Have you taken notice of the New Language of Culpability? People are no longer guilty of willful wrongdoing. Like Anthony Wiener, the current front-runner – as distinguished from viral front-shower – in the New York mayoral race, they have either been “stupid,” or “dumb,” in their misconduct.
No moral or ethical factor involved, understand, no reflection on the wrongdoer’s character. He – or she, as the case may be – is guilty only of “staggeringly bad judgment,” the staggeringly fatuous phrase applied by The Washington Post to the First Lady of Virginia’s (1) ordering a $6,500 Rolex watch from Virginia businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. to present to her husband, Gov. Bob McDonnell; and (2) persuading Williams, in the strongest First Lady-like terms, to take her shopping at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan (a “jaunt,” as the Post called it, that “rang up $15,000 on Mr. Williams’s tab”).
This is the same McDonnell couple, keep in mind, that “persuaded” Williams to pick up the $15,000 catering tab for their daughter’s wedding, in return for which, according to the Post, “the known quid pro quos include the luncheon at the governor’s mansion, hosted by Ms. McDonnell, to help launch the signature product of Mr. Williams’s struggling company, and a plug for the same product delivered by Ms. McDonnell at a conference in Florida.”
All of which, the Post concludes, constitute “damaging revelations” that threaten to destroy Bob McDonnell’s “otherwise admirable legacy as governor.”
Too bad, isn’t it? A good governor and his otherwise admirable wife embarrassed – is that the right predicate, or am I being judgmental? – for merely suggesting and accepting what, in my native Louisiana, we call “swag” from favor-seekers.
No, that’s not right. Comparing Bob and Imelda McDonnell to, say, Louisiana’s last great political hustler, Edwin Edwards, is unfair. To Edwards, that is. Fast Eddie would never have had the bad judgment to take a $6,500 Rolex from a favor-seeker. Too blatant. He would have directed the supplicant to give him cash so he could buy his own watch.
Sound bite to remember
“I think any man in business would be foolish to fool around with his secretary. If it’s somebody else’s secretary, fine.”
– Barry Goldwater