"President Busy Pants" was the name of a brunch special at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Washington DC on January 23, 1998. I remember this because I was in DC for a rally on January 22 that I helped organize in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. On January 23, the 25th anniversary of legal abortion shared the front page of the Washington Post with news of Pope JPII's first visit to Cuba, and the developing story of a President and a certain young woman in a beret. I remember reading the article aloud to my friends as we drove back to New York, trying to understand what was going on with Kenneth Starr, perjury, and, well President Busy Pants.
Of course the sexual improprieties of politicians are not new news - only the names change. But I'm thinking of it now because of an article in the New York Times today called "Spitzer's Long Road to Redemption." Since when is two years long? But I digress...
The article quotes CBS political analyst Jeff Greenfield as saying, “This was legitimately a private failure.” Is that what it was? Or should be? Private? A "failure"?
Certainly, the American puritan obsession with sex, which demands that sex be both prominently displayed and punished, plays a large role here. In France, for example, the fact that President François Mitterrand had a long-time mistress with whom he had a daughter was well known. Mitterand's wife even famously invited this second family to the President's funeral, where the "official" and "unofficial" families walked together in the funeral procession. Does this mean that if he lived in France, John Edwards would still have a career? Should he?
Do Americans just need to get over our sexual hangups, or is there a larger issue here? And if the latter, what might it be? Lying? Illegal behavior (perjury in Clinton's case, hiring sex workers in Spitzer's)? Misogyny? Abuse of power? Treating your family like shit? Hypocrisy? (I can't even count the politicians and religious leaders who fall under this category.) Accountability for one's actions? Just being a huge asshole?
What makes one man's "failure" redeemable (the article cites Spitzer, Ted Kennedy, Clinton, Dave Letterman, among others) and another's not (Edwards according to the article, I'd ad Gary Hart)?
I'm not even touching on all the complexities of this topic: legalization of sex work, the agency of the women involved, the way that Clinton's sexual behavior was deemed impeachable but Reagan's in the Iran Contra affair was not, just to name a few.
What do you think?