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Hopefully Never To Speak of This Again

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With Rob doing yeoman work covering the real news, I was planning on not commenting, but seeing that MoDo has decided to combine inevitable attacks on the “Breck Girl” with mockery of Rielle Hunter (apparently once relevant novelist Jay McInerney was appalled!), I’m compelled to say something. So let me start with the obligatory concession that whatever one wishes the rules were, a candidate has to largely work within the established rules, and it was therefore grossly irresponsible of Edwards to run for president under these circumstances. I don’t feel the same bitterness that Paul must, because I was never an Edwards supporter in this cycle, largely because his campaigned seemed amateurish compared to his two largely ideologically similar opponents. I suppose this could be seen as further evidence of this.

Still, especially since it’s not just right-wingers who have used this opportunity to engage in easy moralism and to construct tortured rationalizations of why this really matters, let me be clear: the idea that this kind of thing could be seen a decisive factor in determining who should become president is, as Mizner says, “a national sickness.” This is politics-as-selling-jeans, and any difference between this and “OMG a woman adviser is telling Al Gore to wear earth tones!!!!!!” trivia is one of degree, not kind.

And, when you come down to cases, I don’t think anyone really could dispute this. This is particularly evident when you consider all of the McCain supporters now claiming that this should have been a major story in the (at least nominally) serious political press. Do they really believe this? Well:

Recall: John McCain returned to the United States from Vietnam in March 1973. His wife, Carol, had been in a near-fatal car accident while he was gone. She was overweight, on crutches, and 4 inches shorter than when McCain had left. McCain ended up divorcing Carol for Cindy Hensley, his current wife. Carol has remained mostly silent on her marriage to John, except for one notable comment to a McCain biographer: “John was turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again.”

There were legal complications, too. The Los Angeles Times reported in June that McCain obtained a marriage license while still legally married to his first wife. McCain suggested in his autobiography that he divorced Carol months before marrying Cindy. In fact, that period was about five weeks. He also said that for the first nine months of his relationship with Cindy, he still “cohabited” with Carol. Social conservatives were never McCain’s base, but yes, it could get worse.

So these people will support Obama, because a candidate’s commitment to marriage is Really Important, right? Of course not — and it would be incredibly foolish for them to do so. As Digby says, “[i]t’s not a useful proxy for public behavior, never has been.” And, fundamentally, I don’t think anyone really disagrees. They just pretend to in order to justify treating interesting gossip as if it was serious news.

As a punchline, Kenny has a good roundup of Instahackery on the subject. In addition to everything else (yes, newspapers that routinely put Judith Miller on the front page in the runup sure were committed to stopping the war), what kills me is that Reynolds thinks that by not reporting on this before the MSM was helping…the Democrats. Yeah, that sure would have been great for the Dems if this had come out now if Edwards was the candidate! But, of course, I’m forgetting the rules: Edwards’s adultery is bad news for Barack Obama, Bill Clinton’s adultery is bad news for Hillary Clinton, but John McCain’s adultery isn’t an issue for John McCain.

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