Nothing here is in any way meant to be a defense of adultery. As a religious Jew, I believe it violates one of the Ten Commandments. As a married person, I know how much it would hurt my wife and how much it would hurt me if the other had an affair. But marriage is too complex an arena to draw any immediate conclusions about a person. Are we to label a man who takes loving care of his chronically ill wife and who has a discreet affair no more than an adulterer who merits disdain and mistrust? Is a woman who stays in an emotionally abusive marriage for the sake of her children someone with little integrity because she sought to be held in another man's loving arms? The questions and nuances are innumerable.
And what is adultery? Women have called my show to tell me that a man who gets a lap dance has committed adultery. Others go further -- merely attending a strip show, or looking at Playboy, is adultery. To my mind, this is emotion -- not reason, morality or religion -- talking. Yes, many Christians cite Jesus as saying that a man who lusts after a woman other than his wife has committed adultery with his heart. But he made it clear that this is adultery (SET ITAL) with his heart (END ITAL). Jesus, the practicing and knowledgeable Jewish rabbi, would never equate actual adultery with adultery with one's heart. And if someone believes the two are morally identical, why not start asking candidates if they have ever lusted for any woman other than their wife?
In choosing a president of the United States, adultery would greatly matter to me is if it were engaged in indiscreetly. I don't trust the integrity or conscience of a man or woman who publicly humiliates his or her spouse.
Beyond that, I do not want to know anything about the sexual life of any candidate. Media reporting or questioning about candidates' sexual lives constitutes a form of hypocrisy so deep that the English language does not have a word for it. Media people report on the sexual lives of candidates -- for virtually any public office -- on the grounds that since these politicians have great power, the public needs to know all about them. Yet, they offer no insight into their own sexual lives, even though some in the news media are far more powerful than almost any politician except the president of the United States. If we cannot trust a candidate who committed adultery, then why can we trust a news reporter or editor who has committed adultery?
The only thing this preoccupation with candidates' sexual lives has achieved is to ensure that some of the best, brightest, finest and most honest men in America never run for office.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”