The difference between John Edwards and Tiger Woods

Better the former than the latter. Watching Woods unburden himself last Friday made me think: This really shouldn’t be any of my business. I’ve never had the same thought watching John Edwards confess his sins. Athletes and actors don’t work for us directly; they’re entrusted with great wealth and fame, but not great power. But the private peccadilloes of politicians tend to interfere with, and corrupt, their commission of their public duties…

Not all affairs produce corruption, and we don’t have to know every sin that our politicians commit. Bill Clinton wasn’t on the ballot in 2008, and maybe the public didn’t need a substantial investigation into his post-presidential sex life. (Though one imagines that Democratic primary voters trying to decide whether to let him back inside the White House might have wanted to hear a little more about the issue.)

But the Democratic Party’s narrow escape from the nightmare of an Edwards candidacy suggests that there’s a case for erring on the side of prurience. Some private acts should be publicly disqualifying, and the media need to be willing to go digging for them. Pulitzer or no, we can’t always count on The National Enquirer to tell us what we need to know.

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