What more can one say? There are of course more questions than answers (The biggest: if the affair was over in 2006 what was he doing at the hotel?) He has piled insult upon insult. (Like a bizarre tort exam in law school, you can hardly count all the negligent and intentional misdeeds and resulting injuries.) But those sordid details and the intrigue about what goes on in a marriage, especially one tormented by imminent mortality, I leave to others. His career is over and his moral decay is apparent. ( I share this take and am unimpressed by his concession that he is egocentric and narcissistic. We already took judicial notice of that one.)
Is there anything beyond the tale of his personal undoing to be learned? For starters, we learn and relearn, forget and learn again that verbal acuity does not translate into high morals. Self-reports of virtue are unreliable. But we already knew that. Despite a continual stream of evidence to the contrary, we just don’t want to believe that people can behave this horridly. (Or that other people can apparently rationalize their colleagues’ conduct, no matter how terrible it is.) In case we needed it, this should serve as one more warning to be wary of sancimonious politicians whose self-regard knows no bounds (e.g. “I had the affair when she was in remission” is supposed to make us think better of him?).
And there is the issue, of course, of the media –what was declared less than newsworthy one day (He’s not a candidate! It’s a private matter!) suddenly becomes front page news the next when the confession proves too juicy to ignore. Once again we know that reality, that is hard facts known and knowable, don’t coincide with the slice and dice version of media-reality served up by mainstream outlets. (They don’t tell us stuff. And they pretend we’re dim and don’t know.) That’s a good reminder, I think. People know in their bones that the media isn’t giving them all the facts and that they should be wary of the ones the media chooses to present. Viewers and readers beware.
But at bottom we have the umpteenth example of a famous politician behaving with absurd recklessness at the expense of family, followers and those he seeks to serve. The take away is not that “they’re all rotten” (although the percentage keeps going up, doesn’t it?); it is that we should remember why we don’t put unlimited power or trust in any one individual. And we should continue to insist that everyone who runs for office, especially high office, deserves a complete and total vetting of their medical, professional and indeed personal life. It all matters.