No, all public discussion of important issues shouldn't be on this level, but some, it seems to me, should -- and always has been. From Mark Twain to Chevy Chase to Chris Rock, not everyone will find humor about public figures to be funny. That does not, however, make it a gay-baiting whisper campaign.
UPDATE: Plaidgate is noticed by Instapundit ... and The Washington Post. I guess it's a loud plaid.
AND: Let me say, in case you're only reading this post, that I didn't write that the NYT is trying to tell us they believe Roberts is gay, only that they knew what they were doing when they called attention to "Peppermint Patty" and lined up the pictures they way they did. I think they found it amusing, just as newspaper editors found it amusing to frame photographs of John Ashcroft with that bare-breasted statue hovering over him. The NYT layout of photographs on any page is very well-thought-out -- and beautifully done, one of the best reasons to subscribe to the paper version, as I do. Most people reading my comment are just looking at the on-line slideshow. I was describing the way the top of a two-page spread looked. I stand by my opinion that they deliberately tried to make him look gay. Obviously, they also have total deniability, so you don't have to point that out to me again.