Politics & Society

It's About Sex

That's what some people will tell you when infidelity turns a promising political career into a slow motion train wreck, like the one we've witnessed with former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. After he confessed this week that he was the father of his ex-mistress Rielle Hunter's child, we all hope that we've heard the last shoe drop in the whole sordid business.

But today, the guys in the Barbershop couldn't resist getting a final word in.

And neither can I.

And my great wish is that this scandal leads my fellow political junkies —and Americans in general— to admit that marital infidelity is a legitimate grounds to question the integrity of our leaders.

I think we all know the politically correct response on this. We're all human beings. We all make mistakes. Lots of people have affairs, and many marriages survive —and even thrive— in spite of them. Who are we to judge political candidates on the basis of something so personal?

And for people who believe that, there are plenty of other legitimate reasons to condemn Edwards. He didn't just have an affair. He cheated on his cancer stricken wife, pressured his closest aides to cover for him, and pursued the presidency and then —reportedly— the vice presidency while all this was going on. If he'd gotten his way, he'd have left the highest levels of the American democracy vulnerable to blackmail or the distraction of a scandal during a time of two wars, and the deepest economic crisis of a generation.

So the rest of the rogues gallery of cheating husbands in politics may not have come close to Edwards' level of duplicity. But that doesn't mean we should keep giving them a pass.

When a man is willing to break his marriage vows, deceive the mother of his children, and use the people closest to him to cover up that deception, it says something fundamental about his character.

And we'd be wise to listen.

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