Commenting on John Edwards, Joe Klein makes two excellent points:
–Just about anyone under the age of 60 who has lived in this permissive society during the past 40 years, has done something that might be unfit for a Hallmark Greeting Card. In fact, I have profound qualms about any would-be politician who hasn’t allowed him- or herself a moment of untrammeled human or chemical exploration. I fear that the media have driven an awful lot of interesting people away from public service for reasons that would have seemed extreme to the second generation of New England Puritans.
–These sort of crapulous stories are next-door neighbors to the sleazy negative advertising that, well, John McCain has been accosting us with. They feed the notion that politicians are just a bunch of soulless, egomaniacal dolts without a high-minded–whoa, almost said bone in their bodies–pick your allusion. One of the worst results of the past 30 years of the Reagan pendulum swing is that the politicians-as-perverts meme fits quite neatly into the government-as-problem-not-solution meme. Given the problems we’re facing now, this is not where we want our national discourse to be.
Related to the first point, political puritanism also means that the only way to be scandal-proof is to have spent your entire life planning a run for office. This self-selects a very bizarre and dysfunctional group of people.
Of course, if we only elected unmarried politicians, this wouldn’t be an issue…