Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Client 9 From Outer Space

What people, politicians or not, do in their spare time doesn't pique my interests in the slightest, so I'm not about to get caught up in the whirlwind of moral posturing surrounding Gov. Eliot Spitzer's implication (note: not arrest) in a prostitution ring. However, one statement he made during his brief press conference on Monday has stuck with me all day:

I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good, and doing what is best for the [people].

This comment really sums up my thoughts on the matter. Too often in American politics we get caught up, with the help of a sensationalist media, in personality stories and forget about the issues that matter.
If you're a conservative, what matters should be limitation of government largesse, lower taxes, free markets or any number of other conservative issues. Liberals, likewise, should worry about their ideas about social justice, climate change, civil liberties or whatever.

What any particular conservative or liberal does, even if it's illegal, shouldn't stand as an argument against a movement or compendium of ideas and values. What Larry Craig does in a men's restroom can't possibly serve as anything but fodder for satire and personal attacks. It has nothing to do with taxes, trade, abortion or anything else. Certainly, as Glenn Greenwald points out, there's an element of hypocrisy involved, but that again speaks to the individual not the world view.

As the media spends the first half of this week concentrating all its attention on Gov. Spitzer, the battle over FISA continues to go on in the House, new revelations continue to surface regarding the scope of the domestic surveillance program, major lenders are caught in both legal and financial trouble and the economy continues its slide. None of this goes away simply because the media looks the other way.

The amount of hand-wringing over this incident will continue to mount. Republicans who thought private lives mattered in the 90s then changed their minds last year, will once again care. Democrats will have traveled a parallel but inverse path, and still none of it will matter. Because, as Spitzer says, politics isn't about individuals. It's about ideas. We'd all be best served to return to an honest debate over ideas than to continue on this dead-end path of debating personalities and personal narratives.

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