THE BLOG
07/25/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tricky Dicks

Too bad Richard Nixon didn't have a mistress in Argentina, but he would have had to invade it first. In fact, anything outside his liquor cabinet was rightly thought of as a demilitarized zone.

Yet, while we're bombarded by the mainstream broadcast media, and the blogosphere, with chatter about the marital infidelity of a South Carolina governor, we hear virtually nothing about more than 150 hours of recently released tapes, recorded secretly in the Oval Office, in the days immediately after the landmark Supreme Court ruling in favor of Roe v. Wade in which the former president talks about the ruling: "There are times when abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or rape," Nixon said.

Though it is widely thought that Nixon opposed abortion, devout racism overpowered his disdain for the procedure.

And, while we were treated to a disgraced, and penitent, Governor Sanford, discussed how many times he met his lover in Argentina, how long they knew each other, ad nauseum, we were too busy to pay attention to even one of the 30,000 pages of documents that were also released today like a tidbit from a telephone call between then Republican Party National Committee chair, George H.W. Bush, and Richard Nixon, in which Mr. Nixon extolled the virtue of having female candidates in his party.

Nixon is heard to tell Bush: "I noticed a couple of very attractive women, both of them Republicans, in the legislature. I want you to be sure to emphasize to our people, God, let's look for some ... Understand, I don't do it because I'm for women, but I'm doing it because I think maybe a woman might win someplace where a man might not."

We'd rather read e-mails from the governor of South Carolina than listen to a former president tell an evangelical minister, Billy Graham, "deep down in this country, there is a lot of anti-Semitism... It may be they have a death wish. You know that's been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries." Arguably, the former president might think the Holocaust is evidence of that "death wish."

Of course, there is no escaping the audacious hypocrisy of a political figure like Sanford who, ten years ago, worked sedulously for the impeachment of another president, Bill Clinton, for compromising public trust with his marital infidelity, but the larger question is one of priorities.

Images of casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and reminders of high octane nuclear threats from N. Korea don't boost television ratings as much as the face of a fallen political figure. The release of dozens of hours of tapes that prove a fallen, and morally corrupt, president, Richard Nixon, was not only a virulent racist and anti-Semite, but also a sexist, doesn't produce half the advertising revenue as one salacious e-mail to Sanford's Argentine mistress.

In this country founded by Puritans, it looks to me like we're focusing on the wrong Dick.

Which is the greater outrage -- another outed Republican "family values" sinner, which has become a cliche, or indisputable, documented proof that we let a man who disgraced the presidency resign rather than be impeached ? An outrage that continues when we consider that another president, who did to the Constitution what Nixon did to the basement of the Watergate Hotel, just resigned with dignity, and at taxpayer expense.

It's about priorities, and those who allow themselves to be entertained by disgrace, and distracted by a faux sense of vindication, merely perpetuate the weaponry of mass distraction in the name of media corporate profit.