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Friday, August 08, 2008

Kennedy, Clinton & Edwards

CNN is reporting a story about to be reported on ABC that John Edwards had an extramarital affair with a woman who was making documentary films for his campaign. Link.

This saddens me. Why should it? It doesn't mean John Edwards was less of a populist. It doesn't mean he would have been a worse president. I preferred Obama over Edwards from early on. But, I nonetheless feel sad to read this story.

It occurs to me that this story touches on a difference between Matt and I that I think is probably applicable more generally: but I can't figure out the general groups. I worry about what people should do.

People: I concern myself with people generally. Not my family, not my friends, but human beings in general.

Should do: I bother myself with what they should do. Not what the law should be. For example, I don't want adultery to be illegal. And not how it affects me.

Result: I have such a strong opinion about whether it was good for John Edwards to allow passion or infatuation or ego to overcome him, that it makes me personally sad to see he chose poorly by my estimation. I remember finding out that the Lewinsky story was for real, and being devastated.

I wonder how others feel.

5 comments:

Luke said...

I think this stuff is too common to make me sad, or surprised, or whatever. And it isn't just a, "People are human and make mistakes" kind of not surprised. It is a, "Politicians are ego maniacs and philanderers" kind of not surprised.

I really, really want Lance Armstrong to continue to be the honest and rightful winner of 7 consecutive Le Tours...but I wouldn't be surprised if he was outed as a cheater.

I guess if anything makes me sad it is my cynicism.

Matt Dick said...

I'm unsure of what distinction you're drawing between us, Jim. I was strongly bothered by Clinton's transgressions, I thought it robbed him of moral high-ground that a political leader needs. I felt that the president leads the culture on some level, and his actions kind of debased the nation on some level.

I saw this story about Edwards and admit to being naive enough to have been surprised. I am reasonably cynical about Edwards' politics, but I had actually been convinced of his family life being normal and committed. I was a fool, turns out.

I spent most of the time reading the article thinking about his wife and how this is the last thing in the world she needs. Their kids get to lose their mother in the midst of a national news story about their father not being faithfully committed to their family. Nice.

I've mentioned before that I think cheating on your spouse is one of the worst crimes a person can commit. I know you disagree strongly, but I'm still there--I just can't think of anything Beth could do besides drowning my kids that would hurt me more.

So...I guess that's the jumble that is my thoughts on the subject. I know it's scattered, sorry about that.

JimII said...

"I'm unsure of what distinction you're drawing between us, Jim. I was strongly bothered by Clinton's transgressions, I thought it robbed him of moral high-ground that a political leader needs."

Right, and I knew that. This is kind of funny because I was analyzing from a different direction and ended up attributing the wrong point of view to you. Sorry about that.

I think that we have had conversations where I want to talk about what is the right thing for people to do, or what people should do and have had you question whether that is even a rational question. Should it be illegal? That makes sense. Should I do it? That makes sense. But should other people do it, when I acknowledge it shouldn't be illegal, I thought you found to be a nonsensical question. Sort of the liberal versus libertarian point of view.

"I've mentioned before that I think cheating on your spouse is one of the worst crimes a person can commit. I know you disagree strongly."

Yeah, I knew this too. And I do still strongly disagree. Although, having know a couple of woman to be the victims of unfaithful husbands, I disagree less strongly than when analyzing the actions of a President I admired in college.

Matt Dick said...

This is kind of funny because I was analyzing from a different direction and ended up attributing the wrong point of view to you.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that.

I think that we have had conversations where I want to talk about what is the right thing for people to do, or what people should do and have had you question whether that is even a rational question.

Well it's such a struggle for me in a lot of instances. I don't think "should" always makes a lot of sense. The age of majority discussion we had some time ago highlighted how hard a question "should" is.

having know a couple of woman to be the victims of unfaithful husbands, I disagree less strongly than when analyzing the actions of a President I admired in college.

Well I was pretty moralistic about it back then, and I'm less so now. Now I just personalize it. When I think about the feelings I would have if Beth cheated on me, I realize that there is almost nothing that could be worse for me. It's because I have constructed a life, a world-view, an identity and everything else that holds Beth's feelings for me as foundational. I would very much prefer to be killed than to find out that that foundation is a lie.

If I find my own murder to be more palatable than Beth's adultery, how can I not hold that cheating is as bad as I'm saying it is?

I also consider the options before me that are bad, or are currently immoral from my perspective. Murder, theft, cheating, etc. I think (but I don't pretend to know) that my children would be less hurt to find out I'd killed someone than to find out I cheated on Beth. At least I think that's true. I certainly think cheating on Beth is further from what I consider my core principles than murder. I have a harder time envisioning the scenario, if that's a clearer way to express it.

Let me disclaim that neither is at all likely.

So... there it is, I think.

Matlatzinca said...

I've never been taken in by JE, and have always suspected him of being a douchebag. I was not in the least bit surprised. My main response is highly emotional and based on his record as a malpractice trial attorney impersonating fetuses in the courtroom.
It still makes me sad for his wife and kids though.