Monday, August 11, 2008

John Edwards Guilty of Bad Timing

Here’s my beef with John Edwards. He chose to come clean about his sexual affair during a tight and full news cycle, with a high profile American tourist murdered in China right after the utterly amazing and fantastic Olympic opening ceremony, followed the next day by full all-out war between Russia and Georgia. All of this breaking news left the networks with little time to cover Edwards in more than a superficial way. I wanted to see a repeat of the Elliott Spitzer affair coverage, when the networks expanded the air time devoted to sex by doing “filler” pieces. For example, one network filled out their Spitzer programming with a twenty minute segment about the difference between a prostitute and a call girl. That kind of added material makes high profile affairs more interesting.

By themselves, these “indiscretions” aren’t terribly newsworthy, and they’re certainly not new. Even FDR played the game. If Mt. Rushmore added a fifth iconic face, many Americans would vote for the image to be Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even some Republicans consider him in the “great” category, but throughout his life he cheated on Eleanor with her personal secretary, Lucy Mercer, and he did it with steel braces on his crippled legs, so you know that there was some kinky stuff going on there.

Leveraging high-profile pedigree in order to obtain casual sex, JFK managed to do more breeding than Secretariat. Many Americans still think JFK was a good president. On the other hand, there are two presidents who are generally acknowledged to be squeaky clean in the marital indiscretion category, and their sexual conduct is above reproach. They are Richard Nixon and George W. Bush—arguably the two worst presidents who have ever held the office. Based on that, I’m not sure that marital infidelity is a deal breaker for presidential greatness. I will grant you, however, that it’s hard on the little Missus and the kiddos.

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