Kathryn Lopez

There is an untold story about the failed effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and it centers on Hooters.

The restaurant known for its immodestly attired waitresses played a role in the election, when Walker foes decided to make the past job of a young staffer on his team a campaign issue.

So now when you Google Ciara Matthews' name, "Former Hooters Girl," along with an old MySpace photo, come up. Somehow that she has worked for a pro-life political action committee made it all the more delicious a news story. The only news in this sad, pathetic affair is that it exposed the desperate lengths some will go to in politics.

Matthews came away a winner, as did her candidate, who found himself subject to malicious rumors at the 11th hour. But Matthews' Internet stamp exists as a cautionary tale and challenge: We ask a lot of people in the public eye. That's politics today. But it goes deeper than that -- such judgment and scandal-mongering is a temptation humans fall to all too often, albeit not always to such nasty and public extremes.

We make assumptions. We make rash judgments. We go by first impressions, some of which are based on erroneous or manipulated material. We all too often don't take into consideration our shared humanity.

Back in 2007, when fewer people were paying attention, future first lady Ann Romney gave a speech about just this: the "bag of rocks" our neighbor -- or political foe -- carries. Mrs. Romney, who struggles with multiple sclerosis, illuminates the hidden struggles so many around us have. Even in our self-revealing age, we often never know what pain our neighbor is bearing. "Sometimes we're a little too critical, a little too quick to judge," she warned. Surely there is some room for a little mercy and redemption in our political lives.

Mrs. Romney's speech ended with a cliffhanger of sorts. She would explain her view of Washington as "a group of people traveling around in a rowboat." Instead of going about the business of getting somewhere, oars in the water, folks are "banging each other over the head" with them. A little cooperation is in order before the boat goes off a waterfall. In the five years since I first heard that speech, we've about reached that point.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.