« The Midwestern Conservative

Shame, Then and Now

by Jerry Bader

As Peggy Noonan points out, it was 50 years ago this summer that the world was rocked by a British sex scandal. John Profumo, who was the British equivalent of our Secretary of Defense, was embroiled in an affair with a 19 year old woman who may or may not have been a prostitute. That would have been bad enough, but she was also involved with a Soviet spy. With a Cold War backdrop, this was no ordinary sex scandal. If Christine Keeler was pillow talking both ways, who knows what the Soviets got from Profumo?

But Noonan's point is how Profumo handled the fallout; he simply went away and buried himself in public service at the most basic level. He never would have considered attempting a political comeback. He knew what he had done was wrong. Does that mean he wasn't a decent man, because he had done something indecent? No. But he knew that it would define him publicly and that meant his public life was over. That was then, this is now. There is virtually nothing from which you can't come back. And it's not just Elliot Spitzer. It's Anthony Wiener. It's Mark Sanford (who proves this lack of shame cuts across political parties).

No, their transgressions don't mean they're bad people, just as Profumo's didn't mean he was a bad man (although Spitzer and Wiener certainly had those on their side who didn't much care for them before their respective scandals). You could argue this started with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The libs had no idea the door they were opening when they argued "his sex life doesn't matter." The Democratic establishment is apoplectic that Wiener could become Mayor of New York. They abandoned him. What do they do with him if he wins?

50 years ago political parties didn't even have to consider such a quandary; politicians had the decency to just fade away. Noonan points out that JFK had a keen interest in tracking the Profumo scandal. Any guesses why that may have been the case????