America loves many things, many things indeed. But there's little America loves more than a good old-fashioned sex scandal. Underneath the puritanical facade this nation loves to hide behind, America's a dirty, dirty place. Of course, we can't look at a natural aspect of humanity to be understood and embraced - What do you mean it isn't a matter of one right way and many wrong ways!? - that'd be downright unamerican, after all! Don't you know the gays and terrorists are in league with the Mexicans trying to take down Taco Bell!?
In 1998, an epic series of sex scandals no one has yet to match - let alone surpass - erupted around president Bill Clinton. Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, and more came out in alleging sexual misconduct from the president - Monica Lewinsky being the most famous of the lot - and in many cases getting admissions of wrongdoing. The Republicans had a field day. We'd never do something like that, clearly the left-wing is immoral! The ever-sleazy Republican lawyer, Kenneth Starr, was appointed to the Office of Independent Counsel, in which he made a career of trying to take Clinton down, ultimately publishing the Starr Report following the Lewinsky scandal, the findings of which led the House of Representatives to impeach Clinton on the grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice. Despite all this and the media circus around Clinton's promiscuity, the American people largely continued to support him. He'd still been a good president, after all.
In 2001, Democratic representative Gary Condit became caught up in his own scandal, in which an intern working for him - Chandra Levy - vanished after they'd had an affair, eventually turning up dead a year later. (Condit was spared further investigative focus in the wake of the September 11th attacks, despite efforts to avoid discussing the subject and exhibiting suspicious behavior - not unlike he was attempting to cover his tracks. To this day, the case of Levy's death remains unsolved, and one has to wonder if there will ever be any sort of justice.) His political career ended in 2003 following a failed bid for reelection, the public not having forgotten his actions nor his hypocrisy, having claimed to be a "pro-family" politician (As is always a popular,
though relatively meaningless label to apply to one's self.), and then cheating on his wife with a woman younger than his own daughter.
Of course, sex scandals are hardly something faced by Democrats alone. On the contrary, we've seen just as much hypocrisy on the right. I couldn't possibly be gay! Look at me ranting about how much I hate the gays and voting against any legislation giving them rights! Are these the actions of anything but the straightest of individuals!? I submit that they are not! What do you mean I've been caught!? In 2007, Republican senator Larry Craig was caught in a sex sting at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, soliciting gay sex in a men's bathroom. Classy. His response to the arrest? Pretty much what you'd expect - utter denial of homosexuality, and claims that he simply "made a mistake." He went on to resign, then in an act of ultimate respectability, decided to make himself look even sadder by withdrawing his guilty plea and deciding to remain in office, rather than simply quietly remove himself from office after losing voters' confidence and disgracing himself in the public eye. Late in 2007, eight gay men came forward to the local paper, including an escort who'd been central to loudly homophobic evangelical preacher Ted Haggard, famous for his appearance in the creepy documentary Jesus Camp, back in 2006.
In 2004, Jessica Cutler - a D.C. intern - kept an online blog about her life in Washington, notably popular for her writing on her sex life. Apparently there wasn't exactly a shortage of men there willing to pay her for sex. The only individual who came forward as one of her lovers (Or "fuckers," if you want to be more accurate in word choice.) was Robert Steinbuch, who worked in the IRS and had, ironically, taught seminars on ethics. He's been rather lawsuit-happy since Cutler's fifteen minutes of fame, trying to both take her down and silence what reminders he can of the scandal. Even the "blogosphere" has helped create Washington sex scandals.
In 2006, Republican representative Mark Foley was embroiled in his own scandal around emails and instant messages that revealed his interest in pursuing teenage boys. Can you feel the family values? In the process of the scandal's investigation, fellow Republican representative Jim Kolbe was also outed for inappropriate conduct with teenage congressional pages. Embarrassing emails and conversations came out, and how did Foley react? It was rehab time. Apparently that classically retarded male fantasy about alcohol making women prone to homosexual activity is true of Republican politicians as well! And in the end, Foley was outed as having been a closeted gay man for a long time, known for the usual predictable reaction of revolt to the idea. Foley ultimately resigned in disgrace.
In 2004, Democratic New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey came out after a scandal revolving around the unusually close relationship he had with his unqualified homeland security advisor, Golan Cipel, and resigned shortly afterwards. His name has recently popped up in the media again, in light of his comments on the most recent political sex scandal - which I'll be getting to in a bit - in a former aide of McGreevey's alleging having had three-ways with McGreevey and his wife on multiple occasions. As of far, only McGreevey's ex-wife Dina Matos has denied these allegations. Politics! Where up is down, gay is straight, and everyone's sticking their junk everywhere else!
