WASHINGTON -- Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who has never met a domestic federal program he would not double, hit upon what seemed like a great idea for advertising the virtues of federal welfare programs.
He invited Whoopi Goldberg -- one of America's most famous former welfare mothers -- to the Capitol to make a pitch for Aid to Families With Dependent Children.
Not for Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Goldberg the usual staid style of congressional testimony. Instead, Whoopi put on a Phil Donahue-style show complete with cordless mike and invited guests. A baby on her hip, Whoopi told reporters, "The welfare system works. I know it works because I'm here. It gave me enough time to do what I had to do the way I could do it and keep some self-esteem."
A ghoul or a Republican
Senator Kennedy must have been beaming. There, in a few sentences, is the perfect distillation of liberal hopes about welfare. It serves as a safety net for those who fall upon bad times -- not a hammock for the lazy. Moreover, it offers freedom and opportunity ("time to do what I had to do the way I could do it"). Only a ghoul or a Republican could contemplate tampering with such a successful system!
But how, exactly, did Whoopi wind up on welfare? We can read all about it in "The Choices We Made," by Angela Bonavoglia.
Whoopi Goldberg was the daughter of a nurse, not wealthy but hardly destitute. She became pregnant for the first time at age 14 and, by her own account, self-aborted with a coat hanger. The following year, she got pregnant again. "I hadn't been using birth control at that time," she wrote. "It was the late '60s; everybody was having sex. You had sex in Central Park; it was that free."
Planned Parenthood performed her second abortion and supplied her with birth-control pills. She claims that birth-control pills are not "strong" enough for her. "Three times I got pregnant with birth control." It apparently never occurred to her to try self-control.
At age 18, married, Whoopi had a daughter. But she was soon single again and somehow finding herself pregnant again. It's difficult to count, based on Whoopi's narrative, but the grand total of abortions she admits to having is six or seven by the age of 25.
Whoopi's daughter became pregnant and bore her first child at age 15. "My daughter knew about birth control; she knew about safe sex; she knew about all that stuff. She didn't want to marry the man. But she wanted to have this baby." Even Whoopi dimly perceives that something is wrong with this picture.
'God and I are close'
She doesn't dwell on it because Whoopi Goldberg is equipped with a liberal theology to accompany her liberal politics. "I talk about God because God and I are very close. God gives you freedom of choice. That's in the Bible. God says, 'Here are 10 rules: Don't lie -- you'll never remember what you said before. Don't cheat, because you're going to be mad if you're cheated on. Honor your parents, because they brought you into the world, and you're going to need child care. If you choose to live by them, your life will be better, and even if you don't, I will forgive you.' "
Ms. Goldberg could be writing the scripts for many mainstream churches. God's laws are not moral absolutes or even injunctions but rather ancient self-help texts. Do this not because it is right but because it will benefit you. Honor your parents not for the sacrifices they make on your behalf but because one day you'll need them as baby sitters. Don't lie because you'll get confused and then get caught. And since this is a self-help manual and nothing more, you get love and forgiveness no matter what.
In Whoopi's world, there is no God of judgment, but there are Republicans and they must be resisted to the bitter end.
But this passionate advocate for the welfare system illustrates, by her own story, the corrosive influence of a welfare system that says essentially what Whoopi's God says: "God understands whatever dilemma you're in and will forgive it if you make a choice that He or She doesn't think is right."
Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist.