“Secret Children For Me, No Gay Marriage For Thee!”

It's Cheatin Pete!Pete Domenici used to be a Senator and a conservative one at that, so conservative in fact that he managed to staunchly oppose anything that might benefit gay citizens. The Defense of Marriage Act? He was for that. A 2004 Constitutional Amendment that would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman? He was for that. A 2006 Constitutional Amendment that would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman? He was for that too. He enjoyed a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign. He was a man who stood athwart history yelling “Stop!” as the saying goes, steadfastly advocating the morality that he grew up with, swearing that marriage as an institution was the sort of thing that must be defended against the mongrel horde.

Funny thing though about Pete Domenici: he was so busy caring so much about the sanctity of marriage that he just could not find the time to tell anybody about the secret son fathered as a result of an extramarital affair. Nor, unfortunately, could he bother to find the time to tell the world any details of his partner in this: she was 24 (he was 46 at the time*) and the daughter of another serving Senator, Nevada’s Paul Laxalt. In fact, Domenici was so otherwise preoccupied that he also did not bother to inform either his wife Nancy (a woman he’d only been married to since the 1950s) or their eight children about his new child; they found out only several months ago.**

Judging Domenici is difficult of course. He is, after all, a product of his generation, one in which men commonly had extramarital sex with their coworkers’ conservative daughters and then also fathered out-of-wedlock children with those conservative daughters and then also did not tell anybody about a secret out-of-wedlock child and then also continued to insist publicly that his moral vision should become law and then also continued to vote for laws that would force his moral vision onto people whether they were interested in it or not or and then…wait, what? That’s not what men of his generation did, is it? That’s not the culture he was raised in, was it? Maybe it was the Devil*** that got him.

Anyway, is this the death knell for social conservatism? Will Domenici’s fall from grace be the end? Of course not. What’s remarkable about social conservatism as a political movement is that almost nothing seems to dent its adherents’ psyche. No matter how many social conservatives get caught – gambling, lying, affairing, foot-tapping, diapering, whatever – the underpinnings never change. According to the movement, society’s rules must be written to account for everybody else, not for social conservatives themselves or the institutions that they swear are good. It is, to put it nicely, frustrating that social conservatism manages to hang on without ever bothering to self-examine how it can continue to say one thing while enjoying the support of those doing something else entirely. That refusal is the fundamental bedrock of socially conservative thought, which unfortunately means that it is taking longer to die than even this guy.

So here we are. Speaking of dying, I’ve heard it discussed that the greatest equalizer in social politics is death; the intolerant are dying faster than those they oppose, largely because they’re older. They’re also not being replaced by people as hostile as they are. Kids today just aren’t terrified of the things that gave older generations the shivers. Still, one wonders what exactly it would take to devastate social conservatism. If the non-stop parade of hypocritical sinners hasn’t yet done the trick – and there are just so many of them – what exactly would it take to thoroughly discredit this utterly debased political philosophy? What would finally cause social conservatism to gets it own house in orders before insisting that they should be mucking about in everyone else’s?

*Editor’s Note: ewww

**It should be noted that there did exist extremely strange hints that something was going on.

***I’ll give it a few days before the Devil is defined as the woman who raised their son alone after tempting the innocent Domenici with her fiery hot Nevadan sexuality.

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275 thoughts on ““Secret Children For Me, No Gay Marriage For Thee!”

  1. While I am in no way calling gay marriage evil, nor am I calling extra-marital affairs evil (although the latter is borderline)… isn’t pointing out hypocrisy here sort of like a ‘two wrongs make a right’ argument?

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    • It would be if Sam were arguing that either gay marriage is right (which it is) or that extra marital affairs are okay.

      He is just pointing out that Domenici is a hypocrite, not arguing that any position held by Domenici is true or false.

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      • I don’t think that’s fair, Bill. As I understand Mike’s comment, a counter to Sam’s post would be that pointing out Domenici’s moral failings says nothing of the morality of gay marriage. If folks believe that gay marriage is morally wrong (I don’t and I don’t think Mike does), they are not going to be convinced by pointing out the morally wrong actions of one of their comrades. They’d likely say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

        My counter to that position would be that I don’t see Sam as making a case for or against gay marriage here, but that folks like Domenici sacrifice the moral high ground from which they stake their claims about gay marriage when they indulge in such immoral actions.

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        • I suppose one could say, “Domenici’s behavior shows that he doesn’t really respect the institution of marriage, so his attacks on gay rights and gay marriage in particular must not really be about that institution, but something else,” and then point out that, to the extent that Domenici is representative of social conservatives in general, his behavior does say something about their cause.

          I’m not sure that this is what Sam is saying, or that this argument would hold up, but it’s at least a possible position to take, and one that can actually lead to a discussion about the motives behind certain socially conservative positions.

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          • Chris,

            Domenici was proposing to defend an institution (from a threat that doesn’t exist) whilst undermining it himself. He proposed/endorsed laws that punished other people while never bothering to reveal that his own relationship with the idea of marriage was casual (at best). Seems clear enough.

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            • Yeah, it looks to me like if you’re just going to focus on Domenici, it comes off like scoring cheap political points, without actually saying anything about the cause. If you make the argument that Domenici has shown that he doesn’t actually care about marriage, and that he’s representative of social conservatives, then it calls into question the reasons behind opposition to gay marriage (it suggests, it seems to me, that it might be bigotry, and not a respect for marriage, for example).

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              • But even so, we’ve only managed to improve the argument to the point where it’s a tu quoque.

                The real arguments for or against gay marriage have nothing to do with Domenici’s personal life. And I still do resent the idea that my marriage is in just the same category as a lifelong pattern of deception.

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                • I believe the arguments for gay marriage stand on their own.

                  I also believe that those arguing against gay marriage are obliged by virtue of the positions that they’re insisting upon taking to live out the lives they’re trying to mandate*. When they don’t, it undermines the notion that these are people who genuinely care about the institution of marriage; it’s yet another acknowledgment that the real issue here isn’t marriage, but gays, and specifically, how they much they don’t like them.

                  (*they’re probably not comfortable with that word)

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                  • I’m against violence, but I once kicked a kid in the balls to make him leave yard. And I’ve come damn close to real fights a few times as an adult.

                    I have no standing to talk about violence because I’m an imperfect man. Fortunately we have sinless Sam available to cast all our stones.

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                  • Sam, what if Barney Frank cheated on his husband? (Congressman Frank’s is 72 years old and his husband Jim Ready is 42, BTW, so Domenici carrying on a romance with someone significantly younger is not unique to straight social conservative members of Congress.)

                    Does that undermine the importance of same-sex marriage? Of course not — you’re right when you say that the arguments in favor of SSM stand on their own.

                    Having not only advocated for same-sex marriage, but personally and intentionally benefitted from its availability in his own state, Frank is now obliged by virtue of his position to live out the life that he advocates in the law, right? He’d certainly be a hypocrite to want marriage for himself and then to step out on that marriage.

                    Or maybe his affair would be a sign of his humanity, his fallibility, his personal moral error — and not something that really informs the public policy debate about SSM all that much. We could still admire him for his advocacy of SSM at the same time we deplore and regret his personal failing. It’s easy to give him a pass because we agree with him. We’d maybe not forgive him for his moral error but we’d certainly not dogpile on him or SSM advocates.

                    I don’t think it would matter to this equation that Frank has never taken a position against straight marriage. What would matter is that we have someone claiming X is important and then acting inconsistently with the importance of X. That makes him a hypocrite, most likely, but it doesn’t tell us whether X is actually important or not and it doesn’t even tell us whether the person in question was right to preach the importance of X.

                    It only tells us that he was human and he erred morally.

                    FTR: I know of no evidence nor any reason to believe that Barney Frank has been unfaithful to his husband, and IIRC they’d been together as a couple for many years before tying the knot in July.

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                    • It occurred to me that if there were people whose argument was anti-gay marriage, but they somehow argued against fidelity in straight marriages, that might be enough to call into doubt their arguments against gay marriage. But, still, even there, I don’t know.

                      Raises a sort of sillier question: Do opponents of same sex marriage support same sex adultery?