In spring 2007, the D.C. Madam scandal erupted around Deborah Jeane Palfrey's prostitution ring, of which several politicians were revealed to be patrons. This lead to the resignation of Randall L. Tobias, ambassador and Bush's former AIDS czar. (A funny combination of words, no matter how you look at it.) Republican senator David Vitter also confessed to being among Palfrey's customers, but remained in office despite his veritable blacklisting by the party.
At last getting to the most recent of these scandals - the obvious prompt of this entry - just last week, Democratic New York governor Eliot Spitzer's political career was effectively ended by his own prostitution scandal. He made a name for himself as a politician hard on crime, from his career as New York attorney general up through his year as governor. He was progressive, and had a lot of good ideas that he was moving forward with. Then he was caught in one of the very acts he'd condemned - patronizing a high-class prostitute. What started as an IRS investigation of some suspicious transactions ended with his outing as a hypocrite. Disgraced, having worked with human rights groups to bust prostitution rings before, Spitzer resigned from office effective as of this past monday, St. Patrick's Day. The human rights groups he'd worked with and some women's rights groups came away with a feeling of betrayal. While many on Wall Street were pleased with the outcome, being that he wasn't exactly well-liked there - none too surprisingly, given the shadiness of that line of work at times.
The prostitute at the center of this scandal, Ashley Alexandra Dupré, has had a less than glorious fifteen minutes of fame over the course of the scandal's heavy media coverage these past ten days. She's tried to make herself sympathetic, telling a story of past difficulties at home that seems fairly questionable. Despite claiming not to do drugs, it's been alleged that she's done quite a bit of coke. And that she'd even slept with Charlie Sheen. (And that's a pretty low blow for any prostitute.) Naturally, since her personal life exploded all over the internet and media - complete with plenty of provocative pictures - multiple media outlets - Hustler, Penthouse, Vivid - have sought to get her to pose nude for them. Then to throw a little more acid on her face, Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild (Everybody's favorite outlet for exploited inebriated college girls, headed by Johnny Douchebag himself. Hopefully we can look forward to him spending quite a few more years in jail over those tax evasion charges he's facing yet.) propositioned her, then withdrew his proposition after finding he'd already recorded her on her 18th birthday. (As he does take pride in his company's efforts to prey on girls on their 18th birthdays in particular - there's a big market for almost-pedophilia content, after all. And not a hint of remorse for his scumbaggery in interviews and cover stories. He definitely seems like some sort of sociopath. And he seems to have learned nothing from nearly a year in prison.) I would imagine that's one of the most painful slaps in the face a young woman these days could receive - especially after making the mistake of going anywhere near the Girls Gone Wild people. In and of all that, it's hard not to have at least a modicum of sympathy for Dupré, even if she brought most of this on herself. And even if her music is unintentionally comically terrible. She's not much younger than me, and with the internet, no matter how much time passes, this scandal will never go away for her. She will always be "that whore Spitzer was plowing." (Even if the average guy online probably wouldn't pass on an opportunity to sleep with her either. Given her background here, I'd pass, personally. But then, I've never been into the whole macho sex focus I'm supposed to, as a guy in his early twenties. I'm one of those good conversation and unrequited love doofuses.) The bulk of my sympathies lie with Spitzer's wife and kids. I can only imagine what they're going through right now. As for Spitzer himself, I agreed with a good bit of his political track record, but in displaying the hypocrisy he has here, my sympathy for him is very limited.
Soon after Lt. Gov. David Paterson was sworn in as Spitzer's replacement - setting milestones as New York's first black governor and the nation's first legally blind person to hold office for the longer term now - it came out that he too had had an affair in the past. New Yorkers just can't win.
Ultimately, obviously, "morals" when it comes to sex and marital fidelity are not an issue either party can proudly claim to represent. (As much as the Republicans would like to - but then, they like to tell themselves that they represent a lot of things, at least, when going after the gullible voters.) It's hard to say what it is exactly that leads to this sort of behavior in the individuals elected to represent us. Maybe it's the corrupting force of power, as people in political office - especially higher up - are used to enjoying getting whatever they want, and as history has shown, human nature is that power rarely goes unabused. It could very well be something more innately psychologically rooted as well - it certainly takes a certain something in individuals to stand up before people and tell them that they deserve to represent you, whether as president, governor, or even simply as the representative for their local voting district. In some cases, it could potentially be something else entirely. But however you look at it, after a certain point, a line is crossed where their thoughts simply become: "Me me me! This is awesome, sex for me! I love this job!" (And who amongst us hasn't had that exact thought? Well, aside from myself.) This sort of behavior is observable in politicians, looking all the way back to our founding fathers, and will no doubt continue as long as America exists as a country. Every so often, the media will have something to get really excited about while the people either get outraged or roll their eyes. American political culture can be - and certainly is, more often than not - an ugly thing. And when there's real, serious political issues worth broaching - as there certainly are these days - what better to distract us from these matters than a good old sex scandal? What do you mean politicians have physical needs too!?