LOYAL OPPOSITION: Explanations of the Week

Last month, Rev. Jerry Falwell found himself in hot soup after a reporter disclosed that the onetime Moral Majority leader had opined during a speech that the Antichrist walks among us as a Jewish male -- and that he is preparing for the ultimate and very final battle with Christ.That certainly is close to an anti-Semitic sentiment. Still, Falwell defended his remarks by noting that "most theologians have embraced" this apocalyptic fundamentalism "for two millennia." (Most theologians?) After several weeks of ridicule and outrage, Falwell apologized. Sort of. At the International Christian Prayer Breakfast, he offered his regrets to his "Jewish friends" and said he "should have known better."But wait a minute. He still believes what he said. "I apologize not for what I believe," he commented, "but for my lack of tact and judgment in making a statement that served no purpose whatsoever." Oh, how wrong he is. It served a rather important purpose. It revealed that he holds firm to the view that the Antichrist is Jewish. No, he's not sorry for what he said; he's just sorry it caused a fuss. This is a Clintonesque apology. Maybe Bill Bennett is right: The past year has chipped away at moral values throughout the nation.Texas Gov. George W. Bush did much better explaining himself out of a corner. When a New Hampshire television reporter last week asked if he had ever used marijuana or cocaine, he replied, "I'm not going to talk about what I did as a child. What I'm going to talk about and I'm going to say this consistently: It is irrelevant what I did 20 to 30 years ago. What's relevant is that I have learned from any mistakes that I made. I do not want to send signals to anybody that what Governor Bush did 30 years ago is cool to try."In non-polspeak: "Yes, yes and yes. I smoked. I toked. I didn't just inhale. I Hoovered the stuff. Hell, I can't even remember all the partying I did. But don't you try this at home."So, the lesson is, you, too, can have a life of youthful debauchery and go on to become a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination and a champion of a vague happy-face and tolerant conservatism. It's a great country. No wonder he's so damn compassionate.

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