06/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Scritti Politti: May 12, 2009

With John and Elizabeth Edwards back in the news, Matt Yglesias espies Michael Tomasky ruminating on what can get you "banished from public life," and asks:

But I have a question...what about Newt Gingrich? It's true that Gingrich hasn't launched a presidential campaign, but cheating on his cancer-stricken wife he's done. Then he divorced her and married a second woman on whom he also cheated. And now he's on his third marriage. And he converted to Catholicism! And he's a defender of traditional marriage! And he's still a high-profile public figure.

Consider also the starkly contrasting treatment of Elliot Spitzer, forced into resignation and disgrace for seeing a prostitute, and David Vitter, sitting pretty in the United States Senate.

Worth a thought, for sure. But I recall that infidelity did not earn Bill Clinton a banishment from public life, either (in fact, in a particularly seamy twist, his indiscretion seems to have largely accrued to his wife's detriment). In the case of Spitzer, I wouldn't count him out of the running for a political comeback - and the continued presence of Vitter in political circles only serves to enhance Spitzer's chances.

In a direct Edwards to Gingrich comparison, I'd say that Edwards' main problem is that his Elizabethan love story is so enmeshed in his political story so as to be hard to put asunder. Meanwhile, Gingrich is a cad and a philanderer, but really, it's been so out in the open for such a long time that no one in their right mind would even consider following his example. To imagine that the sanctity of marriage or a great romantic love plays a role in shaping Gingrich's politics or worldview is just daffy.

Arson Is No Way To Make A Love Burn Brighter: How sad that a rumination on The Feminist Mystique could lead one to engage in an indulgent and vapid display of slut-shaming! But that's how Linda Hirshman's leading Double X out of the box. Her understanding of how Gawker bloggers get paid is dated, her revival of two-year-old blog beefs is dull, and what you need to understand is this: this is the act of a copycat, attempting to dis the original. Sad, stupid, shameful, and ultimately self-defeating. I'll let Spencer Ackerman carry the ball from here.

From One Who Knows: Also via Spencer Ackerman, I recommend this post from Thomas Ricks, who prints a letter of response from "an Army National Guard lieutenant colonel to Charles Krauthammer after Krauthammer's latest apologia for torture." An excerpt:

So you must wonder, by what authority is this letter writer speaking? Well, as a Lieutenant Colonel and Combat Arms Battalion Commander in the Army I am responsible for the welfare, training, good order, and discipline of my soldiers. I am responsible for everything they do or fail to do. I am also responsible to follow and issue only those orders that are legal, ethical and moral. Torture of another human being is illegal, unethical and immoral, and I would be duty bound to disobey any such order...just as PFC Lynndie England and SPC Charles Graner (and their many counterparts, senior officers and NCOs at Abu Ghraib) should have done...just as any of my soldiers should disobey should I give such an order. We all have the lessons of Nuremburg to rely upon anytime such questions come to mind; "I was just following orders" is never justification for committing crimes against other human beings.

Before deploying to Iraq last year, I explained these things to my troopers. It is difficult to explain to young (practically) kids, with little experience, and poor knowledge of the world...but if you are caring and committed, and repeat yourself often enough they learn and understand. I told them the most important thing they needed to take away from all their preparations was that while it would be terrible to lose one of them or have one of them seriously physically injured, it would be worse to have them come home physically well and mentally broken because they had somehow lost their humanity. Torture destroys our humanity, and any equivocation (feel free to exercise the Kantian absolutist vs utilitarian argument to your heart's content) on the matter is just bullshit.

I commend the Lieutenant Colonel for his eloquent explication of responsibility, a value the architects of the terror regime chose to shirk in its design, and which they continue to evade, even now.

Yoo Must Be Joking: Here's a great way for the in-decline Philadelphia Inquirer to spend whatever ducats they have left - hiring torture enthusiast John Yoo to write a regular column. Will stunt hires that trade on personal infamy be the business model that saves newspapers? I guess they've tried everything else.

Droppin' Baums: Last week Dan Baum began tweeting out the saga of his getting fired from The New Yorker, in relentless 140-character bursts. Now Orchid Thief author Susan Orlean is totally snarking him out.

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus: You read that correctly. Starring Lorenzo Lamas and Deborah Gibson. Yeah, YOU'RE WELCOME.

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