Hating the sin, loving the sinful politician

Susan Reimer says we are all too willing to forgive male political and sports leaders for their sexual indiscretions

July 22, 2013|Susan Reimer

I hope that when I am discovered to be having a series of salacious affairs with paid escorts, I get a second chance to be a professional journalist.

I hope that when it is discovered that I have used performance-enhancing drugs to write this column, when I shoot somebody at a night club, when I run off to South America with my lover and lie about it, when I text sexy pictures of myself to strangers or when I get caught in a hotel room with a crack pipe, I can return to work after a decent interval of reflection.

I hope I can ask for forgiveness and return to the fold.

Just like former congressman Anthony Weiner and former governor Eliot Spitzer, who are doing well in the polls in primary races for New York City mayor and comptroller after having humiliated themselves (and their wives) with astonishing impudence.

Just like Mark Sanford, the philandering former South Carolina governor who was elected to Congress this spring, even after violating a court order and breaking into his ex-wife's home.

And like Marion Barry, who was asked, as the expert he is, to comment on the political resurrections of Mr. Weiner and Mr. Spitzer after their public humiliations. Mr. Barry was elected to his fourth term as mayor of Washington, D.C., two years after getting out of jail after having been videotaped smoking crack cocaine with a woman not his wife in a hotel room.

"I identify with the fallen, whoever they may be," said Mr. Barry, who seems to ride a roller coaster of sin and redemption, having just been sanctioned and fined for taking illegal gifts from city contractors.

I hope my bosses are as forgiving as voters are. Not to mention sports fans.

Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Ted Kennedy, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, Jesse Jackson. Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis, Dan Marino. I hope that when my love child comes to light or when my husband comes after me with a golf club, I am still in demand. I hope when I am accused of a felony, I still have a paycheck.

It looks like we will forgive you if you are projected to be the cornerstone of our defense for the next decade, if you are still scoring, still winning, still drawing fans and viewers. (The only reason Lance Armstrong isn't on this list is because he wasn't worth anything to anybody after he was banned from his sport.)

We may deplore scoundrels in other states, in other cities, but we will vote you back into office if you are our beloved scoundrel. We forgive and re-elect. We make excuses for our guy because he is our guy. It is just how we feel about Congress. It has an approval rating that is practically in the single digits, but we all love — and continue to re-elect — our own representatives.

When it comes to the scoundrels, it seems we like the redemption narrative even better than the "see how the mighty have fallen" narrative. And we like it even better when the sins are those of the flesh. I am not sure there is a spot for Bernie Madoff on this list, no matter how many illiterates he teaches to read while in prison.

These perpetrators seem drawn to this walk of shame, and that is kind of creepy in an of itself. Mr. Sanford, who told voters he was on the Applachian Trail while he was really in bed with his South American mistress, said he found it a "blessing." People knew the worst about him and they were still eager to shake his hand and, apparently, vote him back into a position of power.

Mr. Spitzer decided the run for office in New York City after reportedly meditating on it on a bench in Central Park. His "Sheriff of Wall Street" reputation, earned as the state's attorney general, makes him qualified to oversee the city's pension investments and its books as comptroller.

But he also pursued sexual corruption while partaking himself. Thinking that the rules apply to everybody but you is a dangerous mindset in a leader.

Oh, one other thing you might notice else about this list: There are only men on it.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at susan.reimer@baltsun.com and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.

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