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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Judgment Day

by digby

Here's a post written by a (much younger) woman with an 87 year old husband who seems to be implying that she's having an affair:

I have several friends who have died of cancer over the years. Two of them gave their husbands permission to have sexual relations with someone else when they became unable to meet their husband's needs. They asked only that they not be told about it and that their husbands be discreet. Both husbands did have affairs, which did not last but which made it easier for them to care for their wives. I also had a woman friend whose husband had cancer. She tried to ask him about making the same arrangement, but he couldn't deal with it. She had sex with someone else anyway, she was very discreet, and said it was the only way she managed to get through the terrible years of watching her husband die. Is this moral?. Is it more moral if you have a spouse's permission? Is it worse for a woman to have sex with someone else when her husband is dying?

Nobody else knows what goes on in someone else's marriage. And until you have watched someone you love die, particularly over a long period of time, you can't know the pressures and stresses. My feeling is that I am not in a position to judge. Perhaps if one is a better caretaker for having an outlet for stress that is a good thing. Perhaps it only adds guilt to the suffering. I do think that in our society, people still judge women more harshly than men in these circumstances. What do you think?

I agree with these sage observations. No one can know what goes on in another person's marriage and one should not judge lest ye be judged. I would say this is particularly true when one is a person of some notoriety and social influence. People might be tempted to call you a hypocrite and speculate publicly about your marriage if you are the type of person who would judge others.

Oh, did I forget to tell you who wrote that?

Sally Quinn.

Yes, that Sally Quinn. That link leads to a video of Sally Quinn talking with Charlie Rose about her famous article about the permanent Washington Establishment's horror at Bill and Hillary Clinton's sullying of their town, which I've never seen before today. If you don't understand my "Village" metaphor, this will explain it to you. (Note Bob Woodward nodding and grinning like a trained monkey in the audience.)

There is much to chew on in it, but perhaps the most telling thing is this:

Charlie: What do you most want to know?

Quinn: ... I want to know about the Clintons' marriage. To me this is the most fascinating marriage I've ever seen. I don't understand it, I don't know anyone who understands it. I will be surprised if Carl Bernstein gets to it. I can't wait to read his book. I will be surprised if anyone gets to it. I just find it riveting.

She goes on to explain that she doesn't think Hillary could possibly be religious because when she saw the pain her husband caused her daughter she should have withdrawn from him.

So much for not judging others' marriages.

Quinn has always couched her judgments carefully under the rubrik of "journalism," which most people would call gossip in this case. But it's quite clear that she is not reporting, she is one of the queen bees, leading the charge. Even within that short interview, she contradicts herself several times, saying that nobody cared about the sex, it was all about the lying. But then she says that the problem was that Lewinsky was so much younger, whereas if he'd had an affair with a 50 year old, nobody would have cared.

It's fascinating stuff. But I think that what's most fascinating is that these people were so overwrought about Clinton's misbehavior, going on the record with forceful opprobrium and condemning this soiling of the office of the presidency with spittled fury. This was hugely important to them.

And yet today, we have evidence that his successor ordered torture. Indeed, we know that the CIA came to the White House and acted out the torture techniques for extremely high level members of the Bush administration for their approval and the president has admitted that he approved those metings. But instead of condemning these people for "trashing the place and it's not their place" the entire political establishment has circled the wagons to insist that we move on .

It's the shallow obsession with trivial personal behavior as the only proper gauge of character that makes the political establishment a village rather than a court. Their slavish devotion to power is predicated on the notion that they will decide who is allowed to wield it on the basis of faux provincial, puritan values and that they be acknowledged by the powerful as such. Values which aren't, as Quinn was astonished to find, shared by the rest of the country. They operate as exclusive arbiters of this allegedly character definining personal behavior and use that as a proxy for accountability, which works out very nicely for the powers that be.

That's why it's so fascinating to see Quinn's odd little missive in that Washington Post blog. It certainly appears as if she is having some sort of personal issue which she fears may be revealed. Perhaps it's just a "friend" of hers, as she unconvincingly asserts. But in a political culture in which accountability is based solely on personal faux pas and in which you elevate sexual gossip to the level of treason, you have to expect that it might just get you too one day if you stray outside the accepted boundries. Every once in a while the village has to punish one of its own just to show its still got its teeth.

I'd be careful if I were Sally Quinn. They haven't had a good witchhunt in years and they are overdue.