Kathleen Parker

But vanity: Whose fault is that? Vanity belongs to one and only one -- the Self. How absorbed does a self need to be to miss the fact that a camera -- that motor-driven, soul-snatching valet to man's vanity -- is watching?

Americans are pretty forgiving of most sins. Gluttony, lust, greed. We forgive them because we're all guilty by degrees. But vanity is of another order, especially -- and perhaps unfairly -- when it comes to men.

Women get a pass for indulging their vanity, mostly because men appreciate the effort and applaud the result.

But we want men to be unaware of their attractiveness. Fairly or not, vanity is deemed unmanly.

Don't look at me. I didn't write the rules. But I do know them. Women don't trust men who spend more time in the bathroom than they do. And men don't trust men who primp.

The YouTube phenomenon has changed forever the nature and tenor of politics. What used to be inadmissible in a civil society is now forever on display. Fair play is obsolete and privacy is a memory. Whether YouTube is the ruin or salvation of democracy remains to be seen, but it's unlikely Edwards will be able to survive the tyranny of his bangs.

Or his lips. The video that couldn't get any worse got worse. At the end of the two-minute segment, Edwards licks his lips several times, moistening them, no doubt, so that he can speak freely. But the effect is disastrously reptilian. When you're running for president, evoking the image of a snake -- that quintessential merchant of vanities and biblical trickster of mortals -- is not helpful.

Symbolically, Edwards has suffered more than a bad hair day.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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