As with many of the things that can be wrong with human beings, if a person who behaved this way were a banker, or a musician, or a building contractor, one would merely wonder about the causes, perhaps feel sorry for him, and, if there were good things about him, try to overlook the aberration and appreciate the rest. But when the strong possibility arises that such a man might become president, then this trait suddenly becomes an important, unavoidable aspect of one's estimation of him. It is not a reason to reject him out of hand. He may have enough to offer that one decides that it is worth the risk. Or one might decide that the alternative candidates are, for various reasons, worse risks. But, it seems to me, one must take it into account. It seems to me a ridiculous sort of respectability to say that it is beneath one's dignity to take such a thing into account. It seems to me a very thoughtless sort of open-mindedness to claim that only a prejudiced person would take it into account.
If the subject of Kennedy's philandering gains widespread attention, there are a lot of voters who will be concerned from a moral point of view. They will be bothered because such behavior is adultery. I have side-stepped the moral issue because for me it depends on whatever understanding Kennedy has reached with his wife, and we don't know anything about that. We know that Joan Kennedy has been troubled, but there are many reasons why a person becomes troubled. The intricacies of a relationship between a man and a woman can be so subtle that only the couple themselves could hope to understand them. But if there are people who take a less reserved view than I, or a less tolerant one, and if there are voters for whom adultery is sin, period, they have as much of a right to react as I do. I don't think I should refrain from broaching the issue from my own point of view just because others are likely to take the sort of stern, rigid moral point of view that I happen to disagree with.
There is another issue here, one of deception. Privacy is important, although usually when reporters shield certain aspects of a politician's private life from the public they are protecting not his privacy but his hypocrisy. Few politicians object to published descriptions, however intimate, of their regular family life. The Kennedys, of course, have made great political capital out of precisely this sort of intrusion into their private lives. A politician may reach a sophisticated understanding with his wife, but he never attempts to do so with the voters. Instead, he contrives – with the cooperation of the press – to mislead voters on a matter that might affect the way they vote. As with immaturity, a politician's willingness to deceive in this matter does not encourage one about his honest in others.
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