Jack Ryan, the GOP candidate hounded out off the Illinois senatorial race for, well, nothing, has been making the media rounds to discuss the disaster that befell his campaign. Regardless of the unfairness of his treatment at the hands of both the Chicago Tribune and the Republican Party, there’s another important point to be made. Interviewed on ABC by the always excellent John Stossel, Ryan had this to say about the degree of intrusion into his private life with which he has had to contend:
“I can’t tell you how many calls I got in the last two weeks from people who said, ‘I always thought about maybe going into public service. But not now, not, not after I’ve seen what’s happened to you.’ And so this cannot be the right standard now for entering into American politics…”
Ryan’s right to raise this. I suspect that this country loses the benefit of countless excellent candidates who don’t relish the prospect of a prurient press or priggish rivals rooting through their lives for some sexual peccadillo, or, heaven forbid, some slip into sin, which would somehow be used to discredit their campaign. In the absence of illegality or truly grotesque hypocrisy (a little hypocrisy, remember, is no bad thing: it helps the world go round), the sex lives of politicians should remain the concern of them and their families. It’s nobody else’s business, and, yes, the return of privacy might even help the rest of us out.
After all, who wants to be governed by an eternity of Jimmy Carters?