Ace of Spades, in a post that puts a nice neat bow on Phase I of Weinergate, had this to say about how the political class treats its sex scandals.
The other thing that I thought, frequently, when I asked myself, "Why push this?," is: Because this is what we do.
Is that a good system? I don't know, but it is the system.
And I know I got very angry indeed when champion dickweed Howard Kurtz sneeringly informed me that in this one case, it would not be the system.
Unacceptable, Kurtz. We shall not have a regime of hard, punitive rules for conservatives and soft, forgiving rules for liberals.
I was thinking that this is like the Prisoner's Dilemma.
I believe both parties, and most people in the public eye, would agree, if they could make an agreement which could be enforced and relied upon, that "We shall not beat up each other over this stuff."
That would accrue to everyone's interest in the political/media class. Note I speak only of this class. I am not saying that this agreement would serve anyone else's interests. But it would serve politicians' and media-types' interests.
You don't screw with me, I don't screw with you. For this class, such an agreement would be mostly upside.
But the problem is, of course, the same one as is the whole point of the Prisoner's Dilemma: You can't trust your opponents to go soft on you.
So what do you do? Concede the field, in which case only your own allies get pummeled like this, but you sweetly avoid pummeling their guys in the hopes that they will honor their side of the bargain?
They won't. They never do.
Read the entire piece. It's full of win.
Both American political parties, from the show horses on down to the foot soldiers, simply cannot maintain the kind of reciprocal understanding Ace describes. He's absolutely correct when he says that the political class would benefit enormously from a mutual agreement to shut the hell up about it's sex scandals. For a lot of reasons, politicos can't resist the attack dog urge. Interestingly, it wasn't always this way.
In the 60's, when John Kennedy had hot and cold running girls installed at the White House, the Republicans knew about JFK's peccadilloes and decided to keep their powder dry. Whether it was out of a desire to keep their own shenanigans private or just out of a sense of deference to the presidency, the GOP were tight-lipped about President Kennedy's numerous extramarital excursions. Congressman Weiner's misadventures in web-based hook-ups make it clear that the old early sixties circumspect attitude is not just gone, but probably can't come back.
This inability on the part of the Democrats and Republicans to hold their fire is a big reason why Mitch Daniels' idea of a truce on social issues is so monumentally wrong-headed. Who polices that agreement? Nobody could; even if every Washington DC politician said yes to it, no single person or organization would be trusted by either side to act as a fair mediator/enforcer.
Another problem with Daniel's truce is that even if the politicians went along with the deal, the mainstream media most certainly would not. The most knee-jerk attack dog partisans in American politics are the editors, producers and reporters that make up the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, MSNBC and the rest of the lamestream Democrat Party rah-rah chorus. If they have access to information that helps Democrats or damages Republicans, they will run it. This will force Breitbart and his allies to do the same thing when they get information damaging to the Dems. The truce would be over almost before it started.
In fact, given how cuddly the MSM is with the Democrat party, a truce on social issues could only hurt Republicans. With the exception of Fox News and several big-name rightish blogs/websites, the conservative argument against abortion, gay rights and other lifestyle debates is almost never given a fair treatment by the big news outfits. Under the Daniels scenario, Democrats could truthfully say they weren't scoring points while their allies in the press and Hollywood kept pushing the progressive agenda. Republicans would have few options. They couldn't expect the MSM to help them out. Worse, the Republican's sorta allies on the Right blogs--the ones that might be able to pump up a conservative social agenda--just don't yet have the same kind of reach that the lamestreamers have in the media universe.
Finally, just how far down the political totem pole would the truce go? Would it only affect the Beltway folks? If that's the case, the social issues gag order would unravel as soon as a state legislature votes to approve gay marriage, put limits on abortion, allow prayer in school or mandate that teachers instruct students on condom use. Just because DC pols swear off social issues legislation doesn't mean the states have to. As soon as a controversial social issue flared up at the state level, national Republicans and Democrats would almost have to weigh in. That would put enormous pressure on the truce's architecture; once one politician says something, others are going to want to discuss it too.
Weiner's train wreck is a reminder of just how impossible a voluntary censorship of any kind is in modern politics. Political figures cannot be bound by informal gag orders. Mutually assured partisan destruction won't hold anybody back from using damn near any club to beat their opponents over the head. The price is too low and the payoffs are too high.