Saturday, June 20, 2009

Matt Taibbi On Why Sex Scandals Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Rolling Stone contributing editor and Facebook friend of mine Matt Taibbi blogs about the recent Senator Ensign affair and where this sort of behavior comes from:

Senators and congressmen may or may not fool around any more than the rest of the population, but one would expect elected officials to be a lot more careful about cheating on their wives than ordinary people, because the consequences of getting caught are so much more extreme and lasting than they are for other people. An ordinary person may lose his marriage, but a politician loses not only his marriage but his livelihood, particularly if he’s a conservative. So you’d think that sexual infidelity scandals would be relatively rarer, especially for Senators and/or presidential candidates, who face a relatively constant amount of scrutiny. But they’re not all that rare, which tells you that these guys are kind of used to getting away with things they’d prefer to keep secret.

It’s sort of like having a bad drug problem. In the beginning, when you first start down the road to addiction, you wouldn’t think about going to work high, or doing lines in your office bathroom, or texting your dealer from an office Blackberry in the middle of an important meeting. But after you make it through a few conference calls whacked out of your mind you start to feel like you’re never going to get caught, and you start to take liberties… coming in late, leaving early, forgetting to wipe the puke off your mouth after a bathroom break, etc.

It’s the same thing with these guys. After you spend day after day handing millions and millions of dollars over to your campaign contributors, live on CSPAN, robbing the body armor budget for troops in the field to pay for Brown Tree Snake programs or $133,000 streetlights and not ever getting called on it, you must start to get cocky almost against your will. You’re basically walking out of the Capitol building with your suit stuffed with taxpayer cash every single day, right past a small army of reporters, and no one ever says anything, so… why not have sex with an aide on the way home, or better yet, with a stranger in the men’s room of Union Station? That mentality has to figure into all of this somewhere, right?

Taibbi's point really hits the heart of the issue here. Why is it that we can always find outrage for a sex scandal, but these same legislators can cut off poor children from health coverage or vote to drop bombs on innocent people and we can't summon anywhere near the umbrage?

Cheating on your wife is a bad thing to do. I've never cheated, and I don't plan to. But it's really a minor moral failing amongst the sort of things that politicians in Washington have been doing for years. If you've already lost your moral compass on much greater issues, it should be no problem at all to cheat on your wife. That just becomes second nature.