Memo To: Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: "The Kelly Flinn Story"
You must have noticed that The Wall Street Journal beat you up this morning for your "Get real!" comment to the Air Force, in sympathy with Kelly Flinn. I have to say I sympathize with you, in that it was also my first reaction to the Air Force charges of her adultery. It turns out that both of us relied on the first reactions of our wives, both of whom happen to be named Patricia. As it turned out, after my Patricia settled in to read the detailed news accounts and watch Geraldine Ferraro go up against Pat Buchanan, her position reversed, to the point where she now has decided to let the Air Force decide whether the discharge should be "honorable" or "dishonorable." In other words, she acknowledges that she doesn't know enough about the facts to be able to sort them out, and neither do I. Her first thought was that Ms. Flinn would not be in this spot if she were a man, but then learned that a higher percentage of men than women are dismissed from the military for adultery. Your Tricia, you said, wanted to know where's the man? Pat Buchanan's point was that you politicians cool it because you are obviously being swayed by emotional press accounts, getting your noses into affairs and shooting from the lip. The Journal's editorial this morning is the best I've seen on the subject thus far, although there is one additional point I would like to make to you, one that Buchanan touched upon.
It came when Gerry Ferraro, in denouncing the Air Force, referred to a "double standard," and Pat Buchanan said, "You betcha," there is a double standard. The Armed Forces must have higher standards than society in general, he said, in regards to such matters. The Armed Forces, after all, are communes, which operate by their own rules, outside the rules of the rest of society, all for very specific reasons that are intimately bound up in the nation's paramount need for security. The Bill of Rights is essentially suspended in many particulars, as soldiers, sailors and airmen are proscribed against practicing free speech and free press and free political assembly. The chaos we permit outside the military cannot be permitted within the military orbit.
The word Standard is the key word here. If in this high profile case the Secretary of Air Force decides to avoid the controversy of a military trial and give Ms. Flinn an honorable discharge, the decision will have devalued the Standard. The last thing you should want to do, Trent, is devalue a standard of behavior, because our history for the last 30 years in particular has been a history of devaluations of standards. Without standards, anything goes. As long as the standard exists, military and civil courts can find exceptions to it. It is the same in a family, where father and mother should teach their children the Ten Commandments, including Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife, yet be able to forgive them when they stop the practice and promise to behave. Several of the overheated feminists in our press corps are all for devaluing military standards to the non-standards of civil society, somehow believing the status of women will be elevated by the lowering of standards. They somehow do not connect the devaluing of standards with the moral rot at the center of our society, or maybe they do and don't care.
My advice to you is that you take Pat Buchanan's advice and remove yourself in a public way from the controversy, on the grounds that you spoke out without realizing the importance of your casual thoughts. If you were not Senate Majority Leader, your comments would not be critical. But insofar as you speak for the whole of the GOP on this matter, your comments should be rigorously thought through, as their unintended consequences could be very serious for the nation.