Barack Obama has set a standard for the rest of the campaign. “Family is out of bounds,” he said, and from the evidence he seems to mean it. Maybe the Republicans will also reject any ugly temptations that come their way in the two months that remain until the people vote.
It may be that public figures in eras past lived less scandalous lives, and their families, too. Or that the bounds of decorum kept the press (and perhaps even the clergy) from learning too much, lest their sense of responsibility to their publics persuaded them to tell all. Restraint is no longer even a virtue of the most decorous historians. We’ve already known for years that, in his pursuit of happiness, Thomas Jefferson slept with one of his slaves, Abe Lincoln slept with one of his male friends, FD.R. had a long “relationship” with one of his secretaries and Eleanor with two of her admirers (one male, one female), and J.F.K. commanded so many liaisons that even his gossipy court scribe Arthur Schlesinger couldn’t keep up with the numbers. “Junior,” as he was sometimes called, was so lap-dog loyal that he only told tales at parties with other intimates who probably already knew more than he did.
You can’t tell yet whether this episode will take a big toll on the McCain-Palin candidacy. I would much prefer it went down because Obama-Biden is politically a more venturesome and intellectually a more formidable ticket. And, as for Sarah Palin, she is simply a preposterous nominee, whatever her charms. Given a two month campaign nearly everyone would have recognized that. Now she may win some sympathy so that there’ll be a race after all.
For all the tut-tutting excitement over a pregnant unmarried daughter of a vice presidential candidate you have only the Republicans and the evangelicals to blame. They have no understanding and no compassion. If men and women are born in sin they, we deserve solidarity and compassion which, as it happens, we have less and less of in our society today.