Kinder, gentler politics

There was a time when journalists didn’t blab every little tiny secret about a political candidate. They had a sort of “gentleman’s agreement,” whereby sordid details and human frailties (and possibly even bizarre behaviors) were not fodder for the national news.

Not so nowadays. From the Clinton-Lewinsky mess to Dick Cheney’s questionable business deals, everything’s fair game. Newbie politicians are immediately thrust into the turkey shoot of diggin’ up dirt. Case in point: this wackjob Jeremiah Wright has got to be making Barack Obama’s life plenty miserable — especially with the press dissecting every word they both utter as of late. Nothing’s sacred. Nothing’s secret.

Take marital infidelity, for instance. Was President Franklin Roosevelt’s affair with his wife’s secretary splattered all over the front page? No, but you can be sure that someone in the press knew about it.

And what about Dwight Eisenhower’s extramarital relationship with his secretary, Kay Summersby? The press were winking enablers back then. Imagine George W. Bush having an affair with his secretary. The boys from the press corps would be falling over each other trying to get the first pictures published.

Then there’s the Poster Boy of Presidential Philanderers: John F. Kennedy. Do you think all those midnight rendezvous with Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Jayne Mansfield and Angie Dickinson were secret? I mean, how far can a president go without being seen? The newspaper guys were there — bet on it. They just didn’t make it the country’s business.

Truth is, some politicians are not model citizens by any stretch. I don’t think that necessarily makes them bad politicians. But they’re held up without mercy to public scrutiny, as if none of us has any faults. Richard Nixon was not a nice man, granted. But his worst political sin was breaking the hallowed Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not get caught. He was in good company, too. Remember Gary Hart?

I tell ya. The world is out of control.

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