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                    • Burt,

                      It seems to me that our consideration of Frank’s behavior and Domenici’s behavior ought to be different, given what we know of what both had advocated. Domenici repeatedly voted in favor of laws that would permanently exclude gays from the institution of marriage, presumably on the grounds that to allow gays was to somehow undermine the institution. Whether or not we agree with that conclusion of his, that’s the position he took. And he took that position while knowing that he himself had cheated on his wife, fathered a child outside of marriage, hidden that child from both public and private view. The idea then that the institution of marriage is of some considerable importance to him is at least questionable, given his own behavior.

                      Frank, on the other hand, never proposed making divorce harder, nor proposed jailtime for adulterers, nor proposed to make straight marriage illegal, nor proposed any restrictions at all upon the institution; he just asked that he also be allowed to marry the person he loves.

                      These distinctions matter.

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                    • Sam, do you consider it better when gay marriage is opposed vociferously by someone who has been a faithful husband and father? Is it really the combination of Domenici’s sins and self-righteousness that has you concerned here? As you’ve demonstrated here, it’s not really the sin because you will forgive it if the person has the right politics.

                      The problem is that a lot of people who oppose gay marriage aren’t Domenici. Picking on the bad messengers and treating them as though they are the only important ones doesn’t do the cause any good. It might feel good to knock him off his high horse, but that’s just one man. Or, as the number of people caught accumulate, many men. But it isn’t the movement. It’s not the banner. It does little or nothing to actually detract from the arguments they are making. It just knocks some of the messengers.

                      Up above, Mr. Blue asks “How many environmentalist need to fly on charter jets before I can call environmentalism a sham?”

                      Of course, the moral imperative of flying on charter jets is there, or not there, completely independent of how its proponents actually behave and how they excuse their own misbehavior or excesses.

                      That’s why I consider this line of reasoning to mostly be cheap, rather than actually possessing any moral high ground. It’s not that I am sympathetic to Domenici or his views on gay marriage. Or, arguably, his socially conservative views more generally (though on that score I am probably more sympathetic than most people around here). Rather, it’s because the argument doesn’t hold for very long. All it takes it a banner-waver who is faithful to his wife. Of which, I am sure there are a great many.

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                    • If the person opposed to gay marriage is at least living the lifestyle that they want to force on everybody else, the conversation can then move to one of the relative costs and benefits of gay marriage. If the person opposed to gay marriage is themselves a philanderer with multiple wives, then it becomes quite clear what is really going on: you’re not talking to a person who cares about marriage, you’re talking to a person that hates gay people. But that happens to be the point at which the conversation falls apart.

                      I can have the conversation with the philanderer who hates gay people. I can have the conversation with the person living the lifestyle they’re demanding of others. But there’s no point in having the conversation with the person who claims loudly to care about one thing when their actions make it quite clear that they do not.

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                    • Sam, see, this doesn’t seem like much of a point, to me. First, do you think that if he thought it was politically feasible, a serious social conservative like Domenici wouldn’t propose adultery laws? Second, while it’s probably true that social conservatives would argue that both gay marriage and adultery are harmful to “traditional” marriage, I doubt they’d think they’re harmful in the same way, or that legislating against them is equally desirable. This comes off like a silly red herring.

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                    • That there is anybody, anywhere who believes that gay marriage does more damage than adultery is part of the problem. To put that another way: show me a couple torn apart by gay marriage, because I don’t think it would take particularly long to find those torn apart by adultery.

                      And of course they don’t think legislating against adultery makes sense. They know that what limited political chances they’ve got would be decimated. That they don’t care though about tackling the real problems that genuinely affect marriage though is all the evidence we need to know what opponents of gay marriage are really concerned with: icky gays. It has nothing to do with the institution itself.

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                    • Sam, you’re specifically evading the conversation with the not-philanderer by equating the movement with the philanderer. It’s an extremelt limited strategy unless you can argue that all SSM opponents are as hypocritical as Dominici. Some are, but many aren’t. Finding the weakest opponents and yelling about them doesn’t really do much.

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                    • Two candidates running for office, one for gay marriage, one against gay marriage. Assuming that somebody is sitting right in the middle on this issue, you don’t think that person might at least consider that the candidate demonizing gays as a threat to traditional values was less than trustworthy on the issue once his own affairs and hidden children were revealed?

                      There is a reason Domenici kept this secret after all.

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                    • you don’t think that person might at least consider that the candidate demonizing gays as a threat to traditional values was less than trustworthy on the issue once his own affairs and hidden children were revealed?

                      Sure, I think lots of voters are illogical. Doesn’t mean I’d either respect their illogic or aspire to be like them.

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                    • There is a reason Domenici kept this secret after all.

                      Sure. But I’m willing to bet that neither a) “oppressing gay people for fun and political advantage,” nor b) “sincerely defending Christian values within the law and the culture,” were among them. My money would be on c) “avoiding divorce.”

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                    • Or put another way, “everybody else is doing it” is not a good argument for doing it oneself.

                      Or if you’re arguing for the legitimacy of appealing to people’s illogic, then welcome to the ranks of the hypocrites.

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                    • Basically, I put myself in the mind of someone that believes homosexuality is a sin and therefore allowing gays to marry would be in a sense lending cultural support for sinful activity.

                      Domenici does nothing to undermine what I believe.

                      I put myself in the mind of someone that believes that marriage is vulnerable and any significant changes of it could make things considerably worse.

                      Drawing attention to Domenici’s behavior only reinforces the fragility of the modern marriage and, if anything, bolsters what I believe.

                      I think this is an argument mostly designed just to make our side feel self-righteous by demonizing the other side. I am generally glad that the gay rights movement has focused on the actual merits of the argument: freedom, equality, and family. That has been the winning formula. Both politically and intellectually.

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                    • If you don’t think it is logical to question the moral condemnations of a philandering man with hidden children, I don’t know what logic you’re subscribing to.

                      Well, in addition to my own efforts, Chris, Will, Jason and Burt have been trying to explain it to you. The essential point is that the actions of the person have no bearing on the validity of their logical claims, one way or another. But if you can’t grasp it after 5 folks have repeatedly tried to explain it to you, I’m not sure there’s any point in trying further.

                      For myself, for the last several iterations of this argument I’ve been thinking that while I like to imagine myself as a pretty bright guy, if I had Chris, Will, Jason and Burt–4 also bright guys representing at least three very different ideological perspectives– all critiquing me in unison, I’d sure as hell be questioning my position.

                      Seriously, throw me out. I’ve insulted you and been something less than generous (you should have seen my first drafts), so ignore me. You’ve still got Chris, Will, Jason and Burt, and probably a couple of people I’ve unfairly overlooked, all making essentially the same argument against you.

                      What do you know that they don’t?

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                    • It’s not that I “know” something that they don’t; it’s that I believe a person’s actions ought to be considered when they’re making arguments. I’m not taking staying sober advice from a fall down drunk. I’m not going to a mechanic to get medical advice. Why on Earth would I go to a philanderer for moral advice?

                      Maybe this gets back at the fight we’ve had in other threads between words and actions. I don’t care what people say; I care what they do. You consider the opposite to be more important?

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                    • Chris,

                      I didn’t write the “harmfulness of being drunk.” I wrote “staying sober.” If I wanted to talk about the harmfulness of being drunk, I might seek out a drinker. These distinctions matter. But then, I’m six years sober, so maybe that’s just me.

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                    • it’s that I believe a person’s actions ought to be considered when they’re making arguments

                      So it’s actually a case of something you don’t know that the others do–which is that considering a person’s actions when considering their argument is a logical fallacy.

                      It really doesn’t matter how right it feels to you, or how sincerely you believe it, it remains a logical fallacy.

                      And you seem to be insisting that “no, all the logicians are wrong, it’s really not a fallacy.”

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                    • Mr. Blue made a very good point:

                      How is this not the same argument as “Al Gore has a 14,000 square foot house, with electricity bills that cost *THIS* much money, and he flies *THAT* many miles on jets every year”?

                      Surely I don’t have to give a crap about global warming if Al Gore is fat, do I?

