The party that thought a semen stained dress was the height of the public’s need to know is now, understandably, outraged to be placed on the receiving end of such tabloid treatment.
The issue, even as far back as Gary Hart, is one of hypocrisy. The press may decide that the sex life of a politician should be off-limits if the behavior doesn’t affect their working life. However, the old guard press has little say in the matter these days. The WeinerGate scandal put an end to even that stop-gap of privacy, thanks to right winger Andrew Breitbart’s decision that the public had a right to know about Anthony Weiner’s sexts. I don’t recall the press snickering at Breitbart, who has earned the scorn of thinking people with consistent demonstrations of his lack of ethics.
But somehow it’s OK when Andrew Breitbarts another high level Democrat, but it’s offensive when respected journalists go after right wingers. But it’s even worse when purveyors of “smut” start sniffing around the Holy Hypocrites with the glee of female pigs catching the scent of truffle-forming fungi.
In the past few weeks, two possible Republican Presidential candidates find themselves at the heart of the kind of relatively gentle scrutiny Anthony Weiner would have paid for, but scrutiny they no doubt find an invasion of their privacy. The problem for these two Republicans is that both of them claim to have been asked by God to run for President, and both signal the evangelical base that they are Dominionist Christians. When you present yourself as a moral authority, you set yourself up for the charge of hypocrisy, which the press can use to justify further exploration.
Rick Perry and Sarah Palin are being challenged by purveyors of adult pornography and extra-marital affairs. Let this be a word of caution to those who purport to be infused with such unassailable moral authority as the word of God; the public will delight in your downfall which means that the same free wheeling internet world that allows Breitbart to selectively edit video tape will also allow Larry Flynt and AshleyMadison.com to make headlines.
Ironically, it can be argued that prior to Gary Hart and later, the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal, a politician’s sex life was left untouched by the big press; it was the Right’s witch hunt after Clinton that set the precedent that sex mattered, even if it wasn’t affecting your job. The investigations of Gary Hart were justified under the mantle of hypocrisy, not sex. And thus we land today, in the middle of Hustler and AshleyMadison.com calling two Republicans on what some see as hypocrisy.
Larry Flynt of Hustler is challenging evangelical Rick Perry. Flynt is upping the ante of a Ron Paul supporter who has placed ads looking for information from anyone who might have had a sexual dalliance with the Texas miracle. Offering a million to anyone who has ever had sexual relations with Rick Perry, Flynt is no doubt going after the never confirmed rumors of gay lovers and stories of an affinity for strippers. Flynt’s ad reads: “Have you had a gay or straight sexual encounter with Governor Rick Perry?”
Flynt has successfully used his platform in the past to expose hypocrites. He went after the incoming House Speaker during President Clinton’s impeachment trials. That guy, Robert Livingston, led the charge against Clinton over the Lewinsky scandal, and so set himself up to standards that he wasn’t upholding. He had to resign after Flynt busted him. Then Flynt went after Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who has had three wives. Barr was an outspoken abortion opponent, but he drove his then wife to get an abortion in 1983, thus demonstrating the slippery slope of claiming yourself a moral authority.
In Flynt’s mind, the worst thing a person can do is be a hypocrite, “`Bob Barr stood on the House floor and said abortion was the equivalent to murder,’ Flynt told the assembled press. ‘To me, that represents the ultimate form of hypocrisy, and in many ways it’s worse than failing to tell the truth under oath.'” In case you’re wondering what Flynt’s doing in politics at all, in 1984 Flynt ran as a Republican against Ron Reagan. I’m not sure that the Republican Party doesn’t look back on those days with envy now; if only their current problems were contained to one nut job.
In other fields of mildewing fame, Ashley Madison.com is offering Todd and Sarah Palin 1 million dollars in order to prove their innocence over recent allegations that Sarah Palin has had an extra-marital affair. Todd Palin denounced allegations that his wife had had an affair, releasing the following statement in rebuttal to Joe McGinniss’ book The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, “His book is full of disgusting lies, innuendo and smears.” The press have joined together to parrot the Palins in their accusations, including the New York Times. It is unseemly for a journalist to have reported on Sarah Palin’s sex life.
