This week’s Newsweek cover story on political courage ("Wanted: A New Truman") is truly baffling. Evan Thomas has a strange way of assessing what marks courage in our presidential contenders. He easily acknowledges that John McCain’s long tenure as a prisoner of war trumps everyone else. But he writes "All the candidates will use their life stories to show a sense of moral purpose." How did Hillary display her sense of moral purpose?
You may not believe it, but Thomas claimed: "Hillary Clinton had a stark moral choice: whether to stay with her husband when President Clinton's philandering with Monica Lewinsky was exposed. Her decision to stand by him could not have been easy." Inside the media-Democrat complex, moral courage is not displayed by condemning adultery. It is displayed by tolerating adultery and maintaining political viability for the party in power – not to mention nicely setting up your own senatorial and presidential campaigns down the line.
Thomas also implied that Hillary showed courage in "her refusal to apologize for her pro-war vote in the Senate in the fall of 2002 as a matter of principle." When it came to Barack Obama, Thomas argued he demonstrated his political courage by standing up to liberal bloggers who scorn him as a centrist. John McCain’s faced down Vietnamese captors and is boasting of fighting Osama bin Laden to "the gates of Hell," but Obama is courageous for standing up to the Daily Kos crowd. He’s also brave for starting out modestly in Chicago politics before he started making millions in book royalties:
Barack Obama was an early opponent of the war at a time when most Democrats were still with Bush. Favorably compared to Bobby Kennedy, Obama does have an air of authenticity—he writes his own books and seems to speak from the heart. Giving up a corporate job in Manhattan, he went to work in Chicago as a low-paid community organizer. He will take on liberal bloggers who criticize him as too centrist. But there is a something of the raging moderate about Obama: he never sticks his neck so far out that he can't pull it back in.
Thomas doesn’t mention that Barack Obama was an obscure state senator in Illinois in 2002. The reader would be forgiven for assuming he was a high-profile Washington figure at that time.
Thomas had first turned to Romney when he started on the moral-purpose line. It’s not surprising that he used the paragraph to pluck out young Romney’s memories of drunken frat boy George W. Bush:
All the candidates will use their life stories to show a sense of moral purpose. After partying at Stanford, Romney says, he found purpose on a Mormon mission to France and came back to finish college at Brigham Young. At Harvard Business School, Romney says he "didn't hang out much" with his schoolmate George W. Bush. "I was married at the time with two or three children," he told NEWSWEEK. Bush was a single guy in his " 'young and irresponsible' period ... I longed for the chance to get at the books and study and learn."
It is precisely at this point that Thomas introduced his Hillary whopper. Bill Clinton didn’t have a "young and irresponsible period." It ran all the way through his presidency.