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                    • Has Al G argued nobody should be able to fly or nobody should be allowed to have a big house? If he said that then had them himself then that criticism is spot on. If he hasn’t argued that then i guess he is fat is as good as its going to get.

                      Really, has Al argued those points? I don’t know. I never saw his movie nor have i listened to any of his speeches. He’s just a messenger, i prefer nerdy scientists myself for info.

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                    • I do believe that his argument is that “we’ve got a huge carbon footprint and this carbon footprint is destroying the earth and we need to stop it!”

                      I suppose one could say that it’s not hypocritical if one implies “well, I mean for society in general, there are obviously people who are important enough to require more resources than others.”

                      It takes a lot of fine tuning to make sure that that doesn’t come across like “you need to change your life, I don’t need to change my life, even though I’m doing stuff that’s even worse than the stuff I say you need to change.”

                      Because, seriously, that would undercut your point.

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                    • Yeah it takes a lot for messengers to show they are living what they are saying. I agree. But saying someone doesn’t live up to a strawman argument they haven’t made isn’t really much of a point either. Its possible, easy actually, for someone to make an argument GW is a big deal but we DON’T have to go back to pre 18th century living to start to attack it. So yeah i guess Al is obese.

                      PS its pretty darn clear from reading many of people who say they don’t believe in GW that the gist of their argument is “those people are just trying to tell us how to live.” I get why people don’t like, i get why its an effective rhetorical strategy for people who don’t want to do anything about GW to use but it really doesn’t address whether GW is an issue.

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                    • Greg, let me just get this straight:

                      Your argument is that Domenici is totally a hypocrite for voting against gay marriage because traditional marriage needs to be protected and then having an affair but Gore is not a hypocrite at all for saying that people need to have a smaller carbon footprint despite having a huge carbon footprint.

                      And, I suppose, by implication that it’s somehow significant to Domenici’s message that Domenici is a hypocrite.

                      Did I mis-state your position?

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                    • Jay- I didn’t say anything about Domenici. I’m not against snarking at him but his sleezyness is having an affair doesn’t mean he can’t be against gay marriage in good faith so to speak. Hypocrisy is something to note about messengers and whether i should care about what they say. It doesn’t necessarily mean their message is worthless. that depends on the nature of message.

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                  • Will- That seems like a reasonable point if he rides private jets even though private jets are likely to be way way down the list of things that actually contribute to GW.

                    Al G being whatever he is doesn’t mitigate GW anymore then a prominent SoCon poi being a hypocrite mitigate the deeply held beliefs of SoCons.

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                • I agree that it’s not a very good argument. I think that, if this is a pattern of behavior by those who oppose gay marriage, it could become a better one. I don’t think it will ever be a good argument to bring up in a discussion with people who disagree with you, though, because it comes off as petty. I don’t think Sam is going to get this, though.

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                  • Here’s an analogy.

                    If Bernie Madoff were complaining about shoplifting, we might in the course of our everyday conversations say to ourselves, “Yeah, well, he’s one of the biggest swindlers of all time.”

                    That would be true, even if argumentatively, it’s still only an ad hominem.

                    But — if Madoff were complaining about an honest mom-and-pop grocery store, we wouldn’t go that route at all. We would defend the honest grocers, with no need to duck the issue by talking about Madoff himself.

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                    • If Bernie Madoff said, “Shoplifting is bad,” you’re correct, we would laugh him off.

                      If Bernie Madoff said, “Shoplifting at mom and pop grocery stories is bad,” you’re correct, we would agree, even though we wouldn’t necessarily like endorsing anything said by an asshole like Bernie Madoff.

                      However, if Bernie Madoff said, “Shopping at mom and pop grocery stores is bad when gay people do it, but really, you should just ignore it when straight people do it, especially me, because I feel so guilty…” then I’m not at all sure we would simply concur.

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                    • I think Sam has demonstrated a pattern of making judgments based on disgust, and a sort of moral contamination, so I’m not sure how much what I’m saying here matches what Sam actually thinks.

                      However, I think there’s a point that you’re missing, and I’ll use your Madoff example to show it. If Madoff were part of an anti-shoplifting campaign, one of its leaders in fact, and we later discovered that he was robbing people blind, we could reasonably question whether he cared about theft in his anti-shop lifting campaign, or if he had other, hidden motivations for speaking out against shoplifting so vehemently (perhaps class-based animosity, or something). As a representative of the movement, we might then wonder whether the motivations for opposing shoplifting were also compromised. We’d wonder this even more if it turned out that a bunch of other anti-shoplifting campaigners were also stealing on a large scale.

                      Now, nothing about this would speak to the validity and soundness of anti-shoplifting arguments, but if it turned out that those arguments were problematic, and we had reason to question the motives of those who were promoting them, this would be a pretty big deal. Like I said above, with one person, we really haven’t gotten very far, and our argument is incomplete. That is, it’s just not a good argument to say, “Look, this dude was sleeping around! He’s a hypocrite. Gay marriage opposition is wrong.” It’s a better piece of a comprehensive argument to say, “These arguments against gay marriage have x and y problems, and those who promote them may not really care about marriage anyway,” but that requires demonstrating a pattern of behavior among those who oppose gay marriage. In other words, for it to work at all as part of a comprehensive argument, you have to show that this dude is representative.

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                    • However, if Bernie Madoff said, “Shopping at mom and pop grocery stores is bad when gay people do it, but really, you should just ignore it when straight people do it, especially me, because I feel so guilty…” then I’m not at all sure we would simply concur.

                      Domenici said something like this? Honestly, I don’t think you’re helping your case.

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                    • Chris,

                      When did Domenici propose to make adultery illegal? When did Domenici propose to make fathering children outside of marriage illegal? When did Domenici ever propose a law regulating social behavior that he himself would have suffered under? Domenici presumed that gay people should suffer for the alleged crime of being gay; he went so far as to advocate that his understanding of morality be encoded within the law. But he never proposed to regulate or sanction his own behavior. That was private. That was person. But what gay people wanted for themselves and their lives? That was public business to be managed by the government.

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                    • Only if there aren’t thousands/millions of other people who are making the same exact argument who appear to be totally honest. In this case, there are lots of social conservatives who don’t cheat on their wives, so it’s pretty clear that Domenici’s dishonesty is orthogonal to the issue at hand.

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                    • What would the divorce rate have to be in socially conservative states for you to begin to question that conclusion?

                      And incidentally, as has become apparent in the socially conservative movement, the appearance of being totally honest is almost entirely worthless.

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                    • Sam, do you see the difference between talking about the divorce rate of a group, and the behavior of one member of the group?

                      Honestly, you posted this on a site where most of the other authors, and I’d suspect a vast majority of the readers and commenters, are on your side of the gay marriage issue. However, almost everyone here has disagreed with this approach to it. Do you think that’s because:

                      a.) We’re all just too dense to understand your sophisticated argument.
                      b.) Nobody likes you, so they’re disagreeing with you just to be mean.
                      c.) There are problems with your argument that merely repeating it over and over again in comments is not going to help.
                      d.) The argument is valid, but you haven’t expressed it very well, and once again, expressing it the same way over and over again in comments is not going to help.

                      If you think it’s c or d, I’d suggest taking a step back and trying to either rework your argument, express it differently, or maybe abandon it altogether. If you think it’s a or b, well, I got nothing for ya.

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                    • It’s called a tu quoque fallacy:

                      Tu Quoque is a very common fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser. This is a classic Red Herring since whether the accuser is guilty of the same, or a similar, wrong is irrelevant to the truth of the original charge. However, as a diversionary tactic, Tu Quoque can be very effective, since the accuser is put on the defensive, and frequently feels compelled to defend against the accusation.

                      Whenever anyone makes an argument, pretend simply that you’ve found the argument carved on stone tablets in the desert. You have no idea who made it, or why, or when, or how. It’s just a set of propositions. Discuss those, not the messenger.

                      Why? Because messengers have nothing to do with the truth or falsehood of the argument itself. They don’t change the relationship, if any, between the words on the tablet and the facts of reality. Those statements are either true or false, and no amount of adultery can change that.

