A major shift in politics seems to be under way. Elected officials and candidates for office are more often being judged not by their accomplishments or lack of accomplishments but by their private lives.

Any problem in an official’s or a candidate’s private life is treated as fair game and cause for disqualification.

How different the country’s history might have been if the private lives of some of its leaders had caused their banishment from politics. Consider Thomas Jefferson’s supposed liaison with Sally Hemings; John Kennedy’s sexual escapades; Franklin Roosevelt’s dalliances with his secretary; and Bill Clinton’s fun with his intern, which he denied on national television only to admit later.

What if Dwight Eisenhower had been forced to resign just prior to the Normandy invasion because of his relationship with his driver and assistant?

Should such activities disqualify people from serving their country? Does anyone doubt that Gen. David Petraeus was an outstanding military leader and that his disqualification from office may be hurting the country? Might imperfections in personal lives be outweighed by political and administrative ability?

Television news today must fill every minute around the clock. The Internet never sleeps either, and often doesn’t check facts. But both delight in taking what used to be malicious gossip and using it to destroy careers.

— Journal Inquirer,

Manchester, Conn., April 11

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