There are rumors swirling that Donald Trump’s big surprise is that he has obtained divorce papers for the Obamas. If that is indeed the case (and I have no proof that such papers even exist), I hope he doesn’t release them.
Because if he does, it’s likely good men and women will be even further discouraged from running for president.
You can have a good character, and yet still have incidents in your life that you would rather not be subject to public scrutiny and discussion. There was plenty of speculation about whether Mitch Daniels’ reluctance to run for president was partially related to the fact that he and his wife divorced, remained separated for a few years, and then remarried. There are politicians who have messy marriages, and who have children who have made poor behavioral choices.
Why exactly does the public need to know the details of any of this?
No, I don’t think character is irrelevant. But if a politician is doing something right now, that is a very different case than if he did it ten years (or more!) ago. And among embarrassing life events, there are categories. Cheating on your spouse is not equivalent to going through a rough patch in a marriage. Having a child who uses drugs is not the same as giving someone access to drugs or using them oneself.
Unfortunately right now our culture seems interested in finding out whatever we can, instead of using discretion about what’s relevant and what’s not, and instead of thinking about whether the enormous pain we are about to inflict on the individuals involved (including innocent family members) is really worth it. Politicians are not the Kardashians. Their claim to fame isn’t who they are, but what they do. And therefore, our focus should be on what they do, except in unusual circumstances.