A user-submitted topic so I’ll do my best to start a discussion. For anyone not too familiar with Gary Hart in 1987, here’s a little background via Politico:

… Gary Hart—the Colorado senator whose candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination derailed in 1987 when the Miami Herald learned of his extramarital affair, confronted him in a dark alley on a Saturday night and published the results of its investigation in the following morning’s edition atop Page One.

The question for discussion here is whether the Hart affair set a precedent for reporters to delve into the private lives of politicians rather than focus on hard news stories. Details about back room deals or shady legislation nowadays tend to be shelved for stories about loose zippers and mistresses in Argentina.

More from the Politico piece:

Hart’s story re-emerged Sept. 18 in the New York Times Magazine in a cover article by political writer Matt Bai headlined “How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics.” The scandal is explored in even greater length in Bai’s book, All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, which was published this week.

The Gary Hart scandal certainly merits discussing, even at this distance. It’s about sex and politics and journalistic ethics. It makes us wonder: What’s fair game for reporters and how much do voters care—or deserve—to know? These questions are important. But they are also timeless—and have been debated long before and long after Hart’s fall from grace. What Bai calls the week that changed politics forever, I guess I’d call just another week, albeit a dramatic one, in Washington.

Having not voted in my first presidential election until 2004 (missed 2000 by a mere 2 months), I can’t add too much to this discussion. Political stories, since as long as I’ve been reading them, are often uninformative as they focus on vanity over substance. However, is it fair to say that politics has become far more about personal stories and less about substantive political reporting? Perhaps so, but the late 1990s with President Clinton’s escapades in the White House probably didn’t help stem the tide started in 1987.

Would the country be better served if reporters ignored the “blue dress” stories in favor hard news and issues reporting when it comes to politics?

4 COMMENTS

  1. I believe Matt Bai’s book left a lot to be said. Newsmen forgot their basic responsibility and privacy began to fall with McCarthyism.Or was it with Chappaquiddick? Or when Barbara Walters ask Jimmy Carter if he was ever unfaithful to his wife? Or before any of the above, when the Senator from Arkansas, Wilbur Mills was caught in the back seat with the stripper, Fannie Foxe, after a minor car accident? Or Newt Gingrich still sitting under the steering wheel with a lady, not his wife? Or McCain becoming engaged to his present wife while still married to another? And the blue dress of Lewinsky. It takes an ulterior motive to keep a sperm soiled dress in the closet for months. To me, all of the above are private family matters. No one broke the law, no sociopathic behavior, no abuse of power so how the wives and husbands settle their personal affairs is up to them.. My concern is: how is Congress taking care of the people’s business.

    • Even Ronald Reagan.

      I do understand a Jim Baker type situation, when someone, himself, is saying, it’s a great sin, while taking poor people’s money–and then does what he condemns. Their problem is not adultery, but hypocrisy.

      Even so, men who have such ego, and are aggressive enough to want to be senators or presidents, will likely be overly aggressive in their private lives, as well. We don’t have to condone it, but is it our job to judge outside of their job description?

      Do we really want only pious Sunday school teachers, like Jimmy Carter–and even he had to admit that he had “lust in my heart.”

  2. Probably shouldn’t have started with ancient and unpopular “Gary Hart.” The topic was really “personal privacy,” which is a resounding issue. And, of course, about the media’s going for the lowest common denominator, and cheapest way to get ratings.

    I would have used the headlne–

    SEX! Now that I have your attention. . .

    • Goethe; You’re right it’s an old topic and with everything happening right now rehashing a discussion on moral integrity and character issues aren’t at the top of anyone’s list. Especially using Gary Hart as a topic………a politician who’s career wasn’t going any further than where it was, scandal or not!

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