Rahm Emanuel, the former White House staffer, and the inspiration behind West Wing's Josh Lyman, has had a bad news week. Politicians on this side of the Atlantic will sympathise. Just a few months into his first term as Chicago mayor - a position he had to fight darn hard for - he's being accused of betraying his city's public school system.
The reason? This avowed Democrat, a guy who pledged to champion the cause of education, decided to send his kids to private school.
For the Examiner, it was a "snub" and an insult to the Chicago school system, most other papers emphasised just how private and prestigious the school he'd chosen was. A blogger for NBC Chicago noted snarkily that Rahm was rich enough to go to Thailand, while the rest of his neighbourhood could barely afford Thai meals.
"Decisions he makes in that private life may have public ramifications," wrote Edward McClelland. "If the mayor doesn't send his kids to public school, he'll send a message that Chicago is not a city for the middle class, but a city for well-to-do families who can afford private school tuition."
Time and again, this issue flares up, for politicians in different countries and of all stripes. Tony Blair dealt with it over the selective Oratory school, Nick Clegg too. It even came up in an episode of spoof series The Thick of It.
How can a politician not practice what he preaches, shriek the critics, as if they can solve problems only when their children are put at a disadvantage.
Hypocrisy? Maybe? But too often it's beside the point.
In Emanuel's case, some of the rancour is because of his plans for public funding cutbacks and extensions to teaching hours. But much of the criticism has nothing to do with the subject at hand.
As always, it comes down to making political capital out of a politician's private life, seizing on every little detail or slip. Forget, for a second, what his spouse wanted, or where his kids wanted to go, or even what made practical sense and minimised security concerns. This is politics and, therefore, it's all about The Politician. In taking any suspect action at home, The Politician can destroy his credibility at work.
It's endlessly frustrating. One does not change the system, whether education or any other, by distracting from the issue, creating press scandals or pointing fingers. If Emanuel's education reforms succeed, it will be in spite of where his kids study, not because of it. If the phone-hacking investigation achieves anything, it will hardly matter whether David Cameron left the country for a day.
When it comes to the powerful we care only about the pixilated version - we're not interested in the big picture. The media eyes up "incriminating" personal facts like vultures circling their prey and devotes endless space to politicians' choices; the skiing trips they go on, whether they do the school run, what biscuits they like or how often they refurbish their offices.
As long as these tidbits are left as sidebars to satisfy our curiosity, it's not a problem. It's when they becomes the story that we need to stop. Because every time we complain about something that doesn't matter, something that does gets spiked. And as a media we risk looking like another a pie-carrying fool who has missed the point.
Follow Jennifer Lipman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jenlipman