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In Politics, Sex Sells

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Advertisers know that sex sells. So they use it liberally to push all kinds of products into our shopping carts. The media also know that sex sells. So they use it liberally in their coverage of U.S. politics. A case in point is the new John McCain lobbyist scandal. The New York Times reported recently that McCain's aides became concerned during the 2000 presidential campaign because they thought McCain was spending too much seemingly cozy time with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. The mass media's tabloid-like emphasis on a possible romantic relationship between McCain and Iseman seems to have distracted a lot of people from the real issue -- one of ethics and the corruption that so often takes place in Washington when politicians and lobbyists get too friendly. The Larry Craig incident aside, I doubt that this McCain story would have gotten as much mileage if McCain had been spending a lot of time with a male lobbyist rather than an attractive female one. Former President Bill Clinton knows what it's like. The House of Representatives actually voted to impeach him for a sexual relationship. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the Senate acquitted him two months later. This was only the second time in U.S. history that a president had been impeached. And for what? For sex! Conservatives may argue that it wasn't the sex, it was the fact that Clinton lied about it. But what man -- indeed, what person -- hasn't at some point lied about sex? Monica Lewinsky did not put this nation at risk. And Congress has since let much more heinous misconduct by the Bush administration slip by without breaking a sweat. I don't care if Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Bill Clinton's sex life is not my business. It does not affect me. When Clinton was president, I was much more enraged by things like Clinton's support for NAFTA and the Telecommunications Act. Unlike Clinton's sex life, those things did -- and still do -- have an effect the average American. Likewise, John McCain's possible philandering is not my business. That's the business of John McCain and his immediate family. It does not affect me. What does affect me is the revelation that John McCain's platform of ethics is just so much hot air. But then, one should not be surprised. It's politics, after all. And it's only a little thing called corruption. It's not nearly as interesting as sex. And sex -- not ethics -- is what sells newspapers and air time. What does this say about the emotional maturity of the American public? And could that explain -- at least in part -- why our country is in such a mess? ###
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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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