Astute observations from Jonah Goldberg:
Let me say upfront: I would rather we lived in a society where adultery had a higher social cost. That’s not to say people shouldn’t be forgiving or that there should be no such thing as second chances. But ideally, I’d like it if things were less loosey-goosey. Cheat on your wife, and maybe you don’t get to run for public office anymore. Send junk-tweets to random young women who aren’t your wife? Well there goes your dream of becoming mayor. Exploit an intern whose name you can barely remember while you’re the President of the United States, maybe your moral ranking should be downgraded to junk and you should quietly skulk off the public stage. Or, if that’s too much to ask, maybe the interval between scandal and rehabilitation could last a little longer than the maturation time of a fruit fly. No politician is so indispensable that we just can’t do without him (or her), never mind for a little while.
But, here’s a newsflash: We don’t live in that country anymore…
Indeed we don’t. As Jonah notes, Mark Sanford’s victory yesterday marks another low-point in American politics and for the society at-large (emphasis mine):
…[I]t’s worth noting that what has changed the most isn’t the supply of moral politicians, but the demand for them. Ambitious, selfish, amoral men have always been attracted to politics. At least in terms of his sex life, John F. Kennedy was a disgusting man who, among other things, pimped out an intern. Other presidents, Republican and Democrat, cheated on their wives, too. Such behavior is not new. But that was all kept from the public eye — by the press, by the establishment, etc – in part because it was understood that if the public found out, the politician’s career would be over. Times have changed and the public doesn’t demand — or demand sufficiently — either the myth or the reality of morality anymore.
I was chatting this morning with a friend about today’s Benghazi hearings on Capitol Hill and about the media’s seeming lack of interest. No one died in Watergate, we recalled, yet the media’s appetite for the truth couldn’t be satiated. Fast-forward to today and the media flippantly dismiss the current administration’s woeful (and deadly) negligence as a political stunt by Republicans.
Sure the media have always had an agenda. But when lives are lost, it seemed in the past that that agenda necessarily took backseat to the pursuit of truth. But not any more — whether it’s a murdered U.S. ambassador or the slaughter of innocent babies at the hands of an abortionist, it seems the media’s liberal agenda now takes priority over the sanctity of life itself. One has to ask: Is this because the media has become increasingly amoral or because society has?
In the end, Jonah concludes, it’s up to conservatives to stick to their guns and their morals:
Indeed, when Democratic politicians get caught in scandals, the response from liberals is invariably, Why can’t you conservatives lighten up? Who are you to judge? Etc. It is only when conservatives are caught in such messes, that liberals walk over to the conservative side, pick up our standards, and beat us up with them. Any talk of lightening-up or forgiveness is immediately denounced.
It’s absolutely true that conservatives need to wrestle with the question of what we should expect from our politicians. But I’m not sure liberals have anything worth listening to on the subject.