Rod Dreher

For some reason, this Ford dealership from where I’m blogging won’t let me access any general news sites, so I can’t post a link to the news account of John Edwards admitting publicly that he fathered Rielle Hunter’s baby. I’m glad that’s over, I guess, and for the sake of his family, which now includes that little girl, it’s best that he’s come clean. Still, this does nothing for his reputation, as if there were anything left of it anyway. I noticed in the New York Times story that John and Elizabeth Edwards celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary by renewing their wedding vows the same summer John and his lover conceived the baby. The mind — OK, my mind — boggles at this.
My mind boggles because I think at all times people can see right through me. I’m a terrible liar. Once after I took the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, and found that I was an ENFP (now I’m an INFP — funny what 15 years will do to you in that way), I read that people with my personality type often believe (wrongly) that they’re an open book. If, God forbid, I’d ever cheated on my wife, I’d be convinced she’d know everything the moment she next laid eyes on me … and I’d be so overcome by shame at my betrayal that I would confess it all anyway. (I scored in the stratosphere on Prof. Jon Haidt’s test for moral foundations, re: the measurement on how much “purity” — by which I took to mean a clean heart — matters). But look, that’s me.
I think that politicians must have something wrong with them by nature. Remember when Jesse Jackson was outed as having fathered a baby out of wedlock? A person I know told me how her adult daughter had accompanied the Jackson entourage on one of his foreign trips in the 1990s, working for him, and she had to constantly fend the randy Reverend off. There are many other examples of politicians and other famous people carrying on like this, and yet having the nerve to present themselves to their families and to the public as someone other than who they really are. Politicians and celebrities, as natural egotists, must find this sort of thing comes more naturally to them. But why is that? And are most people closer in their own behavior to John Edwards’ ability to compartmentalize, or to my almost neurotic inability to do so? Note well that I’m not saying this to compare myself favorably to Edwards; for me, it’s more a function of psychological orientation than moral choice … which in itself raises an interesting set of questions about the extent to which our moral orientation is chosen, or ingrained. Do people who are hypersensitive about moral behavior stay away from professions like politics? Does success in politics require one’s conscience to be numbed to a certain extent, just to maintain a confident image in the face of the compromises one has to make (even if one is perfectly faithful to one’s partner)? And does habituating oneself to professional compromises make it easier to compromise your personal ethics when the temptations present themselves?

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