Idol #1: Rick Perry is no longer a viable candidate for the Republican nomination. He made a fool of himself in the most recent debate, struggling to remember even his canned threat against the Department of Energy. Afterward, Perry himself remarked that "It's a good a thing I was wearing my boots, because I really stepped in it." The guy is clearly not ready for prime time.
Since Perry is sitting on a big old pot of money, it is unlikely that he will slink away in defeat. It is likely that he will stay in the race, for all the usual ego-and-2016 reasons. If you ask Herman Cain, Perry has been trying to destroy him out of sheer meanness, and such a thing is not impossible. The real question is whether Perry's schadenfreude will extend to the destruction, attempted or complete, of Mitt Romney.
Idol #2: Joe Paterno. Needless to say, this is far more important than the mere presidency of the United States -- it's football. Paterno, who is 84 and probably should have retired years ago, was fired by Penn State for failing to take sufficient action when one of his assistant coaches was discovered raping a 10-year-old boy in the locker room.
The story is appalling on every possible level. Over 15 years, assistant coach Jerry Sandusky serially molested young boys, often using the Penn State athletic facilities to do so. He was observed doing this on several occasions, and by several people.
And let's be clear, this isn't a "sex scandal" in the same way that Bill Clinton's in-office adultery or Newt Gingrich's serial infidelity are. This goes well beyond even Herman Cain's alleged groping of an employee. Sandusky is accused of at least two counts of rape, a crime of violence -- in his case, against children. And to be sure, there is an element of scapegoating here; Paterno is only one of the many links in a chain or irresponsibility. After all, he reported the allegation to the administration, thereby doing the bare minimum to salve his conscience.
But as one of our friends, himself a professional athlete, observed this morning, Paterno -- a living legend so legendary that even Fr. A. has heard of him -- was in many ways superior to the administration at Penn State. For years, he has run his program like a medieval prince. If he had wanted Sandusky gone, the guy would have been gone in a heartbeat; if he had said a word, Sandusky would have been in prison. So why didn't he?
The Paterno case begs comparison to the scandals within the Roman Catholic Church. Paterno does indeed sound like one of those bishops who took little or no action against the reported abusers on their team. Paterno is also one of those sports figures who has often pontificated on "values." If anything, though, a coach of Paterno's stature has more power than the average bishop.