Yet some Gates do have legs—see Bitter-gate, Wright-gate, NAFTA-gate, etc. And most of those have deserved their scandalous classification not just ipso facto, but because they force us into discussions of topics—race, gender, class, what it really means to be “patriotic”—that are in need of frank discussion. Wright-gate, after all, isn’t really about Jeremiah Wright; it is about the relationship of patriotism to dissent, the line between race and religion. Arugula-gate isn’t really about spicy greens; it is about elitism, and the complex (and often hypocritical) ideas and assumptions wrapped up in that word. Dramatizing our scandals isn’t always a mere gambit for ears and eyeballs; sometimes the shorthand of scandal provides a helpful vehicle for the discussion of otherwise awkward topics. In that sense, our teapot-tempests can be blessings in the guise of melodrama. Not all Gates are created equal.

As we move into the general election, here’s hoping that our Gate-ed community gets a little less crowded, and that we find more important things to get all worked up about. Toward that end, in the coming days will publish a series called The Turning Point, which will spotlight fertile and important terrain for the press to plow in the months leading up to November. From Supreme Court appointees to immigration to energy, there are substantial differences between the policies John McCain supports and those supported by Barack Obama, and voters need the press to parse and explain those differences and what they mean for the nation and the world. After a Democratic primary between two candidates whose policy positions differed very little—leaving the press to manufacture drama and run with it—it’s time to tuck in.

But before moving on to the work at hand, and inspired by New York magazine’s Approval Matrix, we give you our 2008 Primary Season’s Gate-rix: your one-stop guide to the Scandals That Were—and the Scandals That Shouldn’t Have Been—during the primary phase of the presidential election. Enjoy.

[click here for a larger version]

Turning Point:

Part One: Scandal! Oh, Nevermind

Part Two:Let’s get serious

Part Three:The Supreme Court

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.