- A conservative Florida congressman sends salacious emails to an underage congressional page.
- An Idaho U.S. Senator who stakes his popularity on “family values” gets caught making homosexual advances in a public restroom in a Minneapolis airport and sticks out the rest of his term, hoping the public will just let it go. It doesn’t.
- A married New York state governor gets nailed for using high priced hookers and resigns in disgrace. And becomes a TV pundit.
- Another married senator from Louisiana big on “values” seems to have a predilection for pay-for-sex dalliances, admits to them publicly and promptly returns to the Senate chamber and a standing ovations from his party colleagues.
- A South Carolina governor big on God, gays, and guns hightails it to Argentina to do the nasty with a girlfriend and has the sheet pulled off his extracurricular activities – which have nothing to do with hiking trails.
- Another Carolinian, this one a presidential candidate, carries on with a woman not his wife actually fathers a child with her and thinks he can hide this “unpleasantness” indefinitely but nonetheless is found out ten years later, and now stands accused of misuse of campaign money.
- A Nevada senator elected on “values” gets caught boinking a staffer whose husband is also on his payroll and even arranges a payoff for them to keep quiet - with the help of another Senate colleague. (This one may wind up in criminal court, too.)
- A multi-millionaire, California movie muscleman-turned-governor marries into one of the most iconic political families in America and winds up exposed for leading a double life as the father of a child born - of his maid! “Dad” heads to Hollywood and the wife for Hyannisport.
- A Georgia ex-Speaker of the House who builds a business on conservative punditry (read: family values) dumps Wife No. 1 (who happened to be his high school math teacher) who gets cancer, for girlfriend / Wife No. 2 and, while leading the charge for impeach Bill Clinton for bounding, carries on with some young thing 23 years his junior, who eventually becomes Wife No. 3.
- A New York state congressman noted for his liberalism, in an incredibly immature and stupid act, “tweets” pictures of his bulging briefs and buff upper body to someone he doesn’t even know. (Stay tuned on this one. There's surely more to come!)
On and on. My guess is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. My further guess is that the old rules don’t apply anymore. What with an explosion in the ways to get into the private lives of notorious people (and who more notorious than the people who are elected to be our leaders?) these people are, like the Congress itself on almost everything, just a little late in understanding that they can’t permanently hide their private lives from the public anymore.
There’s another notion at play here, too. It’s that when you get to be someone really, really, important - especially if you’re a pol - you begin to think you can control your public image. That’s just insane. It’s one thing when my next door neighbor suddenly drags a U-Haul trailer to his house to fill up with his fishing rods and hand tools and drives away forever because he strayed. He won’t even make Page 3 of the local blatt; but if you’re in the public eye…..tread softly, dude, because you’re being watched! The rules of the Sexual Revolution don’t apply to you because you made a promise to be a model citizen. And when you actually legislate behavior or social rules and then violate them, well, don’t expect the voters to give you a pass. (Except if your constituency is the state of Louisiana!)
In the old days, the press protected a pol from that sort of thing out of respect for the office a politician held. We’ll probably never know the extent of the carryings on of some of our political office holders of yore. Now and then we get glimmerings: JFK, of course; FDR’s Lucy Mercer; Ike’s Kay Summersby; Wilbur Mills his "Argentine Firecracker" or even Harding’s reputed wanderings which some have speculated wound up with him being poisoned to death by his wife in a San Francisco hotel room.
Nowadays, for every old school scribe who protects a politician, there are dozens of Andrew Breitbarts or Fox News Networks waiting for the next screwup. With oodles of dollars of internet and cable TV advertising staked on readership “hits” and viewership, scandalizing has become a big business unto itself, for there's nothing more juicy, it appears, than watching the powerful teeter and then fall. In 21st century America it's a bloodsport.
And lately, there seems to be no dearth of scandalous, bottom feeding reportage diverting the public from a little more serious issues. Why bother with a picture of Lloyd Blankfein endorsing his latest Goldman Sachs bonus check for a couple of billion bucks made off the back of some schlemiel who lost his job bolting fenders on to a new Pontiac when we can look at Anthony Weiner's junk-filled BVD's?