Voyeurism Is Harmful to Our Health

Charlotte Hays | Posted on 03/02/10

We didn’t need to know the gory details of President Obama’s first physical as president.

Even the president of the United States is entitled to some privacy. So, even though I’m big on the public’s right to know, I’m glad somebody finally said it: We didn’t need to know the gory details of President Obama’s first physical as president. Poor guy is apparently still struggling with nicotine. But did I really need to know that? Is it any of my business? Does it constitute a clear and present danger to the republic? Can we really blame him? The conservative columnist Mona Charen has written: “Surely it’s one part voyeurism. They dress it up as a public service, but it’s gossip all the same.” It’s also part of treating public officials, if they are glamorous, as more a part of a celebrity culture than is healthy for a democracy. Can you imagine how George Washington, with his wooden teeth, would fare in today’s political culture? Some time ago Robert Dallek wrote a biography of John F. Kennedy that put heavy emphasis on Kennedy’s now well-known, but then not known to the public, health problems. The implication was that we need to know more about the intimate health details of our presidents. I disagree. Would a Kennedy voter really have felt that the more hale and hearty Richard Nixon should have won because of Kennedy’s physical frailty behind the image of vigor? We do better to focus on the character and philosophy of our leaders than on their intimate health details. I am a former gossip columnist, Gentle Reader, and when I say TMI, it really is TMI.

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