I got the news over toothpaste. "You know Mitch Daniels has decided not to run," my husband (a/k/a teacherken) announced this morning as I brushed my teeth--in a tone suggesting he knew the news would please me. "His wife decided she just didn't want to undergo the scrutiny."
Please me? Of course it did. You, too, I bet. Why wouldn't those of us on the Left be pleased that a candidate likely to appeal to independents wasn't going to be running for president after all? "Ha!" I gloated. "Thank goodness for Cheri Daniels."
It took me awhile to recognize why that sentiment was morally repugnant.
After all, had Daniels decided to run, he would have joined the company of Newt Gingrich--a man whose well known emotional cruelty to two wives isn't even a bar to running for president: just a strategic problem to be gamed. Yet Daniels won't be joining him: not because he was even crueler to one wife, let alone two--but because he wasn't; because he chose to resolve his wife's abandonment and remorse by forgiving her and remarrying her.
Don't get me wrong--as a good Democrat, I'm still pleased that the G.O.P. presidential field is almost thinned out of plausibility.
I just wish our politics were generous enough, and humane enough, not to punish a man for doing right by his wife when so many others have done wrong.
What Mitch Daniels has taught us today is this: The biggest prize of all is in reach of a man who repeatedly subjects the women closest to him to intimate betrayal. And it's out of reach of another man because he once did the right thing, the morally courageous thing, to the woman closest to him--and did the right thing again in sparing her the scrutiny she dreaded and they both knew she'd receive if he ran for president.
That scrutiny, that punishment, that prohibitive pain, would have been ours to bestow--all of ours, from all of us, Democrat or Republican, liberal/progressive or conservative or independent, involved in American politics. Would we have inflicted it? Of course.
That immorality is ours.