Mike Tomasky says he’s finally figured out what it takes to be banished from public life in the United States:
I’ve spent the last 14 years thinking well, we’ve finally learned in America what you have to do to be utterly banished — you have to literally get away with murder, or two of them (oops, I forgot this is Britain; I mean allegedly! Allegedly! And did I mention that he was acquitted by a jury of his peers?).
And now we add to the category a second condition: if you cheat on your cancer-stricken wife with another woman and still decide you can run for president, and you get busted, you’re pretty much finished. Yes or no?
He’s talking about John Edwards. But I have a question about this theory: what about Newt Gingrich? It’s true that Gingrich hasn’t launched a presidential campaign, but cheating on his cancer-stricken wife he’s done. Then he divorced her and married a second woman on whom he also cheated. And now he’s on his third marriage. And he converted to Catholicism! And he’s a defender of traditional marriage! And he’s still a high-profile public figure.
Consider also the starkly contrasting treatment of Elliot Spitzer, forced into resignation and disgrace for seeing a prostitute, and David Vitter, sitting pretty in the United States Senate.
Logically speaking, since there’s only one of the two parties that puts a very high premium on the idea that state regulation of individual sexual behavior should be the main role of government, these allegations should be more damaging to Republicans. Hypocrisy on the part of the media is part of the story. But part of the issue, I think, is just partisan and ideological solidarity. A politician can survive a great deal if his co-partisans are willing to stand by him, and conservatives are much more inclined to stand by their man than are progressives.