06/25/2004: More In re marriage of Ryan....
Normally I don't obsess over salacious matrimonial litigation (ok, normally I don't obsess publicly over salacious matrimonial litigation), but the Jack and Jeri show is providing some entertainment you simply can't pay good money for anywhere else. Juan Cole took a break from getting to the truth the debacle in Iraq so that we don't have to in order to record a few thoughts on the mattter:
Another irony is that Ryan pulled the stunt early in the campaign of having a cameraman follow Obama around everywhere, documenting all his moves. Obama could not even speak to his wife on his cellphone in privacy. Ryan tried to create what French philosopher Michel Foucault called a "panopticon," as a way of intimidating his opponent. This move was despicable, an invasion of privacy, and a form of stalking, and should be illegal. (I think it would be in California, which has proper privacy laws). Now Jack Ryan is going to be the one followed around by cameras, into whose private life strangers are going to poke relentlessly. In that sense, the whole thing serves him right.Cole brings up a good point that should be addressed more often that it is: why are we worried about the rise of a theocracy overseas when it seems that the Republicans are quite willing to establish one here (or at least willing to pander to those groups that want to establish one here)? (And of course, the answer to that rhetorical question is that we're worried about theocracy in Iraq because it's going to be the wrong type of theocracy; if they were going to become a fundagelical Christian reconstructionist state which enacts Old Testament law we'd probably be stumbling over ourselves assisting them in getting that project off the ground.)
But I think Obama is making the right choice in letting the tabloids and the schlock television shows run with this story and keeping it out of his own campaign, which is about issues. For instance, Obama wants to give more tax breaks to companies that keep jobs in Illinois.
The lesson for the Republicans of all this is that the wages of Puritanism are hypocrisy. Henry Hyde, Newt Gingrich, and many other Republicans who tried to nail Clinton had also tried to nail women not their spouses and were no better than Clinton morally. In fact, no one is better morally than anyone else as a matter of ontology or being. Some deeds are better than others, and some people achieve better deeds more often than others. Some people are capable of higher ethical standards than others. But human beings are not in the nature of the case morally perfect beings. Since that is so, it is crazy for the American public to want its politicians to be saints (they aren't), and the desire merely produces hypocrisy, which in turn corrodes ideals and the moral order.
I therefore agree with Jack Ryan that the visits to those clubs should not in themselves disqualify him from public office. Why should we care where he takes his wife? Note that business travelers who stay in nice hotels are known to rent enormous amounts of porn. The travelers, the hotels, and the cable companies involved are all heavily Republican. What is the difference between watching it on celluloid and watching it at a club in Paris? Isn't this the same public that yawned at Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and complained it was only shocking to a 1950s sensibility? Are we going to get to the point where every guy who has ever been to a strip club is disqualified from public service? Are we doomed to have the French and other Europeans laugh at us hysterically yet again?
Journalists keep asking me if the US can prevent Iraq from becoming a "theocracy." Why are the Americans so worried about Iraqis insisting on strict religious standards in their politics, if in fact that is the public platform of the dominant Republican Party in the United States? I think politicians should be permitted wide lattitude in their private lives, as long as they are good at their jobs-- i.e. use their positions to empower the people, to create jobs and wealth, and improve their states or districts. Jack Kennedy did lots of things that make a married couple's visits to some clubs rather tame in comparison. No one I know holds it against him.
Bottom line, the question for the good people of Illinois should not be whether Ryan is kinkier than Obama, but a) whether Ryan still uses people instrumentally to get his rocks off and b) whether Ryan could accomplish something for their state that Obama cannot. Even before the club scandal broke, the increasingly Democratic-leaning Illinois voters had seemed to discount Ryan, who after all doesn't exactly have a thick portfolio to be senator. The club scandal probably finishes off his candidacy (perhaps for the wrong reasons), but he was unlikely to have won anyway.
Meanwhile, Cole reminds me of something that I should have said back when I first wrote about this--kudos (no, megakudos) to Ryan's opponent, Barack Obama, for refusing to wallow in the slime, and for keeping his campaign focused on the issues. When Obama becomes junior Senator from Illinois (as seems all but assured at this point), the citizens of the Land of Lincoln are going to be exceedingly well served.
Len on 06.25.04 @ 07:17 AM CST