The Panty-Sniffers Manifesto: Mickey Kaus gamefully tries to provide an ex post justification for obsessing about the comings and goings of a former Senator from North Carolina, and some of what he says bears true. Edwards remains an important figure in American politics, and even if the recent rumors about him are correct, stands to play an important role in any future Democratic Administration (fortunately for Edwards, the "scandal" is coming out almost a half-year before any future Obama Cabinet is selected, more than enough time for the public to come to terms with the issue). If he's been cheating on his dying wife (the woman whom Kaus sarcastically has named, "St. Elizabeth"), he's disgusting.
But he doesn't quite explain why he's so obsessed with the issue, why he has spent almost the last two weeks writing about nothing but this story, which so far hasn't progressed much beyond the charge that Edwards was in the same thousand-room hotel as his alleged mistress in the wee hours of the morning, or Kaus' demand that other organs of the "MSM," particularly the Los Angeles Times, should drop every other story they're working on to focus on this tawdry episode. Kaus didn't spend two weeks hectoring others when another newspaper made some rather similarly-vague allegations about John McCain and a blonde lobbyist, or even when the National Enquirer identified a woman who was Bill Clinton's mistress last month.
I mean, it's not like there's a Presidential campaign going on, or an Olympic Games about to start. It's no wonder that the Times is losing readers, when it insists on breaking stories about the identity of the real Anthrax Terrorist and other such trivia, rather than letting its bloggers regurgitate this week's Enquirer headline.
There is a good reason why the National Enquirer, in spite of its rather lame record in defending libel suits, still enjoys one of the largest circulations in the country. People who are interested in gossip, who enjoy panty-sniffing and everything that comes with it, who can't get through the week without a crotch-shot of Britney or Lindsey, can have their interests sated through the Enquirer. If the Enquirer wants to send two reporters to stalk a failed Presidential candidate with an interesting personal life, then let them. That sort of reporting is a different skill set from the type of reporting that breaks the Anthrax story.
But there should be newspapers for those of us who aren't focused on that sort of thing, who think a pol's proclivity for adultery is not the most important thing in the world. For us, we expect that a newspaper is going to be cautious when it reports, that it doesn't simply repeat hearsay, particularly from gossip rags. If the Times (or, more appropriately, one of Edwards' home state newspapers, where he continues to be an important public figure in spite of his unsuccessful role on the national stage), does pursue this story, or better yet, any such story involving McCain or Obama, then it should apply the same investigative standards it applies to any other story it covers.