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The Confessional Mode In American Politics

It's a new phenomenon. For decades and decades -- and for more than two centuries -- American politicians hid their private lives and certainly their marital infidelities. We have apparently turned a corner. Nobody knew of FDR's romances until the historians unearthed them, and then we were treated to Eleanor's liaisons, as well. The press steered clear of JFK's frequent trysts and they were revealed only after one of them happened to be tied to a Mafia figure with a grudge against Castro. Eliot Spitzer was outed by the feds. And now poor David Paterson, Eliot's successor as governor of New York, and Michelle Paige, Paterson's wife, have outed themselves by beginning their term in Albany by doing their own reciprocal confessionals. According to the New York Times, "Paterson said he made the disclosure because he wanted to clear his conscience and avoid being blackmailed."

The reporters, Danny Hakim and Trymaine Lee, tell us that the press conference was tense. Is American politics in better shape now that other politicians will begin their campaigns or their terms-in-office with reports from their hotel rooms?