When I read the other day that lapsed golfer Tiger Woods' nationwide approval rating had fallen from 87 percent to 33 percent, the only conclusion I could draw was that he had been out campaigning for the Democrats' health care plan. According to an interesting piece on him in the current issue of Vanity Fair, the superb golfer now has a disapproval rating of 57 percent. Is this the consequence of his getting too close to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the glacial-faced Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi? No, apparently it is the consequence not of his associating with politicians, but of his living like one. His sex life has been exposed, and it is comparable to that of a particularly virulent germ.
If the reporter for Vanity Fair is accurate, Mr. Woods' sex life is hyperactive, to say nothing of unhygienic. Yet his disastrous collapse in the polls still perplexes me. If he were president of the United States and being impeached for his wantonness, his polling numbers would soar. His critics would be assailed with that popular line from the 1990s, "It's only sex." Why, I ask, is a golfer being abominated for promiscuity? He tried to keep his sex life private. He did not flaunt his many gallantries. It is not as if he has cheated on his golf game, and if he has, so does Bill Clinton. Whole books have been written about the former president's cheating on the golf course. Some Americans find it amusing. Others give Bill a good-natured pass.
Supposedly, the disapproval Mr. Woods is suffering is because he and his handlers carefully choreographed a squeaky-clean image for him. Yet most politicians live carefully choreographed lives. Worse, they invite the press to cover their lives, while keeping the unsavory stuff out of sight. Mr. Woods did not invite the press into his private life. He was a very private person. Unlike the politicians who invite the press into their homes while keeping the cuties out of sight, Mr. Woods never practiced such deception. The press might at least show him the respect they once showed 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards, who played reporters for fools.
With the revelations about Mr. Woods' scortatory pursuits, millions of dollars of corporate endorsements have been withdrawn. The claim is that his publicists lied about Mr. Woods' wholesomeness. Well, what is surprising about that? Publicists are supposed to lie about their clients. They exaggerate their clients' virtues and hide their defects. In fact, I would argue that the word publicist is a euphemism for "liar." Maybe Mr. Woods' critics should turn their wrath on his publicists and let him get on with playing golf. It was his golf game that attracted the millions of people to follow him, not his sex life - though that might change.
One of the complaints swirling around Mr. Woods is that his handlers carefully manipulated his press conferences. In them he would, according to an indignant golf correspondent, "talk forever and say nothing." This brings me to a matter that has always mystified me about press conferences held for sports stars. The athletes almost never have anything interesting to say. Mr. Woods is being criticized for ornamenting his press conferences with such vacuities as, "I had a pretty good day." Apparently, the assembled reporters think he had an obligation to add, "and I am going to have a pretty good night. I have two bimbos waiting in the limousine. They're in the trunk with the champagne."
One thing has caught my eye in all the angry coverage of this fallen golfer. He was a sports prodigy from a very early age. Reportedly, at the age of 2 he appeared on "The Mike Douglas Show," where he demonstrated his "perfect swing" - the reference is to a golf swing, I am sure. Apparently, he has been in the limelight ever since. He has won about every tournament an athlete in his sport could win, often more than once. Then he retires behind a facade. His only real interest has been golf.
I have known two child prodigies from different sports, one a very popular sport, the other less so. For years, they dominated the opposition. Both men had one thing in common: They were born blanks. There was nothing to them aside from their athletic achievement. Perhaps Mr. Woods' critics among his erstwhile fans and among the sportswriters would not be so angry if they had recognized Tiger Woods' emptiness. Still, they have only themselves to blame for investing in a superlative golfer qualities that he never had. Yet give him this much credit: He never made any claims to nobility. The errant politician always does - and his loyal followers fall for his claims every time. Even now there are Clinton loyalists out there insisting that Bill is a noble man. Some might even believe he is a virgin.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.