Saturday, February 23, 2008

When conservatives decide adultery no longer matters

Steve Benen, Crooks and Liars: The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, Bush’s former chief speechwriter and someone who seems to take the issue of politics and morality seriously, devoted his latest column to John McCain’s Vicki Iseman controversy. Not surprisingly, the conservative columnists defends the conservative senator against the charges first raised by the NYT.

Most of the argument is about what one would expect, but I was a little surprised to see Gerson give McCain a pass on the adultery charge, even assuming the allegations are accurate.
Even if the accusation of infidelity were true, this kind of past relationship is hardly disqualifying for high office anymore, given a series of more prurient precedents. An affair between adults is a far cry from President Bill Clinton’s exploitation of an intern, which involved not merely a failure of character but also an abuse of power.
This strikes me as wrong on a few levels. Not only is the Lewinsky-Iseman comparison flawed, but Gerson’s argument turns conservative standards on morality on their ear.

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