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December 20, 2007

If Half an Onion is Black With Rot, It Is A Rotten Onion; A Man is Good or He is Evil*

Katie Couric got some pretty interesting answers from the presidential candidates today when she asked each this question:

Harry Truman said, "A man not honorable in his marital relations is not usually honorable in any other." Some people don't feel comfortable supporting a candidate who has not remained faithful to his or her spouse. Can you understand their position?

I was surprised at how varied the answers were. Only two Democrats answered that marital fidelity is a private matter (Clinton and Obama), something I expected from more of them. John McCain was the only candidate who seemed to flatly disapprove of the question; he responded that he doesn't judge other people that way. Everyone else replied explicitly or implicitly that voters would be justified in considering the issue when deciding on a president.

Of patent interest, Rudy Giuliani took the opportunity to once again call his previous extramarital adventures "mistakes" and ask for understanding:

Giuliani: Sure, I can. Absolutely. You know, they look the every single part of us. And the ... only thing I can say to people is I'm not perfect, you know? And I've made mistakes in my life. And that ... not just in that area. In other areas and I try to learn from it. I try to -- I feel sorry about them. I try to learn from them so I don't repeat them.

Sometimes I even repeat them and ... you try again. I mean, you ... so -- I have a, maybe a more generous view of human beings and a more generous view of life. I mean, it comes from growing up as a Catholic. I mean, we're all sinners. We're all struggling. We're all trying hard. We ask for forgiveness, and then we try to improve ourselves again. And I've -- relate to other people that way. Relate to the world that way.

John Edwards doesn't seem to be letting the recent rumors affect him, if this answer is anything to go by. I also think it's the best of those offered by all of the candidates:

Edwards: Of course. I mean, for a lot of Americans, including the family that I grew up with ... it's fundamental to how you judge people and human character: Whether you keep your word, whether you keep what is your ultimate word, which is that you love your spouse, and you'll stay with them.

...I think the most important qualities in a president in today's world are trustworthiness, sincerity, honesty, strength of leadership. And certainly that goes to a part of that. It's not the whole thing. But it goes to a part of it.

Couric: So you think it's an appropriate way to judge a candidate?

Edwards: Yeah. But I don't think it's controlling. I mean, I think that, as you point out, there have been American presidents that at least according to the ... stories we've all heard, that were not faithful, that were in fact good presidents. So I don't think it controls the issue. But I think it's certain ... something reasonable for people to consider.

The question of fidelity should not be a make-or-break issue, not when so much is riding on such a limited field of competitors. Ideally, we would get a president who had never told a lie; but I'll settle for one who is an occasional fibber if it means winning the War on Terror, securing the borders, and appointing a Republican judiciary.

*That title is borrowed from a character out of one of G.R.R. Martin's Song of Fire & Ice novels. I admired it when I saw it, but have forgotten which book and which character. Do you agree with it?

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 02:16 AM

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