Diana West

And why not, when so few public officials care about "character," "reputation," "fidelity" or, even more quaint, "propriety"? We barely remember what the words mean. Once upon a time, such a scandal would have ended a diplomat's career and sent him seeking cover in private life long before we started dissecting the gory details ("hooking up," "blue balls," access to information and sources, etc.). Morals aside, concerns about the nominee's self-discipline and potential susceptibility "next time" would have weighed heavily against his elevation.

Such concerns, however, are archaic, too. Maybe they all died in the Clinton administration, when we, as a nation, learned that shocking revelations of President Bill Clinton's extraordinary sexual predations were merely episodes for the Clinton family to withstand, to outlast, even if it turned them and us into stone in the process. Maybe it was then that society was finally desensitized to that very human quality of shame for all time.

We don't quite know what we're missing anymore. After State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland crisply explained to the media that she was "not going to get into emails between Mr. McGurk and the woman who subsequently became his wife" -- nice Victorian reference to the sanctity of marriage! -- she further declared that McGurk is "uniquely qualified" for the post. Then she took a follow-up question from a reporter clearly struggling with Big Questions about morality and double standards.

The reporter said: "Because, I mean, there are rules for Foreign Service officers to not get into situations where you're blackmailed. There's sort of a sense that you have to act morally. There are these regulations in your guidebooks. And some people have lost security clearances over having extramarital affairs. So I wonder why it is that this doesn't seem to (factor) at all into your decision in keeping this -- keeping his nomination out there."

Nuland: "Again, we consider him uniquely qualified. All of the necessary things were done before his nomination, and we urge the Senate to confirm him."

Far better for the Senate not to confirm him. McGurk aside, Washington could use a dab of wholesomeness.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).