Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rehab as Political Sanctuary

The announcement that Mark Foley had entered rehab for alcoholism was immediately decried in many quarters as a hapless attempt at spin. Certainly, it will never really work as spin; nothing can resurrect Foley's political career after this. But rehab has uses for a disgraced politician or celebrity, aside from any plea for "victim" status.

Thirty days of alcohol rehab means thirty days safe from the media.

Thirty days of alcohol rehab is thirty days of not having to answer any questions.

You can simply sulk in your house for a month, of course. But the reporters will be outside on the lawn. They will be calling your home phone, and doubtless your cell phone. You can refuse to answer questions, but that won't slow the requests, and the reporters will make your refusal to answer questions into a story. Your spokesman can say you are unavailable, but the reporters will demand an excuse and do their best to debunk it.

Rehab, at this moment in our history, is the perfect and unchallengeable excuse for solitude. You can check into a quiet inpatient facility (which no one can stake out for fear of insensitivity to the other patients), and be cut off from the world for thirty days without an excuse. In fact, violating even a disgraced celebrity's privacy in rehab would be taboo, where violating a celebrity's privacy at home is a condition of some people's employment.

Rehab is the closest America in 2006 comes to the notion of sanctuary. Even if Mark Foley weren't an alcoholic, the thirty days would be healthy for him.

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