Let the president alone!" declared President Clinton's defenders in the midst of Monicagate. "Judge him by political standards, not personal ones. The private and the public are separate spheres. Mind your own business, you sexual McCarthyists!"

Many Americans, of course, disagreed as they partook in this national conversation. The President's impeachment forced us to grapple with the complicated mix of morality, governance, and faith. Whatever the overall legacy of Bill Clinton, this piece of it holds lessons for the nation but especially for the church.

1. Reject the separation of personal and public. While 1999 polls seemed to affirm that Clinton's sexual escapades were his own business, the year 2000 was less charitable. "Clinton fatigue" set in. Memories of his infidelity and duplicity kept hobbling his attempts to "move on," seriously impeding the President's political effectiveness. Former presidential adviser David Gergen gave us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the personal was beginning to take a political toll. In his book Eyewitness to Power, he reported that the exposure of Clinton's infidelity damaged his conjugal bonds and so depressed him that he and the first lady were unable to work together on domestic policies. In addition, Hillary Clinton decided to run for the Senate at the same time. No relation between private and public?

Furthermore, the "character issue"—the weight of one's word when a finger is wagged or public testimony given, how one treats another human being, one's faithfulness to vows taken before bar or altar, and sexual responsibility—marked both Democratic and Republican campaigns this fall. In selecting Joseph Lieberman, a high-profile critic of Clinton's behavior, my own Democratic Party ...

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