Victor Davis Hanson

The media usually prefer liberal politicians. Washington's newspaper editors kept quiet about JFK's frolicking, a silence that became near-conspiratorial. The renegade tabloid National Enquirer alone had to pursue the sordid affair of presidential candidate John Edwards. Matt Drudge forced the mainstream media to follow up on the recurrent but ignored rumors of Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. For most in the media, why sidetrack a fellow progressive's enlightened agenda for America over an occasional hormonal urge?

But conservatives should expect such extra scrutiny. Just as populist Democrats raise eyebrows when they cozy up to Wall Street one-percenters, so too does the party of traditional family values set a higher bar for marital fidelity -- and so faces the greater wage of hypocrisy. We don't expect Bill Clinton to preach about the sanctity and stability of marriage, but we often heard that sermon from a sanctimonious Gingrich.

We are now an electronically wired 24/7 nation of the Internet, cable news, Twitter and Facebook, and sex is in our faces everywhere. In 1961, the old-boy newspaper guild alone could keep quiet JFK's alleged rampant womanizing. Now, such a circle of silence eventually breaks down, and the lurid details seem all the more newsworthy. In a counterintuitive sense, the more dissolute Americans become, the more they hope that at least their presidents might resist the temptations of the modern world that they themselves cannot.

We all would like to think Gingrich's long-ago adulteries must warn us that he would make a less reliable, more erratic president than the apparently faithful Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul or Barack Obama. But there seems little evidence from history that such a logical conclusion is always true -- and none adduced so far by our biased media why it should be.

Maybe that's why the voters of conservative South Carolina apparently did not think whom or how many times the mercurial Newt Gingrich has married mattered more than how he has so far debated and addressed the issues.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.