07/14/2013 10:27 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

BOTH SIDES NOW : Sex, Substance and Spitzer

Shrum & Reagan debate why some survive scandal (Jefferson, Clinton) while others don't (Hart, Edwards). And there's unanimity that Morsi ouster is least worst option for Egypt, U.S., Democracy. And: Can Hillary be too old if Dutch wasn't?


Bob Shrum and Ron Reagan discuss another BSN regular and what the tabs can't stop calling "Sex in the City" -- the Spitzer-Weiner phenomenon. Can Eliot's comeback as Comptroller work? Then: we agree on Morsi & Democracy, on why abortion wars hurt women and GOP and whether H. Clinton is too old hat to be president.

On Spitzer. Shrum on scandal (having at one time or another worked with Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, John Edwards): "If Bill Clinton had just been running for president, he would have been pushed out of the race. But because he was already president, he stayed... in part because the Republicans stupidly and crassly politicized it to the nth degree." He adds that a) Gary Hart quit campaign because he wasn't the incumbent but was on the way to the nomination and presidency; b) there's a lower standard for lesser jobs like, say, NYC Comptroller; and c) Spitzer's record as the AG watchdog is a good fit for fiscal watchdog.

Ron agrees, adding that the country might be distinguishing between private and public morality. He notes that if narcissism were disqualifying, we wouldn't have many folks left in office. Still, says this west-coaster, "Can you imagine a Mayor Weiner and Comptroller Spitzer?"

Host: Apparently, the answer is yes. A favorite parlor game in NYC has been whose sex scandal was worse. BSN is too high-brow to indulge such speculation (polls show an even split on this particular aspect). For as Bill Clinton used to emphasize, voters care more about their future than a candidate's past (provided adequate contrition and not money corruption -- so no Agnew comeback).

Two issues of note: though obviously not running against each other, Weiner and Spitzer have two big things in common (beyond the obvious): each is very talented at explaining their sins and gifts and each has the money to make their case, which is a necessary though not a sufficient asset. But there are differences that make Spitzer more of a favorite than Weiner: Eliot has been seeking redemption for five years, not two, and has a more compelling rationale to become "Sheriff of City Hall" than does a House member to become the Chief Executive of New York City.

Last, there has been a switch in attitudes since FDR's and Ike's peccadilloes and JFK serial affairs: the media were look-the-other-way enablers when public morality was pretty puritanical yet the reverse seems true today: media run blaring headlines while the public seems more sexually tolerant (in one poll, 2/3 of Democrats say Spitzer should at least have a second chance to make case).

On Egypt. The army + people kicked out Mubarak and now Morsi -- is the latter good for Democracy?

Our panelists agree that Morsi was fairly elected but then governed unfairly and autocratically. Shrum: "The Administration has handled this about as well as possible given the situation...because real democracy cannot mean that you get in legally and then continually oppress opponents" after that (Host: see Hitler). We observe that the three of us disagree with the New York Times editorial position against the "coup" yet agree with Wall Street Journal and Will in favor. Bob, however, challenges some of their historical reasoning when they argue, respectively, that Pinochet and Mussolini were satisfactory alternatives in their day.

Theocracy vs. Democracy... Medievalism vs. Modernity? Ron worries whether Islamists can ever govern democratically because of the belief of "No one but Allah." "The Middle East is full of people," says Ron, "who both have cell phones yet think that women can be stoned to death for adultery." After the Arab Spring, what happens in Egypt won't stay in Egypt as we speculate where Morsi will end up. "Perhaps in the transit area of the Moscow airport with Snowden," Bob suggests.

Recall how Obama was relentlessly chided for, in the words of an anonymous aide's quote in the New Yorker, "leading from behind" in Libya. Which turned out relatively well, the Benghazi attack notwithstanding. Yet a similar "hidden hand" strategy in the tinderbox of Egypt has been lauded by some of the same critics.

On Abortion Wars. 40 years later, Roe v. Wade obviously hasn't ended the battles over Choice. Is it shrewd or stupid for so many GOP-run states (Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio, ND, NC) to be enacting laws that restrict abortions to first 20 weeks due to "fetal pain" and seek to shutter clinics?

Bob laments that the GOP base had prodded its leaders to be so extreme on immigration, guns and abortion. The panelists agree that proponents are hoping that -- despite John Roberts Jr.'s confirmation testimony that Roe is "settled law" -- Justice Kennedy and this Court will be as activist on choice as it was on campaign finance reform and reverse the 1973 decision. Also, while most Republican incumbents serve in red districts by definition, this crusade could backfire on the GOP as they try to keep and retain control, respectively, of the House and Senate.

*Quick Takes: Perry, Palin, L. Cheney, H. Clinton. "Resolved, having rejected a fourth run for governor, Perry still looks presidential but can't become president because most voters think he's an idiot." Reagan and Shrum concur but add that if polls show he has a possibility of winning the nomination, he might take the shot...and prepare for debates differently this time.

No one takes the Palin-for-Senate talk (by her) seriously since either a) she can't win or b) she won't run when she realizes that a term is six looong years away from the buckraking circuit.

Liz Cheney has the name, skills and ambition to run for U. S. Senate from her Dad's Wyoming...only problem being that that seat is now held by a popular Republican conservative, the nearly 70 year-old Mike Enzi. Our guess: 500 fish-fries later, he stays and she runs because of her sense of destiny.

Conservatives are starting to argue that Hillary at 69 will be too old to be president. That right, Mr. Reagan? He laughs at that argument since Republicans' favorite president -- Reagan I -- indeed was 69 at his Inauguration. Speaking of laughing, when we listen to the audio of Limbaugh saying the public won't want to "watch a woman getting older every day before their eyes," the Host says indiscreetly, "each of us is watching that every day at home." To which Shrum comments: "Not Rush!"

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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