Surely the adult website can’t expect the Palins to partake in some kind of public airing of their personal lives – oh, but these are the same Palins who did a reality TV show, offering their supposed private lives up to any viewer who wished to watch. It’s hard to claim privacy after chasing after the world of reality TV celebrity (their daughter was on Dancing with the Stars and is now starring on some other reality TV show). These are people who have trademarked their names, after all. Privacy is not really a high priority. Right or wrong, it sets one up as fair game for tabloid fodder.
But the real question is does Sarah Palin’s fidelity or lack thereof have any real significance to her ability to run for office or her role as a celebrity? It’s pretty easy to make a case that it does, in spite of the Right’s claims of the press victimizing Palin. Sarah Palin has wrapped herself in the mantle of being a hockey mom, a Christian, and a pro-life advocate who walks her talk. She has never been known for her grasp of policy, but rather the personality and the myth she presents. When she walked her fame over to the tacky corners of reality TV, she all but surrendered her right to claim privacy.
Sarah Palin isn’t like other politicians; she’ll tell you that herself. But she seems to want to hide under the protections she feels entitled to as a politician, while cashing the checks of a celebrity. Palin ignores that she quit her job as a politician two years ago, though she continues to taunt the country and her own party with threats of a Presidential nomination effort.
I’d suggest that Flynt’s and AshleyMorgan.com’s challenges are more proof that the “liberal media” is going after the Holy Ones, except that online porn is consumed the most in red states (“Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama”) and red states have the highest rates of divorce and out of wedlock children.
It seems that while we weren’t looking, the Republican Party has become the party of radicals bent on driving porn and sin out of their own systems under the heavy hand of Kenyan witch doctors and the Democratic Party has turned into the party of old-fashioned values regarding character being what you do when no one is looking. Maybe that explains why the Democrats toss out players like Wiener while the Republicans go on moral crusades against Democrats but allow prostitute-user David Vitter to remain in their own party while touting their moral superiority and divine authority.
Now, faced with the lurid results of their effort, and on the receiving end along with many high profile Democrats (John Edwards, Anthony Weiner), the Right can cry persecution, but it rings hollow to those who realize that we wouldn’t be in this tabloid nightmare if the Right hadn’t been so willing to take us here in their desperation to get Clinton, Hart and most recently Weiner. They lowered the standards themselves, and took us into the Breitbart ditch of investigating a man’s private tweets and chased him out of office for it, but now they want us to believe that Larry Flynt chasing after Rick Perry’s alleged sexual dalliances is mean and inappropriate.
Never fear, the fringy Christians have an answer for this too, and it’s not that their family values are jacked, it’s that they’re being persecuted after God has forgiven them for what is a private matter. Don’t laugh, it worked for Vitter and he was breaking the law on the taxpayer’s time. To make matters slightly more sickening, Vitter’s wife shamed the press for coming after their family, while the press had not a care about humiliating Weiner’s pregnant new bride over sexts. If anyone should be out of a job, it should be David Vitter.
Some of us never wanted to hear about any of this, but the Right insisted that a politician’s sex life was our business. Now, we’re knee deep in Gingrich strategy/Breitbart tactics with no end in sight.
Image: The Daily Beast from Newsweek; “Stained of Sex Scandals” reporting on Bill Clinton
American Journalism Review; Alicia C. Shepard “Gatekeepers Without Gates”, 1999
Reuters, Emmett Berg Fri, Sep 23, 2011
Radar Online; Alexis Tereszcuk , Sept 24, 2011
The New Scientist; Ewen Callaway, Feb 2009
New York Times; Charles Blow, June 30, 2009
NPR; Red Families Vs. Blue Families, May 9, 2010