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Why O'Donnell's Lunacy Matters

[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner]

In 1996, as is now tolerably well known, Republican senate candidate Christine O'Donnell preached the evils of masturbation, and called for a discussion of the topic "from a moral point of view." Since masturbation requires lust, according to O'Donnell, and because lust is wrong ("according to The Bible"), masturbation is wrong.

Ross Douthat, commenting on this subject, mocks William Saletan for his (Saletan's) bizarre piece about masturbation and socialism, and then goes on to add:

With Christine O’Donnell, as with Sarah Palin before her, American liberals have been confronted with a politician who’s vulnerable to all sorts of possible attacks, and whose record and qualifications and positions provide plenty of fodder for either a high-minded, issues-based critique, or a more no-holds-barred assault on her honesty and integrity. And what do liberals want to talk about? Why, her decade-old comments on masturbation, of course!

Douthat is implying that rather than discuss issues of substance, liberals are instead focusing on amusing or strange things that O'Donnell once said. How silly of liberals to spotlight her masturbation comments! I will agree that these comments are silly and amusing. But they are also a substantive window into the woman's mind. O'Donnell's thinking is simply deranged. And you don't want deranged people with crazy opinions in the U.S. Senate.

The same is true, to an even greater degree, of O'Donnell's comments about whether she would have given Anne Frank up to the Nazis. (See James Downie's post, with video, below). O'Donnell was asked if her statement that lying was always wrong could be qualified; what if you were hiding Anne Frank and the SS was at your door, asking if you were sheltering any Jews? Still wrong, according to O'Donnell. It's true that this hypothetical is less relevant to our current problems in America than, say, O'Donnell's position on taxes. But again, as a window into a fanatical mind, it can hardly be bettered. (In case you think fanatical is too strong a word, think again about the hypothetical.)