidance of that widely unpopular conflict as for his current, varying explanations of how he had avoided the draft. In other words, his truthfulness is under question.

So even after one says "hurrah" that Clinton and his wife have buried his prior "problems," it occurs to me that a relevant observation, and perhaps even a judgment, can still be made on those admitted peccadillos: Extramarital relationships would seem to involve a man lying to his wife about what he was doing. …

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