Thursday, July 25, 2013

They Were Right: Lessons on Clinton, Scandal and News

They were right. All the nutjob conservatives (not to be confused with rational conservatives) were right about the effects of Clinton's scandal during the Lewinsky mess. They opined, chimed and whined at the time about how the acceptance of the scandal would taint our future and they were right. We have come to nearly expect the scandals, personal and professional, of our elected officials and public figures to such a degree that it has become boring to hear about them or read about them in the 'news'.

Like a game of tic-tac-toe, we know the outcome all too well as soon as an X is placed in a box. The scandal will blow, the affected individual will claim illness or loss of self during an episode in life that he/she must work through, the news will boast and blare about it for a few days, and then quiet. Some time thereafter, the same individual will step forward, claim redemption and seek out public glory again. And we, the unwitting (by choice) suppliers of this banal buffet will belly up and eat. How pathetic.

I'll say, not for the first time, that men and women having sex, talking about sex, engaging in sex outside of solemnized relationships, is not 'new' and so it is not 'news'. Can we please move on?

JFK was a swell fellow in many respects, but I'm certain most folks will acknowledge he was a scoundrel in his marriage. His brother was not much better. The much revered, and rightly so, MLK was also known to be a bit of a player, to put it nicely. Eleanor Roosevelt had some business outside the confines of her role as First Lady that many today would point to as early evidence that same-sex relationships have been around our public arenas for some time - or at least those are the whispers. These remained private details of their lives, not because the media was not aware, but because they exercised judgement in terms of the newsworthiness of this information as opposed to these figures' policies and public personas.

So where JFK and MLK and Eleanor have the benefit of being judged mostly on their work, modern-day public officials are often regarded as composites of their personal and professional lives, not just by people who know them intimately, but by any soul with eyes and ears in a checkout stand. Why? Why? If you saw me in my pajamas having just woken from a sound sleep would you suggest I was not qualified to do my work? I don't look half as shiny in flannel as I do in linen. If someone saw you pitch a fit with your spouse, saying God-only-knows what in the heat of a moment, would they trust you to handle your job? How about in your intimate life? Would your penchant for kisses behind the ear be newsworthy to your clients? I should hope not.

And so I'm tired of it. I don't care what Mr. Weiner does with his parts. I leave that to him and, to the extent she's interested, his wife. If he is a moral mess in his personal life, I'm sorry for him. If I never get to hear another detail of his personal business, I'll be quite satisfied.

Can he be an effective mayor of New York? That's the question before voters - and only New York voters. Was Clinton an effective President? The polls answered that question.

So why must we keep suffering this nonsense? News media must return to its earlier stance on the issue of reporting personal peccadillos. It's not news.

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