Political sex scandals are nothing new. If anything, they have only degraded in their decorum over time and in this day and age of cell phone cameras and You Tube, we’re only going to get more glimpses into the gutter of Washington rather than less.
Does anyone remember Christine Keeler and the Profumo Affair? She was the attractive British call girl – or showgirl in her own words – from the other side of the tracks that met a powerful British Sec of State for War at late night poolside parties at Cliveden. Ultimately her multiple dalliances with British officials and Russian diplomats brought a Tory government to its knees.
Around that same time in the sixties, we had the women of President Kennedy and most notably the famous Marilyn Monroe birthday salutation. There was also a part-spy, part-socialite woman found dead on the cart path in Georgetown that came to the attention of the CIA because of possible ties to Kennedy. It seemed a time of mystical romanticism despite its immoral implications.
Fast forward to the modern American political sex scandals of today. There was Bill Clinton and a parade of less-than-desirable women – and Monica. Then we can quickly skip through the numerous stints of sexual deviance that have grabbed our headlines: Dick Morris’ toe sucking, Bob Livingston’s House Speakership uprooted by an affair, Newt Gingrich’s infidelity and multiple marriages, Rep. Dan Burton and his clown girlfriend, Gary Condit and Chandra Levy, the Capitol Hill staffer “Washingtonienne,” and the repulsive page scandal of Mark Foley.
(Gary Hart and his “Monkey Business” affair hardly falls under the category of “political sex scandal.” I put that one in the column of “pure political stupidity.”)
Now we have the DC Madam – Deborah Jeanne Palfrey who ran a high-dollar escort service. She apologized today for wrecking the career of a former top State Dept official Randall Tobias. Palfrey gave her list of clients to ABC News and the story has become the talk of the town. It will garner excessive media coverage and likely remain the subject of Washington whispers until it all comes out. And trust me, it will.
But unless I am wrong here, there won’t be any Camelot or Cliveden pomp and circumstance. Rather, it will simply be the sad story of many career ends at the hands of people who brought it upon themselves.
And while everyone loves a scandal, it really makes you wonder what it is that happens to people when they come to Washington
In Hollywood, the people are pretty, the behavior (albeit inappropriate) is almost expected and the fallout sells movies, books and CDs.
In Washington, it’s a bunch of unattractive, old white men and the fallout contributes to a damaging loss of confidence in our government.
I’m going to make a prediction here: none of her clients are going to amount to anything more than Hill staffers and mid level administration officials who have proven that they fall very short of being the kind of upstanding citizens that we so desperately need serving our country.
For example, Randall Tobias’ job at the State Dept was running the USAID Program that seeks to combat the global spread of AIDS and prostitution in third world countries. Not an atypical candidate for solicitation by a DC Madam, if you ask me!
But I would be a hypocrite if I were to say that I am not going to keep an eye on the story. Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe the DC Madam can make some of our vulnerable civil servants examine their own lives and find the high road.
Which begs an even larger question – and challenge. The question: Are scandals a creation of the media and we are as much to blame as the participants who carry out the acts themselves?
And the challenge: Can Washington go for one entire administration or election cycle scandal free?
I can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.