I was raised to have disdain for reactionaries. As described to me by my parents, these were people who couldn’t accept that times have changed. They pined for an earlier era, a simpler era – when the man of the house ruled the roost … and whites and blacks weren’t so integrated … and government wasn’t so profoundly involved in lifting up the poor … and homosexuals were closeted … and big corporations were able to behave pretty much as they pleased … and entertainment was always wholesome … You get the drift. My parents told me that the people who espoused these values called themselves “conservatives,” but they were anything but. Conservatives want things to stay as they are, I was told. By contrast, these pseudo-conservatives want to go into a time machine and take the rest of our society along with them. They are right-wing radicals, my parents said, and we need to expose them as such.
Fine. So exposed. But I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t expose my friends on the left when they display the same tendencies.
Before I address my topic – sex – let me express my bias. Professionally, I enforce a statute called the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act prohibits misconduct by those who submit false or fraudulent claims to the Government. But in order to be found culpable under the Act, the defendant must have acted with more than simple negligence. By law, the defendant must have been at least reckless. And if the Government can prove recklessness, it is entitled to treble damages plus penalties.
I had this concept very much in mind when Monica Lewinsky came into my life. I had already lost faith in her boyfriend Bill by the time that their tryst was exposed, but at least I had thought that he would not recklessly endanger his entire Presidency. I had assumed that he cared enough about his country that he wouldn’t take the kind of chance that a drunk driver takes when he risks human lives on the highway – for in this case, if he had an affair with an intern and it was exposed, he would clearly have risked any credibility he had as a politician. Well, sure enough, it was exposed. The media seized on the story day after bloody day; Clinton was “impeached” (though not “convicted”); he became “still-President Clinton,” the lamest of ducks; his VP ran for President while understandably distancing himself from Clinton; Clinton thus couldn’t really help to campaign for his VP; his VP lost the election by the slimmest of margins, and surely would have won comfortably if only Clinton had not been so reckless; the guy who won the election decided a couple of years later to get us involved in a meshugah war in Iraq; and now the country has lost thousands of soldiers, hundreds of billions of dollars, and international standing. All because of blow jobs.
Were these events foreseeable consequences of what Slick Willie did with his willie? Obviously, you can never foresee a fact pattern so specific. But what he could have foreseen was that (a) the chances of getting caught were enormous, and (b) the consequences of getting caught were devastating. Did I mention drinking and driving? His conduct was even more reckless … much more devastating than taking out a single motorist or vehicle.
At the time Clinton was exposed, I was devastated. You see, back in 1992, I was a true believer. I even joined the Saxophone Club. I shook the man’s hand. And now, I thought to myself, he’s revealed his true colors. Night after night I was glued to the TV and I listened to the talking heads ruminate about what the President did and why. The Republicans who lambasted him – the same ones who had been pissing me off for years – they were the ones who were making sense to me. And the Democrats? One after another, they made excuses for Clinton. They would trivialize his misconduct – “merely about sex, so what?” Or “he made a mistake, fine, let’s move on.” Or, “he’s just a man with an overactive need for sex.” It’s that last one that really enraged me. This friggen guy was in his 50s, right? Well, when my friends and I were in our late-teens, I thought, we surely had five times the sex drive of any 50 year old man, and when we weren’t getting any – which was nearly all the time – we took matters into our own hands. If we could, why couldn’t he? The Democratic apologists never explained that one to my satisfaction.
All of that alienated me a bit from the leadership of the Democratic Party. Ah, but there were a few Democratic voices who reminded me that I wasn’t alone. Joe Lieberman was one of them. He spoke out in the Senate against Clinton – and I was thrilled to learn that he was later nominated for VP. (If only Joe had known that Clinton’s sexcapades would give rise to the stinkin’ Iraq War, maybe The War Monger would have applauded the Clinton scandal … but I digress.) Another Democratic leader also presented views similar to mine: “I think this President has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen.” Wonderful words – so concise, and yet so devastating. I’d say the speaker of those words hit the nail on the head.
