Too Much Information

Monday we learned that the new Governor of New York had had affairs. We also learned that his wife had had them, too. I suppose Gov. Patterson felt he had to admit to them because of his predecessor, Gov. Spitzer's ignominious exit.

Thing is, he didn't need to. Not from where I sit, anyway. I have all sorts of moral issues with what they did, but that's not why I wanted Gov. Spitzer out of office. No, for me the salient point was he broke the law. Not just the ones he helped enact against prostitution, but those about funds and inter-state traffic.

It's like when President Clinton met Monica. Morally, he slipped when he decided to accept her invitation (as someone in a position of power over her, he should definitely known better, but then, not knowing better seems to have been a pattern with him). But that's not why he needed to be impeached. When he committed perjury, on the other hand...

A number of years ago, I watched Woodward and Bernstein give an interview on the lasting effects of Watergate. They basically agreed: the good thing was that people did more investigative journalism, the bad thing was that what had been private no longer was (they used the example of a former President who "everyone" knew had a mistress but no one felt the need to expose because that was private business). I have to say "amen".

There's a line between illegal and immoral, between punishable-by-law and sleazy. Since the Watergate era, we've been exposed to an ever-increasing wave of Too Much Information. I really only need to know about the illegal stuff. The "questionable judgment" stuff? Not so much.

Take Barak Obama. According to reports (leaked by the Hilary Clinton camp), he exhibited questionable judgment in his youth (he jokingly admitted to "coloring outside the lines" in kindergarten). According to his autobiography, some of that included drugs. Were he to still be "doing drugs" now, I'd be troubled: it's illegal. But in his youth? Still illegal, but clearly he's grown and learned. Unlike Bill Clinton's laughable claim that "I didn't inhale", Obama's taking responsibility for past stupidity and asking that we allow him to move on.

Haven't we all done things in our past that we regret? I, for example, voted for Nixon in '68 (he had two Ns and that cool X in his name, while the other candidates I couldn't pronounce; I was in kindergarten and my mother still hasn't forgiven me). I've gone over the speed limit. I've had overdue library books (gasp!). Worst of all, I once called in sick when I just wanted to stay in bed and read.

Did you need to know that? No. Just like I don't need to know if Senator Obama, or Gov. Patterson, or any politician, has committed any of the same "crimes". Let's save the investigative furor for potential illegal activities, and let's save the public outrage and indignation for when we catch someone in a criminal - not immoral - act. Let's leave the Britney's and Paris' alone: feeding their exhibitionistic needs isn't healthy for them or us.

Bring back the good old days.


doug0077 said...

I have but one regret. And I am not sharing.

I did think it interesting that people remarked on your ex-gov shelling out $4,300 a pop (pun intended) for sex when Paul McCartney's divorce settlement gave Heather $14,300 per day,

Sounds like immoral Eliot got a deal and legally married Paul got...

All the best,


Jandy said...

The distinctions you make are right on the mark. The personal is tittilating and great for our sense of gossip. But we don't need it or need to know.

But the illegalities are a different matter. Those are important. I know the argument that private actions and accountability reflect public actions and understand the argument. But I don't need personal details.