The weekend news media continued to dwell to my mind somewhat obsessively on the serial adulteries of Tiger Woods, arguably the world’s greatest golfer and now a celebrated sinner along with a bevy of politicians, government officials, and men of the cloth
It is not clear how long the Scarlet A will be emblazoned on the doublets of Messrs Woods, Sanford, Spitzer, et al. Given the recovery of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and other sports figures, and the political rallies of Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Silvio Berlusconi, Rudi Giuliani, and other outed adulterers, we might expect a short stay in the electronic pillory. Woods, after all, was a billion-dollar property. His share alone from the year’s prize winnings is said to be around $275 million, not to mention his annual take from endorsements. Not bad. The weeping and gnashing of corporate teeth over his “fall from grace,” as one commentator put it, apparently has less to do with family values than the prospect of diminishing his allure to consumers who might be put off from purchasing the hundreds of products hawked under the Tiger’s toothy smile.
The case of Governor Mark Sanford is somewhat different. It lacks glitz. Americans will tolerate some marital malfeasance among public servants and, in the case of Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, Bishop Eamon Casey (if you’re Irish enough to remember), and as far back as Aimee Semple McPherson, the clergy – so long as they are sufficiently glamorous. But when adultery becomes a political or financial liability, the path to the dust-bin of history can be short and not very sweet. Even so recovery and forgiveness seem to emerge after the tsunamis of scandalized media voyeurism have calmed. (Not so for clerical child-molesters, however, for whom forgiveness seems beyond reach even when repentance is at least as sincere as that of holy adulterers. Perhaps it’s because many also suffer from a recognized personality disorder. Sin is easier to forgive than illness.)
In the meantime, there’s the matter of the Copenhagen Conference, during which the fate of the planet is being hotly debated, to coin a phrase, not to mention the unpleasantness in Afghanistan, both of which received about half the “news space” devoted to the familial woes of the Tiger. And to be fair, the Health Care Reform bills wandering back and forth from House to Senate merited a few moments of commentary.
That being said, it’s fascinating to see members of the Republican Party carping and whining over the alleged trillion-dollar cost of the attempt to stave off disaster in the health-care “business,” or even sweating bullets over the projected costs of curbing greenhouse gas emissions before the climate changes inexorably for the worse. When their own party was in power, and the trillion-dollar cost of the most needless and wasteful war in modern history was managed by the largest-scale borrowing in history, they did not seem to mind nearly as much. Nor did they much complain when newly elected President Bush quickly turned a $237 billion budget surplus into the biggest deficit in history. That was “then,” of course. Still, I wonder what is it about providing health care for the neediest of America’s citizens that they find so frightening?