And he did it again, this week, when he described his own, eerily similar conduct, as “egocentric and narcissistic.” That’s right; the speaker of those profound words was none other than John Edwards.
OK. I’ll spare you my thoughts over the years about Mr. Edwards. Readers of this blog know that even though I have written early and often about the need to address rampant poverty as perhaps the fundamental issue facing this country, I haven’t trusted Edwards as far as I could throw him. The idea of an anti-poverty activist building a 30,000 square foot house reduced him, in my eyes, to an absurdity. But this post really isn’t about Mr. Edwards. Hypocrites are a dime a dozen, and to some degree we’re all counted among their ranks.
No, the focal points of this post are my fellow liberals who persist in making excuses for men like Willie and Johnny – quinquagenarians who don’t know how or when to jerk off or what it means to be one. (Maybe they need to make masturbation classes mandatory for men if they wish to graduate from college. Or at least before they’re allowed to run for public office.) Just last night, one of my best friends sounded the same lame excuse: “This should never have been reported. Back in the old days, it never would have been reported. It’s none of anyone’s business.” There you have it. Just another reactionary, pining for the halcyon days – in this case, the days when the press corps winked at the politician when he took the bimbo up to the hotel room and did to her what he had been doing to the nation … and not to his wife.
Folks, get it. Maybe those were the good old days. Maybe the press shouldn’t be reporting about politicians’ trysts. Maybe it is disgusting to think of yourself – or a member of your family – working for one of those tabloids that collect trash on people’s sex lives. I’ll grant you all that. BUT THIS IS THE WORLD THAT WE LIVE IN, AND IT’S NOT CHANGING ANYTIME SOON! Clinton knew it, and I say that because his IQ is obviously astronomical. And Edwards knew it, and I say that because he basically said as much in the 1999 quote that I’ve posted above. The rules are simple: if you cheat, you stand a really good chance of destroying your credibility as a statesman. Period.
In spite of all that, in spite of the fact that Edwards supposedly told his wife about this little frolic back in 2006, one year later, the two of them – husband and wife – were shaking down their fellow Americans for tens of millions of dollars in campaign funds, presumably based on the assumption that maybe, just maybe, this bimbo-tryst wouldn’t get exposed in time for the election. Forget the fact that Edwards could have been elected and then it could have been exposed, thereby marring his ability to lead. Just concentrate on the fact that this couple knowingly requested and received tens of millions of non-deductible contributions from Americans without disclosing this “material fact” about their candidacy.
Last December, Elizabeth Edwards received the “Woman of the Year” award on this blog. That’s how much I thought of her. And truly, I do respect her in many ways. But she’s dead wrong in calling this a “private” affair. Quite the contrary, for all the reasons her husband enunciated in 1999, his affair was anything but private. It belongs to this nation as a reminder that when you seek the highest office in the land, you implicitly promise that you will not disgrace yourself according to the prevailing morality of your society. And it belongs to this nation as a reminder that liberals who shrug off this type of conduct are doing the same thing as right wingers who pine for the days of Ward Cleaver. It’s time for all of us to wake up and walk out into some 21st century sunlight. Gays are here to stay. Women’s lib is here to stay. Tabloid journalism is here to stay. And the respect for marital fidelity is here to stay.
And before we leave the topic, can I at least pine for something myself: Before I die, can at least one prominent politician’s wife please throw the bum out of your life? Back in the good old days, you see, cheatin’ men used to find their clothes thrown out on the front lawn instead of finding their wives standing next to them, all supportive, at press conferences. Now I’m not saying they deserve the Bobbit treatment, but seriously, can’t at least one politician’s wife tell us that they’ve had it with their perverted hubby? Or is that just another utopian, reactionary dream? Stay tuned – it shouldn’t be long before another politician’s wife gets to weigh in on the topic.