                      Put it this way: Suppose Domenici were supportive of gay marriage. Would you be less inclined to support gay marriage then?

                      If so, consider Gavin Newsom, outspoken advocate of same-sex marriage and confessed adulterer. If you are being consistent — and I would urge consistency above all — then his example ought to make you think twice about same-sex marriage, even as Domenici’s makes you feel more strongly in support.

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                    • There’s a difference, though, in questions of social standards.

                      Because there’s likely not an objective truth out there to aim at. The Tu Quoque fallacy is a fallacy because the proposition’s truth doesn’t rely upon the messenger’s reliability. For objective statements, you’re right… this doesn’t matter.

                      But in matters of social standards, the messenger is part of social standards (and in the case of political leadership, is often potentially a contributor towards driving social norms).

                      In these cases, it might matter quite a bit.

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                    • The arguments matter to me; the actions do to. If you guys hear/read the words and can disconnect them from the speaker, more power. But I won’t do that. I simply am not convinced by somebody’s arguments if they THEMSELVES aren’t convinced, and we can know that they’re not convinced based upon what they’re doing.

                      Meanwhile, Gavin Newsome never proposed to keep gays out of the institution of marriage. He is a philandering dickhead, but his proposed policies do not conflict with his private behavior, do they? Domenici’s most certainly do.

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                  • I dunno. I think Sam has a very good point here. I think he’s trying – and in some sense succeeding – to cleave off types of behavior with are and aren’t consistent with The Sanctity of Marriage. A heterosexual Christian cheating on his wife and fathering children out of wedlock is consistent with The Sanctity of Marriage if that person atones for his mistakes by apologizing for them and admitting he’s an imperfect person striving for perfection. Gay marriage, on the other hand, is viewed by these same people as categorically inconsistent with TSoM.

                    Two types of “immoral behavior”, two (radically different) judgments of them.
                    So,

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                    • It would be a better point if he could get his opponents to say infidelity is okay (but SSM is not). Or that adulterous sex should be allowed but gay sex should be banned. He’s closer on the second point, but that makes a stronger argument against gay Sodomy laws than it does for SSM.

                      All that he’s demonstrated here is that some SSM opponents do not take the sanctity of marriage as seriously as they claim. True enough, but it doesn’t actually undermine the arguments they are making.

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                • “The real arguments for or against gay marriage have nothing to do with Domenici’s personal life.”

                  Tthe credibility of those who oppose it falters, when one of their standard-bearers is shown to be a hypocrite [on the same topic].

                  A hypocrite such as this yutz.

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  2. “Anyway, is this the death knell for social conservatism? Will Domenici’s fall from grace be the end? Of course not. What’s remarkable about social conservatism as a political movement is that almost nothing seems to dent its adherents’ psyche. No matter how many social conservatives get caught – gambling, lying, affairing, foot-tapping, diapering, whatever – the underpinnings never change.”

    Cognitive dissonance is a wonderful thing. Also they simply go to the story of the prodigal son. Must pray harder this time.

    “They’re also not being replaced by people as hostile as they are.”

    Yes and no. There still seem to be plenty of kid’s who grow up in the social conservative mold and stay there. I largely agree. Gay Marriage in all 50 states is an almost certain inevitability but I don’t think we are ever going to see a world without social conservatism.

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    • “Gay Marriage in all 50 states is an almost certain inevitability but I don’t think we are ever going to see a world without social conservatism.”

      Yeah. It will just change over time as culture continues to shift, change and evolve.

      I’m a meat eater, and I can see me being considered socially conservative for being so in a generation or two.

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      • Tod, I think we’re safe until they have yummy fake meat or a suitable replacement. Social change that actually requires sacrifice has more hurdles. I think they’llbe jjumped eventually, though.

        It may well become a class issue, though, before then.

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        • Hitler was not a vegetarian (as the Rise and Fall author proved long ago.) While Stalin nor Mao were either, what would it matter? Since they all ate meat, does that mean all meat eaters are mass murders? Unless you are being a troll for humor, your logic is no better than what a very immature child would use.

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          • Ah, it’s even better then because Hitler’s propaganda office created the false image of him as a vegetarian in the minds of the German public. Which means that the childish logic of my comment is: when a moral belief is espoused and projected by a political leader who is shown to be deeply hypocritical in how they act on that belief, their hypocrisy shows the belief itself to be invalid. Does that logic sound familiar from anything at the top of this thread? Say before the comments?

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      • I’m a meat eater, and I can see me being considered socially conservative for being so in a generation or two.

        Until vegetarians can offer us something that works better than what we’ve got, eating meat will survive. That’s one of the primary problems of social conservatism: what it has to offer isn’t better than the alternative.

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          • I disagree.

            I think biology and evolution made humans omnivores for a reason. Maybe we eat too much meat and not enough veggies but I don’t think there is anything immoral or unethical or unhealthy about people eating meat.

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            • Biology and evolution seem like poor reasons for doing something if it’s possible to do something else without compromising one’s health. I mean, biology and evolution are probably responsible for a lot of the nasty behavior of men towards women, but that doesn’t mean that behavior is a good thing. One of the benefits of the human mind is that it lets us find ways to overcome the limits of our evolution and behave in ways that are better than our biological history would have us behave.

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            • Also too,

              1. Nature didn’t design us to do anything. Nature ain’t a designer. Evolution isn’t teleological, even though we loosely speak of it that way.

              2. It’s questionable as to what early humans or humans nearest ancestors ate. Our stomachs aren’t capable of eating animals or raw meat at all, really. (You need a short digestive track to eat uncooked meat so the stuff won’t rot and kill you in your stomach and we have a long digestive track.) Clearly we can eat cooked meat or cooked humans and for a good period of human history diets were very meat intensive, but then became very very light on meat in lots of places, then more heavy on meat.

              Great article here:

              http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/07/23/human-ancestors-were-nearly-all-vegetarians/

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              • Our stomachs aren’t capable of eating animals or raw meat at all, really. (You need a short digestive track to eat uncooked meat so the stuff won’t rot and kill you in your stomach and we have a long digestive track.)

                That’s a myth. I have eaten quite a bit of raw meat. On the order of several hundred pounds in total. Including beef, lamb, chicken, whale, several varieties of fish, and horse.

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                • Not a myth. Raw meat (sushi, less so) carries very dangerous pathogens, amd these pathogens are more likely to kill humans because we have a long digestive track.

                  If you get meat that is butchered carefully, especially so as to avoid any feces or material from the skin of the animal touching the meat (biggest worry in meat pack plants), then raw meat is reasonably bacteria free. This is why tartare and other fancy raw meat is reasonably safe, though usually not recommended for children, the sick, and the elderly, because e coli kills them easier than healthy adults.

                  But if you just cut up some meat yourself out in the world and try to eat it raw, there is a lot of danger of contamination and disease that a dog doesn’t face because of his shorter digestive track.

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                    • People do eat a lot of uncooked meat in certain parts of the world. If the meat gets no feces on it, and it hasn’t been rotting, and you raised the animal to keep it away from parasites like trichinosis, and you are a healthy adult, you are usually safe. IIRC.

                      But if you butcher badly, and feces from your knife gets on the meat, or the animal had wormy trichinosis, and the meat sits and festers there, and you eat it, and the meat stays festering in your “too long to be a good carnivore” digestive tract, well, you’re in big trouble that a true carnivore like a dog or cat with a short digestive tract wouldn’t be phased by.

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                  • Fair enough, but what you’re saying now is very different from what you said before. We very clearly are capable of eating meat, both raw and cooked, and meat does not “rot” in the digestive tract. Pathogens present in the meat (or any food, really) may multiply as the food passes through the digestive tract, but that’s not the same as rotting.

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            • Actually that same article makes a cool point. Early humans probably began eating meat killed with tools even though it hadn’t been natural for their ancestors to use tools or to eat meat. If it was right for them to do, it was also an unnatural diet for them at the time. So whatever diet is natural or unnatural for us isn’t necessarily right or wrong.

              Also again, as Chris says, your argument assumes a natural law account of ethics, which is highly dubitable and leads to some really nasty conclusions if held consistently.

