Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Monday, August 11, 2008

LCD Soundsystem

I've been trying not to think about the recent Edwards brouhaha, and luckily most of what should have been said has been said by Josh Marshall, Digby, and others not including Maureen Dowd. But playing off of Digby's thoughts on private character being a poor guide to public virtue, I'd add this. Democracies are famed for promoting "tolerance" as a prime virtue, which is true as far as it goes.

Our judgments, however, do not go away, nor should they. Unfortunately, what often happens to judgments in a democratic culture is that they are aimed at the lowest common denominator. We can all agree, regardless of party, class, ideology, or education level that cheating on your wife is serious douchebaggery. Especially when you're a public figure and this will embarrass her in front of 300 million people. Especially when the other woman appears to be younger, prettier, and--by several degrees of magnitude--flakier. Especially when your wife is one of the most admirable and likable political wives on the planet. And, oh yeah, when she's got cancer. (Plus, the "she was in remission!" defense just makes it look like you were looking for a guiltless window of opportunity.) I don't know that I could come up with a simpler moral judgment if I tried. Which is not to say it would be a wrong moral judgment. It's right. It's just not that significant, at least from a political standpoint. It has nowhere near the weight of issues like torture, wiretapping, forging documents to justify a bullshit war, or even tax cut proposals.

Making those judgments poses opportunity costs. You have to think about possible policy consequences, weigh your loyalties, yada yada. Sneering at the horny pretty boy comes free, and this is true for no one as much as it is for the media, who need dramatic narratives and prefer those that will cost their viewers little mental strain and that are unlikely to alienate one or another side of the partisan divide. Call it a Downsian theory of scandal. Johnny E., we hardly knew ye, and now yer goin' Downsy.


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