Time is a great legalizer, even in the field of morals.
--H. L. Mencken,
"A Book of Prefaces"
A recent story suggested that presidential hopefuls are uneasy about the prospect of questions on adultery. Their discomfort comes from uncertainty as to where that line of inquiry will end.
Jimmy Carter confessed that he lusted in his heart. Imagine what would have happened had he been asked to disclose the object of his secret lust and refused to do so. Reporters would have spent weeks searching for the answer.
If questions about adultery and secret lust become an accepted part of campaigns, reporters will not be content if candidates say they have neither committed adultery nor secretly lusted.
Candidates will be asked about movies they rent from video shops. If they rent only PG movies, motel records will be checked for evidence that when away from hometown scrutiny the candidates watch the X-rated in-house movies.
Although the results of such investigations might produce good viewing (especially if the evening news shows run selected portions of the movies candidates are discovered to have watched when traveling) there is an alternative. That is because the Pentagon has come up with a way of getting the information sought by reporters without the fuss. This is how the Pentagon does it:
At the time of routine review of security clearances of Pentagon employees and contractors, individuals being reviewed must disclose whether they have engaged in certain sexual practices including sodomy, spouse swapping, sex orgies or sexual harassment. Adultery must also be reported (assuming it is not covered by the above) if it is "recent, frequent and likely to continue and has an adverse effect on good order or discipline in the work place. . . ." Disclosure of "deviant or perverted sexual behavior that may indicate a mental or personality disorder" is also required to be disclosed. Exceptions are made for homosexuals who do not hide their orientation (because they are not believed to be susceptible to blackmail) and for misconduct that occurred on an isolated basis during or preceding adolescence.
The regulations do not stop at self-disclosure. Supervisors and co-workers must also report conduct that they believe might render the individual vulnerable to blackmail.
With the exception of the ACLU and whatever other random assortment of citizens may be concerned with civil liberties, the regulations should be well received. In addition, they can be adapted to the political system.
The questionnaire devised by the Defense Department (I assume it is a questionnaire) could be given to all candidates for public office. They could be required to complete it before qualifying for matching or any other funds. Although fascinating at all levels of the political process, as the recent Gary Hart episode demonstrates, the information disclosed would be of considerably more interest if it pertains to someone you know and admire rather than someone you have only seen on television. Use of the questionnaire could significantly alter the electoral process.
It would eliminate the need for any kind of investigative reporting in the area of sexual conduct. When publicly available questionnaires disclose all anyone could possibly want to know about another's sexual conduct, reporters would be able to devote their time to reporting candidates' positions on issues.
An even greater benefit to be derived from the questionnaire would be increased citizen participation in the political process that would almost certainly follow publication of the answers.
Given the number of political offices that exist in this country and the number of candidates that are running for those offices it is a sure bet that the kinds of conduct disclosed in the responses would titillate even regular readers of Playboy and Cosmopolitan. When hometown candidates start publicly disclosing their assorted peccadilloes there would be considerably more interest in the candidates than formerly. People who at one time neither knew nor cared where the polling booth could be found would turn out in droves to vote for the candidate of their choice.
Although many of the countries the Pentagon spends its time defending us against have close to 100% voter participation, it is not for the reasons I suggest. If my idea catches on, democracy may flourish in those countries and all because of a proposal that originated with the Pentagon. What an unexpected way for the Pentagon to achieve its goals.