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Opinion Column
For the week of August 2 through 8, 2000

Another stoplight on Main Street—is the speed limit obsolete?

Commentary by PAT MURPHY


Raise your hand if you believe traffic moves better in Ketchum now that Main Street has four traffic lights within six blocks.

This much is certain: Police should have no fear of speeders on Main Street.

Traffic moves so slow—and logjams are so frequent with the new signals—it’s near impossible for drivers to even get up to the speed limit.

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Although the "family values" movement attracts largely decent, well-meaning advocates of moral lifestyles, its ranks also have been invaded by holier-than-thou characters and charlatans whose hypocrisy is so flagrant that it’s a wonder God hasn’t struck them dead with lightning.

Among them was the "family values" Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, who moralized stridently about Bill Clinton’s trashy behavior with Monica Lewinsky—even as he was carrying on with an office staffer behind his wife Marianne’s back.

Not to be forgotten are Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, who swindled followers while he also had an adulterous fling with Jessica Hahn. And who can forget the blubbering, weeping televangelist, Jim Swaggert, caught on video checking into a cheap New Orleans motel with a hooker?

My perpetual favorite do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do hypocrite is an Arizona state legislator, Rep. Karen Johnson, who constantly lectures about "family values"—although she’s divorced several times and has married five times.

So, I can’t bring myself to weep for the sudden closing of the Idaho Family Forum, a political busybody pressure group steeped in religious goodness and presuming to define the moral code by which we all should live.

Family Forum’s shutdown is all very mysterious, although cynics say it’ll return, reincarnated perhaps with a new name.

It’s possible, however, that Family Forum and like-minded groups may not be needed if the Bush-Cheney ticket wins in November, Republicans maintain control of Congress and together they live up to their promises.

Republicans have vowed to impose a new super morality on the nation, with a more prominent role for religion and Puritanism in every walk of American life.

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After the Idaho state Supreme Court chastised some Boise politicians a few weeks ago about talking with interested parties about pending official business outside government chambers, I remembered something said by the late, longtime mayor of Scottsdale, Ariz., Herb Drinkwater.

"Never trust a politician who’s not listed in the phone book."

Drinkwater’s point was that politicians need to be fully accessible to the public, even to the point of being telephoned at home night and day.

That sort of attitude kept Drinkwater in office for nearly 20 years until he retired because of rampaging cancer that later took his life.

Had he stiffly refused to talk pending public business in casual conversation with voters, as preferred by the Idaho high court’s majority to avoid any hint of hank-panky, Drinkwater would never have survived politically.

Honest officials won’t use ad hoc chats to cheat, and dishonest officials up to hanky-panky won’t be restrained by rules of when and where they could discuss public business.


Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.

 

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