Cal  Thomas

It isn't often that I suffer from moral confusion, but the reaction to Vice President Dick Cheney's caustic remark to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has me perplexed.

To summarize for those who have been away from the planet, Cheney delivered a popular epithet (see "The Sopranos") in response to Leahy's attempt at camaraderie following his "questioning of my character," as the vice president put it in an interview with Fox's Neil Cavuto. Cheney took umbrage at the phony Washington practice of personal attack on a fellow politician, followed by a seemingly kind gesture as if the attack had never been made.

Democrats were quick to pounce. Some noted this is an administration that is trying to muzzle shock jock Howard Stern from using the same language that Cheney employed. Others bemoaned the loss of "civility" in Washington, which they date from the day Newt Gingrich arrived in Congress in 1978 and Republicans began to behave as if they did not have to be forever content with their minority status.

In a week of morally conflicting messages, former President Bill Clinton began hawking a $35 book for which he received an advance of about $10 million and in which he speaks about the extramarital affairs he had with two of his many women - Monica Lewinsky and Gennifer Flowers.

Then we learn that Illinois Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan is withdrawing from the race after a previously sealed divorce court file was released. In it, Ryan's ex-wife (actress Jeri Ryan) accused him of taking her to sex clubs and demanding they have sex while others watched. He denied it.

Clinton does it with women not his wife in the Arkansas governor's mansion and the Oval Office and gets rich. Ryan allegedly wants to do it in public with his wife, but doesn't, and is forced out of his Senate race. I'm confused.

Hitler is also making a comeback this political season and not just in the road tour of the Broadway show, "The Producers" ("Springtime for Hitler" is its best known song). The Bush campaign Web site is showing pictures of former Vice President Al Gore, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and filmmaker Michael Moore. They are shouting. These clips are interspersed with sound bites of der Fuhrer in full rhetorical rant. But wait. These images aren't just a Bush commercial disparaging Democrats. The Hitler image is from an earlier commercial (now removed) on the Web site, which opposes the president.

Cal Thomas

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Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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