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                • The article that I cited says our digestive system evolved while we were eating veg and bugs and moss. Thus, nature didn’t design us to eat meat, but rather veg and bugs and moss.

                  The mere fact that something has occured for 1.7m years doesn’t mean it is natural.

                  Part of the problem here is that the word “natural” is nearly entirely vacuous, which allows it to be used to argue anything. Gay marriage is unnatural, homosexuality is unnatural, child molesting is natural, slavery is natural, single male parents are unnatural, polygamy is natural, rape is natural, war is natural, war is unnatural. Whatever you want is natural or unnatural.

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                  • I never said vegetarianism or veganism is unnatural. If someone wants to be vegetarian or vegan, all the power to them.

                    I am opposed to attempts to label me immoral or unethical because I like meat.

                    One can be a liberal in good standing and still be an onmivore. Liberalism does not equal being a hippie or pastoralists. Hippies do not have a corner market on all that is good and sundry and being called liberal.

                    I think being an omnivore is just as natural as being homosexual or transgender. They all exist in nature and through human development for a reason. Perhaps my naturalism argument was not the best but that does not put me at the same level of immorality as a sociopath or a Ponzi Schemer.

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                    • I don’t think anyone thinks it’s immoral or unethical to like meat. It’s somewhat less justifiable to conclude that liking meat gives one the moral authority to kill an animal to obtain meat.

                      As I’ve said on many occasions, this strikes me as (at least for now) a pretty low-order moral concern, but it is really, really difficult to find a good moral principle that would allow a relatively wealthy (by historical standards) American to justify the killing of animals purely for aesthetic pleasure.

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                    • “One can be a liberal in good standing and still be an onmivore.”

                      And lots of liberals were pro-slavery and believed that Africans had lesser rights or moral worth, women too, etc., etc.

                      You can be a liberal and a speciesist, but once you start believing that dogs and cats have a moral claim (or right) to not be tortured or abused or harmed unless necessary, then you have to justify why you don’t believe the same things for cows and pigs.

                      The relevant difference between plants, microbes, and probably insects is the lack of conscious experience (or the potential for it), which is the locus of moral value.

                      Liberals (only the hippy, radical kind) argued that biological differences between men and women, or skin color were irrelevant to determining moral worth. Yay for the radical hippy liberals.

                      But we radical, hippy liberals also think fur, number of legs, etc. are also irrelevant to determining moral worth.

                      Is the presence of fur or the number of legs morally relevant?

                      Or is the only morally relevant feature the presence of conscious experience, the ability to suffer, etc.

                      I’d say liberals usually believe the latter, but the hippy radical liberals have to drag the other liberals forward.

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                    • If (and I repeat if) the more radical ethical vegetarians and vegans are right, it makes you much worse than the Ponzi schemers, and more analogous to a slave owner in the scale of evil.

                      But I want to remind you that though I think I have (or people have) good reasons to believe killing animals is very immoral and will be judged cruelly by history, I recognize that I am very, very fallible, and maybe you are right, so I don’t condemn you as being evil or anything like that.

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                    • Liberalism does not equal being a hippie or pastoralists.

                      Minor quibble here: Pastoralists are people who tend livestock. Occasionally (as in India) for milk only, but usually for meat as well. They’re anything but vegetarians.

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            • “but I don’t think there is anything immoral or unethical or unhealthy about people eating meat”

              I’m not sure about the unhealthy part, but I do think there’s *something* morally questionable about killing a sentient being for food.

              That said, I am a meat eater, and probably a too-much meat eater (and I probably eat a lot of factory farmed meat). Therefore, I’m a hypocrite, and therefore that means meat eating is okay.

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              • I agree, killing life is wrong and destructive, all else equal. I would even go so far as to say that killing a plant is wrong. When it becomes technically possible to grow healthy and tasty food which is not alive, then we will be morally bound to do so. In a century, they won’t believe we actually killed other living things. The disgust will not just be moral, but based on sanctity and purity.

                “yuck, you ate WHAT, grandpa?”

                Interestingly, as a side note, I’ve read that vegetarians actually kill more living animals than meat eaters, when you add in the insecticides and rodent control.

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                • “Interestingly, as a side note, I’ve read that vegetarians actually kill more living animals than meat eaters, when you add in the insecticides and rodent control.”

                  That’s one reason I limited my comment to “sentient beings.” Of course, maybe insects are sentient, and maybe sentience by itself isn’t the place where we ought to draw lines when it comes to morality of killing. (Sometimes I just need to avoid the issue altogether and enjoy a nice hamburger.)

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                • Vegetable farmers kill a whole lot of bunnies. I live with bunnies. I was also a member of the Varmint Hunters Association – which is a resource for vegetable farmers who need exterminators with rifles. I don’t tell my rabbits this.

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                • Interestingly, as a side note, I’ve read that vegetarians actually kill more living animals than meat eaters, when you add in the insecticides and rodent control.

                  This only applies to grass-fed meat. Most livestock eat essentially the same food as vegetarians, and convert it to meat very inefficiently.

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              • I’m not sure about the unhealthy part, but I do think there’s *something* morally questionable about killing a sentient being for food.

                Well, that’s the key question, isn’t it? Are animals—in particular the ones we eat—sentient for some morally relevant definition of “sentient”?

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      • I think people here are misconstruing what Tod meant (or maybe I’m the one doing the misconstruing?).

        I don’t read him as saying that being liberal necessarily implies vegetarianism. I read him as saying that it’s likely that society in the next 100 years or so* might come to see meat-eating as morally repugnant, and by those standards, he as a meat-eater might seem morally repugnant. I stand to be corrected if I’m misreading his argument.

        *Of course, he said 1 or 2 generations, but I’m taking the longer view.

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    • Social Conservativism of the future: When will you two get married? You know how long it took for us to fight for you two to be able to get married? It was an uphill battle and we had to put up with everything from Dobson to Domenici. Come on, your mother wants a wedding.

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  3. Judging Domenici is difficult of course. He is, after all, a product of his generation, one in which men commonly had extramarital sex with their coworkers’ conservative daughters and then also fathered out-of-wedlock children with those conservative daughters and then also did not tell anybody about a secret out-of-wedlock child and then also continued to insist publicly that his moral vision should become law and then also continued to vote for laws that would force his moral vision onto people whether they were interested in it or not or and then…wait, what?

    Maybe I’m unduly reaacting to your conversation with James Hanley,and perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but there is a line between having a somewhat provocative style and deliberately saying stuff to get angry reactions out of people or just straw-manning everyone. I’ve never once seen you give a sympathetic or at least a minimally charitable reading of someone you disagreed with.

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    • Well, I wonder why Sam posted this given that few will disagree with him.

      But what is the charitable reading of Domenici holding homophobic positions and voting for homophobic policies on marriage and also behaving deeply immorally and dishonestly in his own marriage?

      Domenici is a fool and a monster.

      Let’s move on.

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      • No, let’s not move on. Let’s focus on yet another culture warrior who had no problem bullying others politically and legally who nonetheless lived a life chock full of sin but who never once proposed scenarios in which he would suffer for the decisions that he made. Like all of the other social conservatives who did precisely the same thing, Domenici’s name should be dragged through the mud for doing what he did. (And understand, the doing what he did references the conservative bullying, not the affair, which is his own business.)

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        • notmoveon.org

          ?

          I really could care less about his personal life or his hypocrisy.

          I care that he votes for homophobic awful things.

          If Bill Clinton turns out to have a secret daughter should we “not move on”?

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          • yeah except precisely no one would be surprised in Billy boy had a secret child. I dont remember him telling america that the gay marriage would send us all to the pit while holding himself up as the pinnacle of purity.

            but hey bill is a liberal. he probably remember to tarp his loads.

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      • The charitable reading is of Hanley not Domenici. I was refering to this conversation James had with Sam. Sam’s sarcasm about understanding people within their own cultural milieu seemed to be referring to that, and the veiled insinuation that Hanley’s exhortation to be more forgiving of people who are situated in societies where the norms (although in hindsight wrong) are different applied to this case as well. Except that no one is going to excuse Domenici. His insinuation that Hanley would tell him the same thing about this case as well is not even remotely close to a charitable reading of Hanley. Of course, maybe the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other… maybe its all in my head

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        • I was simply making quite clear (in my own way I suppose) that culture was no defense here; Domenici was acting in what was surely violation of cultural norms, presuming that socially conservative norms were once predominant. That’s another discussion for another day.

