Pols are Fair Game for Tabloids

By Rob Patterson

Reader Patricia Gordon wrote in the wake of my column on gossip and the tabloids (“Gossip is People,” 8/15/08 TPP) and then the big news broken since in a tab: Why didn’t you write about the following story on John Edwards? That story was headlined: “Should The Enquirer Be Dogging John Edwards?”

My quick answer: In a society with a free press, Edwards and all of us are fair game. And in doing what he has now admitted he did, Edwards made himself fair game. There is no one to blame here but John Edwards.

And as to that, I feel the similar to how I felt when Bill Clinton was ensnared in the Monica Lewinsky mess: When you are very much aware that a well-funded and very active “vast right-wing conspiracy” is out to get you, how can you be so stupid and reckless?

Once I read the first Edwards story in the Enquirer, I was sure it was true. The tabs have the best libel lawyers—they must because of what they do—and fact checking systems as good as any in the media. The Enquirer has broken what are in fact real news stories—and the Edwards affair is a real news story—in the past, and when they do, you can be sure that it’s true.

Personally I liked the Enquirer of my childhood, which had a cover I saw one time in the rack at the corner store where I bought my candy: “I Drilled a Hole in My Own Head.” The picture showed a guy holding a power drill up with a strange smile and a hole where his proverbial third eye would be. Or in more recent years, there has been the tales of “Batboy” in the late Weekly World News. Now that’s entertainment.

As touched on in that previous column, I feel our society does have an unhealthy interest in the personal lives of celebrities. The personal lives of politicians is a completely different matter.

As I see it—and wish more people would as well—politicians work for me (and us), as I am a citizen of this great nation. Once someone enters an elected or appointed high government office, and even as they run for office, their private lives are fair game and in fact my business.

How someone behaves in their private life is an important measure of the man (or woman) and a telling indicator, to me, as to the cut of their jib. That matters to me in anyone who governs or runs governmental business.

John Edwards wanted to be considered for president, and before that VP. This sordid mess tells us this about him: He lies. Not just to us but his wife. And I infer from this whole story that he is also reckless, arrogant, hypocritical and two-faced in addition to being dishonest.

And after the crew we’ve had in charge for the last eight years, we’ve had more than enough of that sort of crap. I liked Edwards, and bought the hype that he was a different politician. I don’t now dislike him—any respect has plummeted—nor do I totally doubt his dedication to such matters of not just politics but the human soul as poverty. But he’s now dead to me as a politician.

What does all this have to do with entertainment, the ostensible beat of the column? A whole lot, in fact.

Our society has deified politicians, put them up there in the rarified land of celebrity like actors and rock stars. And it has poisoned the democratic process. And the way too many people see partisan politics like team sports—rooting for your team to win no matter what—has obfuscated the very notion of governance for, by and of the people.

Politicians are not rock stars. They are public servants or in running wish to be. And John Edwards was acting like a rock star: screwing around on the road. I expect rock stars to do that (and know some that don’t). Politicians can do that, but since they work for me, I wanna know, because I wanna know as much about that person as I can to make an informed decision when it comes time to vote.

So it’s my business if an elected official or campaigner for office is screwing around on the campaign trail, horsing around in the Oval Office, or sending gay sex code foot signals in an airport bathroom stall. And, must admit, it’s also entertainment.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email orca@io.com.

From The Progressive Populist, Sept. 15, 2008

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