Fromer Bush administration official and Washington Post op-ed columnist Michael Gerson writes about the fall from grace of Mark Souder, for whom he once worked on Capitol Hill, and draws a dinstinction between sexual conduct and "less sensual vices":
Moral conservatives need to admit that political character is more complex than marital fidelity and that less sensual vices also can be disturbing. "The sins of the flesh are bad," said C.S. Lewis, "but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither."
Yet moral liberals have something to learn as well. The failure of human beings to meet their own ideals does not disprove or discredit those ideals. The fact that some are cowards does not make courage a myth. The fact that some are faithless does not make fidelity a joke. All moral standards create the possibility of hypocrisy. But I would rather live among those who recognize standards and fail to meet them than among those who mock all standards as lies. In the end, hypocrisy is preferable to decadence.
He's trying to make a case for mercy as "the most underrated" of moral virtues: "Yes, people are baser than their highest ideals. They are also nobler than their worst moments. This does not make the distinction between base and noble impossible. But it makes a little grace appropriate."
As G.W.'s chief speechwriter for a time, Gerson was generally given credit for coming up with the "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" metaphor to convince us Saddam Hussein was a nuclear threat, and for "Axis of Evil," so he will be seen by many as using colorful language to sell bad ideas. But he's also the author of perhaps the one great line (I think) to come out of the Bush administration: "the soft bigotry of low expectations."