Jesse Jackson’s Church of Instant Forgiveness, by Deroy Murdock

A New Visions Commentary paper published February 2001 by The National Center
for Public Policy Research * 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web
Reprints permitted provided source is credited.

Just weeks have passed since news broke that Jesse Jackson fathered a love child. The entire controversy already is fading away. Now forgotten is that incredible photograph of this country’s perjurious, adulterous former President posing in the Oval Office beside his philandering spiritual advisor and that man’s pregnant mistress. Yet another first in America’s presidency.

As that old Grateful Dead song says: "Lovers come and go, but rivers roll, roll, roll." So, too, does the news cycle, rolling right past the transgressions of men on the Left, even as that river turns downright brackish when those on the Right like Jimmy Swaggart and Newt Gingrich go astray.

But before Jackson’s entire fall from grace slides right down the memory hole, a few thoughts:

Jackson promised in a Wednesday, January 17 statement that "I will be taking some time off to revive my spirit and reconnect with my family before I return to my public ministry." Who would have imagined that Jackson would be back on the job by Sunday, the 21st?

Jackson would have stayed off the national stage longer had he simply twisted his ankle playing tennis. He should have resisted the temptation to jump back in the fray for at least a few months. This would have sent Americans, especially young ones, a simple message – adultery matters, and so do out-of-wedlock births. Jackson no longer can speak about the problem of black births outside marriage without eliciting chuckles. What a waste of a high-profile platform.

A decent interval outside the limelight also would have begun to reverse, at least slightly, the humiliation to which Jackson subjected Jackie, his wife of 38 years and mother of his five children. Even if Jackson did not spend 12 weeks holding his wife’s hand and begging her forgiveness, appearing to do so would have helped Mrs. Jackson recover some of her stolen dignity.

Instead, Jackson spoke at a Chicago church four days after dropping from view. The next day, he attended a luncheon in the Windy City in his honor.

The message is clear: cheat on your wife, knock up your girlfriend and relax for a long weekend. No sweat.

In a certain sense, even Jackson’s critics must lament his situation. He is a man of enormous energy, talent and commitment to his cause. Agree or disagree with him, he is America’s most forceful, dedicated and ubiquitous issue advocate.

And yet Jackson is surrendering what few molecules of credibility he has left, not just because of his moral failure but through his nonchalant, flippant handling of these revelations. "Don’t violate me!" barked the usually loquacious Jackson at a New York Post reporter with questions about the controversy.

Jackson also looked foolish and intemperate during the post-election Florida Fiasco. His bizarre rant that President Bush won the election through "Nazi tactics" mocked the Final Solution and trivialized the suffering of those Holocaust survivors who reside in the Sunshine State. Jackson sounded nearly as hysterical when he invoked the memory of Selma, Alabama amid the Florida recount mess. Perhaps conservative media bias prevented Americans from seeing Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris sic German Shepherds on black voters as Governor Jeb Bush soaked them with fire hoses.

Americans should not expect political and religious leaders to be perfect. So long as hormones pump through their veins, some will fall. What Americans should demand is that they show true contrition for the darkness in their souls, offer recompense to their victims and act as if their misbehavior is something viewers ought not try at home. But by running around on his wife, displaying remorse for all of 96 hours, then jetting to Wall Street to scare up corporate cash, America’s unlikeliest cad has dubbed himself the not-so-Reverend Jesse Jackson.

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