Over the weekend, I read this Jonah Goldberg column about DSK, the French more generally ("the French deserve to be mocked"), and political sex scandals on this side of the Atlantic. Goldberg writes,
But America is hardly so righteous….
If memory serves, Bill Clinton had to deal with a large number of "bimbo eruptions," as one of his aides put it. He was accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment. And the same feminists who once insisted that women never make such things up suddenly responded by calling the president's accusers liars or by simply abandoning the very standards they had established….
So yes, the French should be ashamed. But they're not the only ones.
Goldberg also lays into Ted Kennedy, whose career with the ladies is most charitably described as disgusting. So you get it, don't you, America, it's Democrats who shame America with their tawdry sex scandals. Not good rock-ribbed Republicans who, like Sen. John Ensign (R-Nevada), who recently resigned from office due to, well, a sex scandal. Or Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), whose whore-mongering caused a stir a few years back. Or toilet-cruising casanova Sen. Larry Craig, whose "wide stance" still lingers on in the public memory like the rancid smell of an airport men's room. Or one-time Speaker-elect Bob Livingston (R-La.) who resigned his post due to phone sex issues as he kicked off the impeachment hearing of President Bill Clinton. Or Newt Gingrich, whose on-the-books history is tawdry enough without the former Speaker's various equations of Democratic Party values to those of Woody Allen, who ended up marrying the adopted daughter of his former partner.
Oh, OK, those guys are all hypocrites, sure, but are they actual mashers and maulers, like (allegedly) DSK and Clinton and Kennedy? Hmm, not sure about them, but then what about the congressional stalker Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) whose unwanted texts and IMs to House pages helped bring down now just Foley but the GOP back in the 2006 elections? Or the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-then-R-S.C.) who ran on a segregation platform for president in 1948, was widely renowned for aggressively hitting on everything that moved, and had a child with a 15-year-old black woman in 1920s South Carolina. Given the age of the women, the larger racial context of the situation, and Thurmond's secrecy, questions persist about the consensuality of it all. Then there's Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) who quit the Senate before being kicked out for sexual harassment back in 1995. And let's not forget Sen. John Tower (R-Texas), George H.W. Bush's pick for Defense secretary whose nomination went down in flames after tales of literally chasing women around desks surfaced.
I could go on, but there's no reason to. My point isn't that Republicans, like Democrats, are filled with sexual predators. Or that the GOP is more hypocritical on the issue, or that conservatives such as Goldberg are quick to moralize. It's really that this sort of one-eye-closed, transparently partisan take on every current event imaginable is one of the many reasons that more and more voters are slow to call themselves Republicans and Democrats. Can you blame us? It's the only sane response to the sort of patently bogus recourse to the sort of discourse espoused by the conventional right and left in the name of politics.
If you're interested in related developments, as well as an escape hatch from the dualistic, Manichean trap of contemporary politics—where there's Coke or Pepsi and that's it, buddy boy—check out the forthcoming book by me and my Reason colleague Matt Welch. It's called the The Declaration of Independents; click here for more info.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.