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Politicians' Affairs, Double Standards, and Glass Houses Everywhere

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mary Shaw       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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I have been a John Edwards fan ever since he wowed me with his "Two Americas" speech during his 2004 vice presidential bid. I never thought I'd find myself feeling thankful that John Edwards didn't win the Democratic nomination for this year's presidential election. But today I do, and not for the reasons you might think.

You see, while I was disappointed to hear the news of Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter, I do not feel that it is my place to judge him. I am not a perfect person, and so I cannot expect our national figures to be perfect persons either.

Besides that, I believe that one's sex life is no one else's business. Just as I believed 10 years ago that Bill Clinton's sex life should have remained a private matter between him, Hillary, and Chelsea, I believe that John Edwards' affair is the family's business and not one for public scrutiny or judgment.

What a politician does sexually in private does not necessarily affect his (or her) ability to lead this country effectively. While Bill Clinton was fooling around with Monica Lewinsky, this nation enjoyed eight years of peaceful prosperity, culminating in the largest budget surplus in history. And, while I didn't agree with all of Bill Clinton's presidential policies, I don't think we can blame Monica for NAFTA or welfare "reform".

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But the "news" reporters, the pundits, and the public all like a good sex scandal, so they jumped on the Edwards story like hungry wolves. This one has all the ingredients to sell lots of newspapers: a handsome politician, a cancer-stricken wife, two small kids at home, and an attractive, younger, blonde "other woman".

Plenty to judge. Schadenfreude heaven. Cha-ching.

So then why do the media remain relatively silent about John McCain's infidelities? If they are so interested in politicians' marital infidelities, why do we not hear about the fact that McCain's wife, Cindy, was his mistress while McCain was still married to his first wife? And why did the Vicki Iseman scandal have such a short shelf life?

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My guess is that it's because the media today are owned by just a very few rich guys who have their political and financial reasons to serve the Republican party that gave them their current level of power and wealth through ever-growing media consolidation and deregulation.

And this is why I am thankful that John Edwards did not win the nomination this year. If he had, we'd hear about more about Rielle Hunter than we'd hear about the real issues that this country faces. And the media would make us think that it matters enough to affect the election.

And that is silly and it is sad in what is says about our priorities.

On a final note, I offer the "glass house" argument. According to Peggy Vaughan, author of the book The Monogamy Myth,"60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an affair at some point in their marriage." That's half of us. If it's not you, it's the person standing next to you. So it's not exactly a rare novelty. And those who point fingers might want to peer deep into their own souls. And they might want to ask themselves if they really have room to judge others.


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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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