          That said, what if we found out that this IS the way Domenici was raised? What then?

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    • Sam is saying what needs to be said.

      The “good” Senator was very much a classic social conservative hypocrite. He was engaging in the kind of loose morals that he said gay marriage would lead to. Obviously this is not true, people have been fucking around for thousands of years before gay people wanted equal civil rights, to be treated equally, and for the chance to file joint tax returns, and raise kids and dream of Brown for their adopted daughter. Kenyon for their adopted son.

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      • “He was engaging in the kind of loose morals that he said gay marriage would lead to. Obviously this is not true, people have been fucking around for thousands of years before gay people wanted equal civil rights, to be treated equally, and for the chance to file joint tax returns, ”

        No, it’s not obvious from the senator’s hypocrisy. I believe in gay marriage as a moral imperative: it ought to be recognized because it’s the right thing to do.

        If I could–maybe I can–I would explain why I think so. But the fact that the senator and “people” in general have done all sorts of wicked things does not refute the claim that gay marriage would lead to a decline in so-called family values. Maybe recognizing gay marriage would make all these shenanigans even worse.

        Again, I don’t think that would be the case, and even if, somehow, it could be shown to be the case (a perilous and objectionable undertaking in my opinion….too many variables and too many slippery notions of “family values” and “decline”), I believe that recognizing gay marriage is the right thing to do.

        But pointing out a politician’s hypocrisy? Yeah, I guess it needs to be said because it probably says something. But it’s not the “obvious,” dispositive proof against the senator’s position. Hypocrisy is a fatal accusation until you find someone who’s not a hypocrite.

        At best, pointing out hypocrisy is only a minor point for our side.

        At worst, it’s a dangerous distraction, just waiting for a time when an emergent socially conservative majority demands laws that prohibit the senator’s behavior as well as gay marriage. And then even worse people–those who are actually so inhuman as not to have feet of clay–would have the power. And, given the logic of shouting “hypocrisy!,” we’ll have to merrily accept blue laws, and robust covenant-marriage laws, and jailtime for adulterers, all based on the fact that this time, the people promoting them aren’t hypocrites.

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        • Pierre,

          I would love it if the social conservative movement started proposing to punish straight people (and especially straight men) for various behavior, both because it would finally indicate some hint of consistency and because they’d get destroyed at the polls for doing so.

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          • Well, some of them are on their way. At least some people who support “covenant marriages” would, if they could, outlaw no-fault divorces altogether. And a subset of those, I imagine although I don’t have hard numbers (or soft numbers, for that matter), would endorse criminal penalties for adultery.

            Do you really want to go there? Maybe. After all, you said you would “love it.” More probably, you were using “love” in the sense of “it’s a spectacle you’d like to see.”

            Still, I wouldn’t want to live in a society where the moralists in charge are true believers. Those can be more dangerous than the hypocrites. At least hypocrites can be shamed (which is what your post does well, regardless of my disagreement about what it means for “social conservatism” in general).

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            • I think that honesty is the greatest political equalizer, which is why politicians so rarely engage in it. Saying out loud what they actually believe would be political suicide for most politicians, especially those with retrograde views of things like sexuality. Social conservatives know this. It’s why they’re not out there campaigning against blowjobs, even though blowjobs are sinful(ly awesome).

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    • What did I say that would make Hanley angry at me this time? I specifically attempted to dismiss culture as a possible explanation here; if anything, Domenici did exactly the opposite of what you’d think he would have learned from a conservative upbringing. Unless of course the foundations of that conservative upbringing are a pack of lies, but that wasn’t an issue I was exploring here.

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        • For what it’s worth, as someone who was with Hanley on that discussion, I didn’t take that bit personally after reading it over a couple times. I took it as “culture is no defense here.”

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              • Sam,

                I agree. 100%. As I said on the other thread, I hate moralism whether it’s left, right, or center.

                So if you also dislike smug moral superiority, why do make it your stock in trade to indulge in it yourself? Do you think that you’re doing moral superiority right, and others are doing it wrong?

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                • I don’t believe that what I’m engaging in “smug moral superiority” and frankly, the personal insults that you insist upon attaching to every response to me are getting old.

                  As for my alleged moral superiority: I prefer social tolerance to social intolerance, particularly in the law. Social conservatives do not. Whatever judgments you want to make about the position I take is your own business.

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  4. So.

    Now, stating the facts is “deliberately saying stuff to get angry reactions out of people?”

    I mean, the piece you chose to quote is stating the facts.

    It’s astounding that what you take issue with is the manner the facts were stated instead of with the scoundrel of a man who committed fraud against his wife, his children, and the American people who elected him.

    But it’s a good indicator of just how ‘sacred’ people really consider marriage these days, I’ll give you that.

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    • Dominici is a jerk and a hypocrite. Not sure anyone is going to doesn’t that. What do you think we should say? “Oh, gosh, I now realize that I was wrong about gay marriage the whole time.”

      Even if there was actual opposition to gay marriage here, this doesn’t move any needles for anybody. It’s just a great opportunity for some high – minded discussion about how terrible *those* people are. Yeehaw.

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        • Maybe. Or I don’t tie up my views on the social conservative movement to the actions of a retired senator from New Mexico. I’m us might be a reason not to vote for him, but he’s retired. It might be a reason to remove him as an elder statesmen, but he’s pretty obscure. And whether he is faithful to his wife or not has little bearing on whether or not gays should be allowed to marry because they should even if this obscure senator from a low population state had been a model husband and father.

          And beyond all of that, there is what, one contributer here who opposes gay marriage and maybe a smattering of commenters? I’m not sure what the goal is, here, beyond two-minutes-of-hate and a good, fun round of mockery I can get anywhere.

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        • But you’re not discussing social conservativism. You’re discussing one social conservative person. That’s like saying that harping on Clinton’s infidelities is “discussing the connection between liberalism and a lack of family values.”

          No it was just Clinton, not liberals.

          Lots of social conservatives walk the walk and talk the talk. Domenici didn’t walk the walk. So what?

          You’re skirting close to the rhetorical techniques favored by conservative media, IMO. You aren’t there yet, but if you posted this sort of thing daily, you’d be close.

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            • It’s scores of politicians on both sides of aisle. Politians are awful people very often.

              There are dozens of, maybe 100, million social conservatives in the U.S. Do you think the moral failings of a few politicians implies that a series of claims made by their constituents are false or that social conservatives in general are hypocrites?

              If I judged liberals by the personal behavior of liberal politicians, I’d fish myself with a corkscrew in the ear.

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                • This assumes she couldn’t be doing what she can to advance that fight from that position. If she’s not, then yeah. But if we want Walmart to change how it treats the working class, it’s not clear that it would be bad to have people who fight for the well-being of the working class on the boards of companies whose actions have a big impact on that well-being.

                  And just to be doubly clear, I have no idea at all whether she does that. But just being on the board is no evidence she doesn’t.

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              • It’s scores of politicians on both sides of aisle. Politians are awful people very often.

                Well, there’s that. But they’re also subject to temptations that rarely if ever present themselves to ordinary gentlemen. He was 46 and had an affair with a 24-year-old. Ethical considerations aside, how many 46-year-old men could do that if they tried?

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                • well the ones with money or power. or just the ones with smooth moves.

                  but on the bigger point he sought out power and influence. just because the power came with the temptation to bang every young warm female in his presence does not excuse him being a massive prat.

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                • Not the way you’re doing it, which is wrong in two ways.

                  First, you might want to think about selection and confirmation biases before you make claims about whether we can learn anything about a movement by taking note of the cases that fit our preconceptions.

