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Mark Sanford, John Ensign, and perhaps Chip Pickering: Summer 2009 may go down as the season of Republican sex scandals. But if you look at the long history of political sex scandals, I think Democrats win both in quantity and (low) quality.
"The Kennedys, Clinton, Spitzer. For sheer volume and creativity, no group of Republicans can out perform them, so to speak," says one Republican strategist.
I am not going to defend the Summer Sex Scandals 2009 men. But, the GOP is not even nipping at the heels of Democrats when it comes to such matters.
Consider this generation of cheaters: Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Jim McGreevey, Gary Condit, or before them, Gary Hart and even Franklin Roosevelt. As one former Bush administration official says, "Republicans had a lot of catching up to do."
Of all political sex scandals, Bill Clinton and his affair with an intern in the Oval Office had a huge influence on values. A whole generation of teenagers were taught by their president that oral sex is OK, even if intercourse is not. "No Republican ever had that kind of sexual impact," said the GOP strategist
Whatever your political persuasion, it's very disappointing and embarrassing when we have another elected official caught with his pants down. As a Republican, every time these stories broke over the summer, my heart broke a little because I became more disillusioned. Specifically, the men of Summer Sex Scandals 2009 are guys I thought were the real deal – i.e., honest, faithful and decent.
Having worked in the Majority Whip's office when Republicans controlled Congress, I interacted with members often and never got the sense that they were sleazy. Single women who work on the Hill – especially if you work on the floor -- know the members of Congress who are cheaters and womanizers. We would avoid them and protect each other from their lecherous advances.
Those experiences, however, didn't disillusion me about politicians in general because the proportion of married members of Congress who hit on single women seemed to be the about the same as in every workplace. Granted, you'd like to have your elected officials held to a higher standard, but men are men, and there will always be a certain percentage who are cheaters, no matter how high their position.
So, my first reaction when I heard of these allegations was denial. The claims against Chip Pickering, in particular, shocked me. His estranged wife alleges in a lawsuit that the former congressman from Mississippi had an affair. Almost every time we had late night votes, his pretty and kind wife would come to our office with their adorable five boys so they could have a family dinner together when Dad worked late. I was envious of their seemingly perfect family and marriage.
Still, the worst sex scandals, in my view, involved Democrats. But, that said, all sex scandals taint our country and negatively affect our culture, so we lose every time another allegation surfaces.
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