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I Can’t Decide Whether This Is Wrong Until I Know His Party Affiliation

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Meet New York Republican nominee Carl Paladino, who has some other things besides racist emails on his cv:

She was talking about her husband’s affair, a subject she was ready, if not eager, to address. Since her husband, Carl, won the Republican nomination for governor of New York last week, the only story in the race as compelling as his upset victory has been their personal back story: that her husband not only had an affair, not only fathered a child with that other woman, but also told his wife of 40 years about it all the same week that their 29-year-old son, Patrick, was killed in a car accident. He pulled her aside, Ms. Paladino said, as she was looking for family photographs to bring to the wake.

“He said he was very sorry to cause me pain, the relationship with the mother was over … and there was a child,” she said.

The problem is, I’m unsure about the moral status of Carl Paladino’s actions here. The reaction to John Edwards’s similar actions and Bill Clinton’s substantially lesser actions would suggest that Paladino’s adultery makes him History’s Greatest Monster.* The reaction to the similar actions of Newt Gingrich, John McCain, David Vitter, Rudy Giuliani, and John Ensign suggests that his political career should go on as if nothing happened. Hmmm, if there was only some pattern here that would allow me to determine what the reaction will be.

*And yes, yes, I understand with Edwards there’s the “meta” argument that his adultery should be disqualifying because of the lack of political judgment it showed, and sure as far as it goes. But that argument works because his adultery would be seen as disqualifying, and note that the same argument could be made about all of the other men I’ve named with the possible exception of McCain.

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