                  Second, even if you had a fairly chosen sample, you are focusing on the fact that they’re somewhat hypocritical, which means you’re confusing a very obvious fact about humans with an insight into specific people. Incorporated with this, there’s a built-in assumption that Domenici doesn’t know or believe that what he did was wrong, or that he feels no shame about it. Humans are weak; they make mistakes and do things they are damned certain are wrong. Do you have the capacity to look into Domenici’s heart and know how he feels about his affair?

                  Consider Larry Craig. It’s easy to make jokes about him, and easy to mock him for being a hypocrite on homosexuality, but actually think about the man, not the trope, for a moment. Here’s a guy who deeply believes homosexuality is wrong–it’s what he’s been taught from the first moments of his life–and yet he obviously has homosexual desires. He can’t admit it. The foundations of his life and worldview would be shaken, and probably he really does truly love his wife and is terrified of what such an admission would do to his marriage with her. But he can’t resist, so on flights home from D.C. he gets a quickie in an airport bathroom. He knows it’s wrong, and he’s probably filled with deep self-loathing and shame that he can’t control himself.

                  But those urges really have nothing to do with his stance on homosexuality. He believes its wrong, both in others and himself. Now I’m not giving any support to his belief, but I am saying that we ought to think about the human, not about a two-dimensional stereotype.

                  The same may very well be true of Domenici–if he feels no shame about having violated the standards he’s publicly proclaimed, then yes, he’s truly hypocritical scum. But we don’t know, and it’s just not admirable to reduce a real life human to a cardboard cutout so that we can pretend we do know it.

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                  • James,

                    For me, the difference is these individuals and their legislative activity. I don’t care at all about their own self-loathing; I don’t care if Larry Craig feels badly about himself; I don’t care if Pete Domenici regrets every single day he spent in bed with a woman other than his wife. I only care when these same people propose to ruin other peoples lives despite their own misdeeds.

                    What Craig and Domenici both did is propose to ban alcohol while drinking it themselves, except they did it with peoples lives. That’s intolerable behavior no matter how guilty they feel.

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                    • I only care when these same people propose to ruin other peoples lives despite their own misdeeds.

                      You could have ended that sentence before the last clause, you know? As written, it implies that if Pete Domenici were truly a perfectly moral and upright man, you wouldn’t care about his proposal to ruin the lives of other people. But of course that’s not true, so clearly his misdeeds are not relevant. So why claim they are?

                      And I don’t think that even your alcohol analogy has a leg to stand on. You’re assuming that the person drinking alcohol while urging its ban wants the privilege of being an alcohol drinker when most people can’t. You never give thought to the possibility that he might be an alcoholic, struggling daily with his addiction, and knowing all too well how damaging alcohol can be.

                      But as you said, “you don’t care at all.”

                      So tell me now, do I have any standing to advocate against violence, given my own tendencies thereto?

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                    • It isn’t that I wouldn’t care; it is that the nature of our disagreement would be different. A moral man who proposes to live by the rules that he demands of others is an entirely different ballgame from an immoral man who proposes rules for some but lawlessness for himself.

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                    • A moral man who proposes to live by the rules that he demands of others is an entirely different ballgame from an immoral man who proposes rules for some but lawlessness for himself.

                      That’s a pretty dandy false dichotomy you’ve got there. Let’s just blow right by all that lots of people-try-but-don’t-always-succeed-in-living-up-to-their-own-ideals stuff.

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                    • James,

                      If I’m incapable of doing the thing that I’m demanding of others, perhaps I shouldn’t be demanding it of others. That seems like a relatively solid baseline standard that we ought to set.

                      If I spent my time trying to invalidate your marriage legally – and you discovered that I’d been married three times myself, and not only that, but each of my previous marriages ended as a result of affairs* – would you take my movement seriously? Or would you wonder who exactly I was to be proposing to regulate your life?

                      *which, technically, would make me Newt Gingrich

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                  • This is well put.

                    The Greeks called it Akrasia and St. Paul rather famously observed: “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

                    Rightly done, one levels the charge of hypocrisy when one wants more of the thing undone by another’s actions.

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  5. “It is, to put it nicely, frustrating that social conservatism manages to hang on without ever bothering to self-examine how it can continue to say one thing while enjoying the support of those doing something else entirely.”

    my quibbles and bits: to say that hypocrisy as something that should kill a political movement – or even slow it down – seems ridiculous. if political hypocrisy was fatal there’s be a whole buncha dead pols lying about and an even larger bunch of very happy vultures.

    the even larger group of unhappy vultures would be lobbyists. rimshot!

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  6. I don’t see how this hurts him very much. It’s not like he was having sex with a liberal, so his political judgement was probably untainted.

    Is he a hypocrit? Yes.

    Is hypocrisy always a bad thing? No.

    Many conservatives have spoken out in defense of hypocrisy, because it means supporting rules and norms even by people who sometimes fail to meet the high standards they set. Being against hypocrisy means either being against moral or social standards, or railing against anyone who is imperfect in their own eyes.

    For example, pick any Democrat who campaigns for tougher drunk driving laws – and then gets a DUI after a New Year’s party. Were they wrong to fight drunk driving? Were they wrong to speak out against drunk driving? Should they never again be allowed to speak out against drunk driving? No, they merely failed, in a moment of weakness, to meet their own standards. It doesn’t mean the standards are wrong or that they don’t believe in them.

    You think Clinton voters would’ve figured this out by now.

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      • I think that’s missing the point, which is a pretty good one, and one that even leaves sufficient wiggle room for us to continue to seethe with white-hot hatred towards Domenici.

        I can condemn drunk driving and know it’s wrong to do, but still maybe I get behind the wheel while I’m above the legal limit. I ought not to do that and at some level when I do it, I know that and I choose to defy the moral imperative. (Insert drunk driving rationalization here — I’m not that far gone, I’ve got a low-traffic route ahead of me, etc.)

        Is drunk driving right or wrong? Is a law that criminalizes drunk driving a good law or a bad one? Were my previous condemnations of drunk driving justified or not? My subsequent behavior does not change the answers to those questions.

        Domenici says “Marriage should be between a man and a woman, it’s a moral imperative!” and then proceeds to cheat on his wife. Does that make him a hypocrite? Sure. The affair was a moral failure. But this doesn’t shed any light on whether it is or is not a moral imperative that marriage only be between a man and a woman.

        In truth, because same-sex marriage harms no one, it is a moral imperative that marriage like all other legal rights be made available to all people on the same terms. Domenici’s votes against that simple and now-obvious truth are the reason we can continue to seethe with white-hot rage against him. His personal moral failure doesn’t change that, any more than it changes the falsity of his antiquated world view.

        Maybe it’s in the same ballpark. But the left fielder being out of position doesn’t really affect how a pop fly to right plays out.

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  7. I don’t know. I’ve read enough books, seen enough movies, and known enough people to get the feeling that a fair number of people have affairs outside of marriage and sometimes those affairs result in offspring- one of the negative externalities of sex in general. So, it’s not terribly surprising on the face of it. Furthermore, I imagine that plenty of those people still talk a good talk about traditional morality and families and such. It’s hard to think of a real pro-adultery politician out there (France notwithstanding), so the hypocrisy aspect is not terribly surprising.

    I’m not sure that this gets me closer to assessing the arguments of social conservatives. You say the hypocrisy of the leaders should kill the movement, but it seems a bit like saying the movement to combat global climate change should fall apart because of the hypocrisy of Al Gore taking a jet plane to climate summits or living in a big house: both of which are arguments made by people who believe climate change is all a lie. But I can’t imagine Al Gore’s hypocrisy leads many environmentalists to give up and go buy a Hummer.

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  8. I just don’t like the comparison.

    On the one hand, we’ve got a former politician who thought denying citizens the right of family was good and moral politics. It wasn’t just personal family he harmed with his stand against gay marriage, it was anyone who was gay and wanted to marry their partner. That’s a big problem.

    On the other, he couldn’t live up to the standards he supposedly set out to hold as good and valuable in defending the sanctity of marriage. The harm her is to the wife he cheated on, to the children he had with that wife, who he denied having a relationship with their sibling, and most particularly, to the child of the affair, who he denied membership to his family. Those are personal failings. And while they may be mighty, they don’t hold a candle to the failing of the many, many families he thwarted.

