Friday, July 13, 2007

Keeping Politicians' Sex Lives Private

Columnist E.J. Dionne argues that democrats should be charitable, and lay off the David Vitter sex scandal.

But a big part of me is rooting for Vitter to survive because I so want to return to a time when we -- that "we" includes the media -- chose to pay little attention to the extracurricular sexual activities of our politicians. The magnitude of our public problems does not afford us the luxury of indulging in crusades about politicians' private lives, even those involving a high degree of hypocrisy.

He is wrong. The "media" simply doesn't exist anymore. There is no collective we. There is the internet, tabloids, the right wing noise machine including Fox News, talk radio, Matt Drudge. If the media decided that after getting the vapors about Bill Clinton's sex life, they are going to give a pass to people like David Vitter who demanded that Bill Clinton resign for an affair at the same time he was seeing hookers, it will be a one sided withdrawal.

Here is how it would play out in reality. The "media" would ignore the sex scandals, the right wing noise machine would play down conservative sex scandals, while trumpeting every indiscretion by a democrat.

The hypocrisy angle is important as well. The days of the Rockefeller Republican party are over. The GOP base is filled with moralists who want to legislate and appoint Supreme Court justices to regulate your private life. It's kind of important to know that the same people who are pretending to be holier than thou during the day as they bash gays, abortion, premarital sex are doing something differently at night.

If a politician wants to make it a crime to steal groceries, it is not unreasonable to point out that he steals office equipment. By treating sexuality as dirty and shameful, and something left in private, this actually encourages the moralistic Victorian behavior to continue.

If enough fundamentalist politicians get caught being peed in the face by an illegal immigrant male prostitute from Juarez, the news will actually become less titilating in time. You become inured to it.

Republicans are people too, who have sex. Sometimes it's wearing a diaper, sometimes it's while snorting meth with a gay hooker, and sometimes it's even within the sanctity of marriage. Until we accept that openly and honestly, the next person to take David Vitter's seat will again trumpet his pristine life, and try to legislate our sex lives on the basis of it.