February started scandalously with a memoir detailing the adulterous affairs of one of America’s favorite presidents. Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath by Mimi Alford provides a descriptive window into the playboy ways of the ill-fated president. But even if the interactions recounted between Alford and the President are jaw-dropping, they are hardly shocking in the world of politics.
Political scandals involving ‘the other woman’ are nothing new in every branch of government. From President Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky to the recent Twitter scandal involving former Representative Anthony Weiner and his less than flattering pictures, the list goes on and on.
This fascination with the private lives of our politicians is somewhat uniquely American and a long-held tradition. Influence of our political public figures seems like it is always in fashion, bestselling stories, and general gossip.
The 2012 election has already been scattered with scandals, beginning with accusations of sexual harassment and an extramarital affair against Herman Cain.
But the poster-child for extracurricular marital activities, is none other than thrice married Newt Gingrich. His current wife Callista began her relationship with the presidential hopeful while he was still married to his second wife, Marianne. Of course Gingrich asked permission.
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh defended his friend, claiming that his courtesy in asking for permission was a “mark of character.” Gingrich lambasted CNN debate host for bringing it up saying, “To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine,”
The French insist politicians’ personal lives and trials are off-limits. Uproar ensued after the American media released photos of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest for allegations of sexual assault. In contrast, the New York Times has an entire section dedicated to adultery. This leads to a broader question; do we care if our politicians cheat?
With the claimed importance on the morality of our politicians, especially in regards to religion, it is easy to assume that an affair could mean the end of a political career. However, despite his numerous marriages and affairs, Newt Gingrich was still able to capture the primary in one of America’s most religious states, South Carolina, and gather support from religious conservatives in Florida.
Other politicians with highly public scandals have been able to bounce back, most notably Bill Clinton, who wrote a best-selling book last year.
Gail Collins recently wrote for the New York Times suggesting perhaps voters’ other matters of policy trump sexual scandals. As long as a candidate can claim to be a family man and pro-life, they may overlook if he has affairs on the side or pays for abortions for his ex-wife. Hypocrisy comes full circle when Gingrich gives a speech on family values just after asking his wife for an open marriage.
The practice of saying one thing and doing another is common place in politics and American voters have largely ignored it when it comes to the ballot box. Most politicians are even able to make a comeback in some capacity. One thing is for certain however, we always do enjoy a good scandal, especially if it involves the party opposite.