July 12, 2006

Adulterers for President?

This post observes that three of the GOP front-runners have sexual skeletons in their closet: McCain, Giuliani, and Gingrich, and wonders how (a) the evangelical part of the GOP base and (b) the Dems, recalling the Clinton impeachment, will react.

It's a fair question. To a degree, I adhere to the view that in evaluating politicians as politicians, as with artists as artists, we should separate different spheres of their lives. Picasso may not have been nice to his women, but he did some amazing paintings. Hamilton was a player, but he set the Treasury on strong foundations. Martin Luther King was, too, but he still gave a great speech.

Dennis Prager, essayist and talk show host, advocates the "separate spheres" idea. Private sexual conduct isn't a criterion on which to evaluate a politican. If we really insisted on purity, of course, we might have no one to vote for.

It's a little different, though, when they lie under oath, as Clinton did. And it gets worse when their conduct gives the lie to the political program a politician preaches. If, as Gingrich did, he prates about a family values while, although married, he's having it away with an aide, he's perhaps more of a hypocrite than average. As my father said of Eisenhower aide Sherman Adams, who had to resign because a Boston cloak-and-suitnik named Bernie Goldfine gave him a vicuña coat, "The worse kind of thief is a pious thief."

We probably won't get to the point, though, that France did, when both wife and mistress showed up at François Mitterand's funeral. As Henry Higgins said, "The French don't care what they do, actually, so long as they pronounce it properly."

One thing I'll say. I'm not about to cast the first stone.

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