Double Standard?
Jude Wanniski
June 9, 1997


Letters Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036

Dear Editor:

In your running editorial commentary on sex in the military, you are getting tangled up in confusion on what constitutes a standard and what constitutes a double standard. The Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,” is a standard. Because it has been 3,400 years since Moses showed up with it, the Times argues it is “antiquated” and should be scrapped, especially in the military, “Double Standards, Double Talk.”

It was Jesus who, a mere 2,000 years ago, reminded us that inasmuch as we are all sinners, the standards we set may be rigid, but should be applied with consideration and judgment. If a sinner expresses remorse and promises to amend his or her behavior, lesser penalties should be considered. The Times confuses this application of standards with the standard itself in arguing that Defense Secretary William Cohen has “suddenly change[d] the rules” by applying a lesser standard to Gen. Joseph Ralston than he has to Kelly Flinn.

What Secretary Cohen has judged is that while General Ralston departed from the standard several years ago, the circumstances were sufficient to permit forgiveness. In the case of Kelly Flinn, who expressed neither remorse nor willingness to amend her behavior, and who added lies to her adultery, the military authorities could not be as lenient as with General Ralston, or there would be no standard at all.

That is what the Times’ official editorial position is on this standard, as it is in so many others of the original ten that are 3,400 years old and are considered “antiquated.” That’s fine. The Times does have a standard for itself, by which it tries to be very careful in its use of the English language. In this case it has clearly slipped, in confusing “standard” with “application.” If it expresses remorse and promises to amend its behavior, we should be forgiving.

Jude Wanniski