Friday, June 26, 2009

Ticker Column 5: Sexual Hypocrisy

For politicians, sexual peccadilloes cross party lines. We had John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, and Jim McGreevey on the D side (and of course Bill Clinton – even St. Jimmy Carter "lusted in his heart," which may be his only working organ – certainly his brain is vestigial). On the GOP side we have most recently had Mark Sanford, and also Larry Craig, Newt Gingrich, David Vitter, and locally John Ensign and the dimwit governor of Nevada, Jim Gibbons.

So what's the difference? Well for me it's that the Republicans who can't keep it in their pants seem to be so bizarre about it and to do such an awful job of going public with it. Take Ensign – this guy has been as sanctimonious as an Irish priest about "family values," while he's having an affair with a campaign staffer and employing (and buying off) her family. Ditto Gingrich. Gibbons, faced with hundreds of text messages to his paramour, expects the public to buy that nothing was going on. The prize, of course, goes to Craig (he of the "wide stance") voting piously against any legislation with a whiff of treating GLBT folks as human while cruising men's rooms. So what is it all about?

I'm not one to take a moral stance on this – my history is such that a road to Damascus conversion this late in life would be disingenuous. What people, including politicians, do is their private business. But there are a couple of things I don't think it's too much to ask of people who would style themselves leaders of society. First, if you screw up (pun intended), have the decency to come clean responsibly. Don't drag your wife and family in front of the cameras to pretend they're forgiving and supporting you. Don't insult the public's intelligence with idiotic denials like the guy caught in flagrante delicto by his wife who says "are you going to believe me or those lying eyes of yours?" Finally, be consistent – if you're gay, whether you come out is up to you, but don't persecute others in the GLBT community by speaking against them and voting against their rights. If you're straight, don't preach fidelity and then go to your mistress's bed. Really – is that too much to ask?

And finally, if you are going to engage in any of that hypocrisy, when you're exposed as the hypocrite you are, have the decency to resign and go away.

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