Your candidate's adultery is worse than mine!

Speaking of adultery (which almost everyone agrees is bad) I'm wondering whose adultery is worse -- Mark Sanford's or Newt Gingrich's. I realize that I'm not the only one asking, but the question was just sort of thrown in my face earlier as I read yet another strong online moral condemnation of the eminently condemnable Mark Sanford, only to see Newt's mug staring at me from an ad placed right smack in the middle of the text I was reading.


Hey wait a second! I wondered. Newt had an affair, right? How come he gets to run for president and Mark Sanford not only shouldn't, but the latter should be kicked to the curb?

Are some adulteries more immoral than others? Actually, yes. When Tom Delay discussed his adulterous affair in his book, he specifically said it was less immoral than that of Newt Gingrich:

The difference between his own adultery and Gingrich's, he said, "is that I was no longer committing adultery by that time, the impeachment trial. There's a big difference." He added, "Also, I had returned to Christ and repented my sins by that time."
So because Mark Sanford's affair is more recent (even if he has cut it off), he's still a lot guiltier than Tom or Newt.

While there is a certain logic to the proximity in time argument, 2012 is still a ways off. But the problem I'm having is with the argument that adultery should be a disqualification from office, but only for some candidates.

MORE: Commenting below, TigerHawk raises an interesting point about prostitution:

Eliot Spitzer tried to claim that routinely patronizing prostitutes was less bad than what Sanford did, because he did not fall in love. We took a light-hearted poll on the subject, and our readers see it quite the other way.
Unfortunately for the purpose of polling, this issue is so hopelessly contaminated by the partisan political considerations (as well as Spitzer's personal dishonesty and his background in prosecuting prostitutes) that it's tough to get a reading of how people might feel if polled in a politically neutral manner.

As I observed in reply to TigerHawk, many Victorian women used to consider prostitution a necessary evil. Have evolved in our thinking to a better, cleaner world in which loveless sexual cheating is more evil than sexual cheating with someone who is loved? Has sex ceased to be a matter of getting one's rocks off? Common sense would suggest to me that while cheating on a spouse is bad, loveless cheating would be less of a threat, and thus better.

But that's just me. How about a poll?

If your spouse cheated on you, which of the following would you consider worse?
Sex with someone he or she loved.
Sex with a paid, unloved prostitute.
It would make no difference at all as both are equally wrong.
I'd be delighted to have an opportunity for retaliatory cheating! free polls

If you don't like being polled on this issue, don't blame me! It was TigerHawk's fault -- for being a bad influence and creating a light-hearted poll climate!

AFTERTHOUGHT: Looking at that poll, it occurs to me that women and men might answer the questions very differently.

Also, I revised the poll to change "It would make no difference at all" to "It would make no difference at all as both are equally wrong."

posted by Eric on 07.02.09 at 08:35 AM


Eliot Spitzer tried to claim that routinely patronizing prostitutes was less bad than what Sanford did, because he did not fall in love. We took a light-hearted poll on the subject, and our readers see it quite the other way. (Apologies for dumping a link in your comment field, but it seems germane.)

TigerHawk   ·  July 2, 2009 8:40 AM

Thanks for the comment, and my apologies for the stupid hold the anti-spam feature puts on all html.

Many Victorian women would have agreed with Spitzer, back in the days when prostitution was considered a necessary evil. Odd to consider that old-fashioned uptight "Puritans" might think that way.

Eric Scheie   ·  July 2, 2009 11:40 AM

Why do we forget the handling of John Edwards and Bill Clinton by the MSM in these cases and only point out the Conservative idiots? JFK, LBJ - the list is seeming endless.
Politicians are "stars", many "stars" (movie,athletic...) take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them. For some it is money, others sex, and some it is just power...

A media focused on the story and fairness instead of supporting their political view might help curb the excesses in the political class and might as a side bar help their sales...

Eddie   ·  July 2, 2009 11:55 AM

For the liberals, Sanford represents another opportunity to point and laugh and say "hypocrite". Which is what they say to anyone who doesn't hold to what a liberal THINKS that person's moral worldview is.

For the conservatives, Sanford represents an embarrassing dereliction of duty.

In other words, like with Clinton, it isn't the sex, it's what he was putting aside to GET the sex.

brian   ·  July 2, 2009 12:32 PM

That poll asks a question that's really quite hard to answer.

In fact, I think I'd like to change my vote (equally bad) after a little thinking.

Or maybe not. It's that the two are bad in different ways, and possibly at different "stages" of a marriage.

If I'd suffered through knowing either one had happened, that would be the worst.

Politically, I think falling in love is worse because it's such a big distraction and likely does effect the job being done.

Donna B.   ·  July 2, 2009 1:45 PM

"If you don't like being polled on this issue, don't blame me! "
- - - - -

Given the subject matter, I'm assuming this is a spelling error?

(I've always assumed that "social liberals" do not carry the taboo coding that seems to predominate amongst social conservatives - to the social liberal, sex isn't something to be furtively not-quite-enjoyed in the hidden guilty darkness of your own bedroom with your spouse only, but an open and free and natural biological function that can serve many different needs at different times - that, between two people in (mutual) love, it can be a vehicle for affirming that love, and that, between customer and service technician, it can be loads of fun and a profit center.

So, viewing conservatives as being mentally or emotionally crippled in that one area, to the point where they lose most of the utility of sex, to many liberals it's simply fun to watch as conservatives get caught exhibiting the lie, the contradiction, that binds them up and conflicts them.

bobby b   ·  July 2, 2009 3:11 PM

Actually, I view Newt more negatively than any of the recent GOP "moral casualties".

The fact that he presided over the f-ed up "Contract with America" dooms him WAY worse than just putting his own libido over the wishes of his constituents or the steadfast discharging of his duties.

guy   ·  July 2, 2009 5:43 PM

Guy: It's funny, but I had never actually read the text of the Contract with America before. Your content-free slam prompted me to look it up and actually do so, because I have learned in subsequent years to never base my political opinions on what the Democrats and their lapdogs in the MSM say about Republican proposals. (As I
suspect you have.)

And so, having done so, I have to say; what exact issues do you have with it? Much of it seems to be straightforward good-government proposals, especially centering around House practices and encouraging transparency and fiscal prudence. Many of them are things that the Democrats promised to do in 2006 (and didn't, in fact they undid some CoA reforms instead). Other parts center around Welfare Reform, which was such a success that Clinton later took part of the credit for it (lol). Some (like the line-item veto - Act #1) were ruled unconstitutional by the SC for legal reasons that had nothing to do with how good an idea it was.

But despite the quibbles I might have with some of the elements listed in the capsule descriptions of the 10 acts there, it overall seems to be a pretty good plan, and I am sure that if the Republicans that won a majority in the House based on it had been able to fully carry it out we would be far better off now. What say you?

Of course, I distinctly remember how loudly the Dems and the MSM screamed, yelled and complained about it at the time, claiming it was completely horrible and proves how evil and nasty the Republicans were. Things really haven't changed all that much since then, have they?

Eric E. Coe   ·  July 2, 2009 9:39 PM

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