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    • I don’t think the child was harmed as much as you imply. His mother is one of the top 50 most powerful lobbyists in Washington and judging by his impressive political and legal resume, the only reason he’s probably not a senator himself is that he’s not quite old enough yet.

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      • But if Domenici is such a hypocritical bastard, how would the son have benefited from his influence? Isn’t that like arguing that Luke Skywalker should’ve been raised by Vader?

        Another angle on this story is that what Domenici did was totally crazy and destructive, yet he was a huge advocate for rights and treatment for the mentally ill. Given what we know now about Domenici and his insane choices, obviously support for the mentally ill is wrong, if not downright evil.

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        • Where did I say he was a hypocritical bastard George? I did not.

          In fact, I said, I just don’t like the comparison.

          And I explained my dislike by pointing out the stance on gay marriage harmed many, many families; while his own foibles only harmed his own. So my big problem here is with the thousands of people who would like to marry; like to have the legal rights of family, that he denied.

          Rather then being a hypocrite, he’s consistent; he not only he feels he has the right to decide what a gay person’s family can be, but that he has and the right to decide what his children’s family should be; it’s not hypocritical at all. But it is a difference of scale; personal failing vs. public failing.

          But you see, I don’t think gay marriage immoral. But keeping families apart? Yes, that’s immoral. That’s highly immoral, unless there’s some evidence that one member is a danger to the others.

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        • Well, one aspect not yet brought up in this thread is whether his affair (which was decades ago) and the difficult position it put him in is what influenced his stance on family issues. He might’ve been a happy-go-lucky guy until he realized what he’d put at risk (losing his wife and children) and how important an intact family really was, and how the institution of marriage needs defending.

          This would be like finding out that a politician who has been a staunch anti-drunk driving compaigner *drum roll* injured or killed someone in a drunk driving accident thirty years prior – which is why they became so vocal on the issue. The horror. The horror.

          Another aspect is that he kept the old affair a secret to protect his family, not destroy it, so we can’t argue the reverse, that he didn’t care about family values or protecting his own family because he kept the affair a secret, as has been going on here.

          And of course there’s the common knowledge that sensible married men might not wish marriage on anyone who can possibly avoid it. ^_^

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          • So worried about his family was he that didn’t even disclose to his children that they had another sibling or his wife that “Oh, by the way, at some point a story could break that will demonstrate that I have been unfaithful and have a son you didn’t know about. So be ready.”

            Family values!

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            • “Another aspect is that he kept the old affair a secret to protect his family, not destroy it, so we can’t argue the reverse, that he didn’t care about family values or protecting his own family because he kept the affair a secret, as has been going on here.”

              so if you’re stealing a ton of money from your employer, but you don’t tell them, you’re demonstrating how much you care about their finances?

              this is a very strange hill to die on.

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            • Boot hill must have a whole lot of graves, probably including half of Hollywood.

              I’m sure there’s an article about whether to confess or not in most every copy of the magazines in the check-out aisle, along with all the secret sex techniques (which can’t really be all that secret if they publish them twice a year).

              So they could have confessed, which would probably destroy his marriage and end in a bitter divorce, alienate his existing children, end his legislative career, hurt her father and her father’s family deeply, end any chance she had at a career (she became one of the 50 most powerful lobbyists in DC), perhaps end her father’s legislative career, make a ton of enemies, and turn both of them and their child into pariahs. Or they could keep quiet and everybody stays happy, wealthy, and successful, with all the families intact and the kids well cared for.

              So should he have kept quiet and had a fulfilling career, or go down like disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, and a host of various Congressmen?

              We don’t even know if it was an actual affair. It could easily have been the result of a secret Bene Gesserit breeding program aimed at producing the ultimate Republican politician, the prophesied Lesstax Thatcheraxe who can bend space-time to be at two fund raisers at once.

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              • this has to be the lamest justification for keeping a secret love child secret. “If I tell people what i am actually doing my life could be ruined! telling the truth and fessing up could destroy my family and my secret family and my career much more that having it come out in 30 years and ambushing my family then, because i will not be in office then!”

                by this logic it is okay for me to kill and lie about it because i am my wife’s sole source of support and do not wish to damage my job prospects or our loving marriage.

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              • Well, Sanford is making his political comeback, running for his old Congressional seat and asking voters to forgive him. So, let’s not count him among the politically dead yet. With sex scandals, two things seems to hold. Generally, IOKIYAR. And, people like it when you beg for their forgiveness along with their vote.

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              • “So should he have kept quiet and had a fulfilling career, or go down like disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, and a host of various Congressmen?”

                well, much like spitzer, part of the rub is seeking to use (or actively using, in spitzer’s case) the power of the state to violate others for engaging behavior you’re publicly decrying while privately engaging in. he’s all for the sanctity of marriage, except his own.

                i am a big fan of paying one’s tab, as it were, but that’s me. but your line kinda goes into “of course i covered up those murders i committed, i didn’t want to hurt my family by having a long prison sentence! family values!” it is an extremely lame excuse.

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    • Senator Menendez is busy at the moment, but if you leave your name and number someone in his office will try to get back to you.

      The Senator is currently conducting a thorough investigation into Congressmen Steve Cohen’s daughter to uncover anything that needs to be uncovered, as exposed in these shocking and revealing photos:
      http://www.heavy.com .. the-20-hottest-photos-of-victoria-brink/

      His investigation into Congressmen Cohen’s daughter, perhaps expanding to include many other Congressional daughters, is fully in keeping with the spirit of his fact-finding missions to the Dominican Republic to uncover underage prostitution rings, and follows on the heals of a scandalous affair between former Senator Pete Domenici and the daugher of Senator Paul Laxalt. Semper vigilius. Semper turgidus.

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  9. Speaking of dying, I’ve heard it discussed that the greatest equalizer in social politics is death; the intolerant are dying faster than those they oppose, largely because they’re older. They’re also not being replaced by people as hostile as they are. Kids today just aren’t terrified of the things that gave older generations the shivers. Still, one wonders what exactly it would take to devastate social conservatism.

    Growing up without being reminded every day of imminent nuclear war (“duck and cover,” anyone?) might be a good start. Altemeyer, etc.

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  10. Domenici was also a co-sponsor of “Senate Resolution 322–Encouraging and promoting greater involvement of fathers in their children’s lives and designating June 18, 2000, as `Responsible Father’s Day'”, which includes the following:

    …Whereas many of the United States leading experts on family and child development agree that it is in the best interest of both children and the United States to encourage more two-parent, father-involved families to form and endure;

    …Whereas children who are apart from their biological father are, in comparison to other children– (1) 5 times more likely to live in poverty; and (2) more likely to– (A) bring weapons and drugs into the classroom; (B) commit crime; (C) drop out of school; (D) be abused; (E) commit suicide; (F) abuse alcohol or drugs; and (G) become pregnant as teenagers;

    …Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate–

    (1) recognizes the need to encourage active involvement of fathers in the rearing and development of their children;

    (2) recognizes that while there are millions of fathers who serve as a wonderful caring parent for their children, there are children on Father’s Day who will have no one to celebrate with;…

    (5) urges fathers to understand the level of responsibility required when fathering a child and to fulfill that responsibility;…

    I think Domenici kinda fell down on this front.

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  11. TL/DR all the comments. Apologies if already covered.

    So a politician has a position (either for political or personal reasons) that you disagree with and his indiscretions are somehow relevant to that position? This just gives the other side some ammo. So what? I’m sure folks on the other side of his position already hated/didn’t like him and were firing arrows at him on other points.

    He’s a pig, but you should know that going in. HE IS A POLITICIAN. Why would you be surprised about this and when is it even very comment worthly?

    Now, have you seen pics of his wife and of the chick he slept with? Who wouldn’t be tempted?

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  12. Not to pile on, but it seems to me that the better argument against social conservatism is that it’s offensive to nearly every standard of human decency or morality. That a bunch of social conservatives are dicks isn’t news, nor is it terribly surprising given that they have committed themselves to a cruel, sadistic, and morally bankrupt philosophy, but it’s possible the causality is getting a little mixed up here.

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