COMMENTS: Can Only the Loyal be Leaders?

For the second time this week, CBS' ten-part series Primary Questions qualified as Story of the Day. This time anchor Katie Couric asked all ten candidates whether they could "understand or appreciate" the point of view of voters who do "not feel comfortable supporting a candidate who has not remained faithful to his, or her, spouse." Couric's eight-minute montage of ten answers by top Presidential contenders occupied more airtime than the story that both ABC and CBS picked for their lead--a plan to ease airline traffic delays by limiting the number of flights at New York City's Kennedy Airport. NBC chose an electrical fire at the Executive Office Building next to the White House.

You have got to admire Couric's gall in asking such a touchy question. As Joe Biden listened to it he rolled his eyes to the ceiling and his first answer was: "Look! This is really dicey territory." When Hillary Rodham Clinton answered her eyes popped so wide we could see white all around her irises.

CBS News conducted an opinion poll of voters to find out how common the sentiment that Couric was worried about turns out to be. It found that a large majority (64% v 32%) does not agree that a Presidential candidate's marital infidelity should be a disqualification for the office. It also turned out that almost the same percentage of the candidates she interviewed as in the population at large, four out of the ten--Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, Mike Huckabee, John Edwards--held the minority position.

There were two who had no opinion on whether voters are right to see cheating as a bar to office--Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson both left it up to each individual to decide--and four who rejected the idea. John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama each pointed out that past Presidents have led the United States with integrity even though their marriages happened to be on shaky ground.

Rudolph Giuliani cited his religious views instead of history: "I have a more generous view of human beings and a more generous view of life. I think it comes from growing up as a Catholic. I mean we are all sinners. We are all struggling. We are all trying hard. We ask for forgiveness and then we try to improve ourselves again."


A reader comments by e-mail that life imitates art: "This is beyond Ali G."
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