Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Dead Elephants...

...Well, not yet, but we can all hope.

We're back to the on going debate about how much of a politicians personal life should matter, thanks to the latest indiscretions of Repugs John Ensign, and Mark Sanford. I'm on the older side of the cultural divide on this one. There was a time when the press looked the other way when it came to the extra curricular activities of our elected officials. I've always kind of suspected, that back in the sixties, most Washington journos would have loved an invitation to one of JFK's pool parties, and not for the inside scoop of seeing the president of the United States skinny dipping with a Hollywood starlet.

There are some exceptions, however, to my wish for discretion from the press when it comes to the sexual activities of those in elected office. There are a couple of obvious ones. If a pol's affair compromises national security then it should be reported. In my life time, I can think of only one example, and that's John F. Kennedy's dalliance with mafia moll, Judith Campbell Exner. The other obvious one is if a politicians actions are illegal. One can argue,whether or not, patronizing high priced call girls should be against the law, but it was illegal when Elliot Spitzer was paying for sex, so that should be fair game as well.

What's less clear is the whole issue of hypocrisy. With John Ensign, I'd say it's a no brainer that his sex life should be reported. Ensign, when he ran for the senate, and lost, against Harry Reid, made the sex life of president Clinton an issue. Ensign has also positioned himself as a family values guy, and to be fair, he called for fellow Repug Larry Craig to resign after that whole cruising airport rest rooms deal. (Ensign is also an opponent of gay rights, so maybe that was a homophobe thing.) And what about Mark Sanford's just revealed affair with an Internet friend from Argentina? Sanford, while in the house, called for Clinton to resign from the presidency, and also voted for his impeachment. Sanford was always careful to frame the issue as a legal rather than a moral one, and what Sanford has done is certainly not against the law. Still, to be a Repug is to bed down with the moral extremists in our society. Live by the penis, die by the penis.

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