Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Top 10 Political Sex Scandals of the Bush Era - Part 2

It's time for the second half the Top 10 Political Sex Scandals of the Bush Era. Read part one, scandals numbers 10 through 6, if you haven't yet.

5. Bob Allen (R-Florida) -- State Representative, 2000-2007

Bob Allen was a family man and a Republican member of the Florida legislature. He went to a park known for gay cruising, saw a hot black man and offered to fellaciate him, at which point the man told Allen he was an undercover cop and arrested him. It was all pretty banal until Allen started making excuses. Then it got pretty funny. Allen claimed that he was going for an nice, relaxing, innocent, totally heterosexual walk in the park when he was confronted by an imposing black man (apparently the cop was quite the physical specimen). In fear for his life lest this Negro savage should harm him, Allen made a completely natural, totally heterosexual attempt to save himself by offering to blow the man. You can get by in public service as a closeted queer and a racist but Allen is the one thing that no politician can afford to be: a really bad liar.

The most incredible thing about this story is the insight into Allen's prejudices. If Allen thought his cover story was even remotely plausible as he concocted it, can you imagine what mental image he has of blacks and gays? In Allen's mind gay people are predators and rapists, while black people are so violent and sex-crazed that a gay one would attack an ugly, overweight middle aged white guy in a public park. If Allen didn't believe those things, why would he make up such a ridiculous story? And besides, when it comes to gay people why shouldn't Allen believe that they're so pathetic, ashamed and filled with self-loathing that they'd engage in the most debasing and high risk kinds of sexual activity? I mean, Allen himself is gay and that description fits him perfectly!

4. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) -- US Senator, 2004-present

David Vitter has spent his career campaigning against abortion, denying federal funding to organizations that distribute contraception and trying to pass a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage. That's why it was particularly satisfying when escort service owner Deborah Jeane Palfrey (the so-called "DC Madam") revealed that Vitter was one of her clients. This led to revelations that Vitter was a client of a New Orleans escort service where he had indulged his diaper fetish with prostitutes who had given him the nickname "Vitter the Shitter." Fortunately for Vitter he didn't like to practice his fetish with men. Where some of his gay colleagues had to resign or face censure for lewd behavior, Vitter gave an apology speech to the Senate and received a standing ovation.

There's a lot of variety in diaper fetishism. Sometimes a diaper fetish goes along with infantalism role play, sometimes not. Some diaper lovers urinate or defecate in their diaper, some don't. We might suspect Vitter did, given his nickname, but not a whole lot of information is actually available (I couldn't help noticing that Vitter's Wikipedia article has been scrubbed clean of all references to diapers). In the end, like Spitzer, Vitter's problem wasn't sex, it was hypocrisy. Vitter tried to legislate against other people's sexual freedoms while at the same time reveling in his own. His decision to go to a prostitute may mean he was ashamed of his fetish but Vitter's ability to say one thing and do the opposite makes me suspect a different explanation: he is simply so arrogant that he believes the rules apply to everyone but him. The consequences of being a diaper fetishist (the effort required to find a partner open to doing it discreetly and the responsibility of accepting the sexual desires of others) are for other people, in Vitter's mind, so he's justified in lying to his wife, family and constituents to get what he wants sexually. Unfortunately Vitter's Republican colleagues didn't want his replacement appointed by Louisiana's Democratic governor, so Vitter's belief that he was above the rules others have to follow was confirmed.

3. Mark Foley (R-Florida) -- US Congressman, 1995-2006

Foley was the chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and one of the staunchest opponents of child pornography in Congress. Not bad for a day at the office. Unfortunately at night Foley was busy getting drunk and sending sexually explicit Instant Messages to sixteen-year-old congressional pages. In 2006 ABC reported the information and Foley resigned, but the scandal had just begun. Evidence surfaced that Republican leaders had been aware of Foley's harassment since 2005 but had failed to stop him. In a year when the Iraq War was hurting Republicans the Foley scandal was hugely demoralizing to values voters and played a big role in helping the Democrats gain control of Congress.

Foley's crusade against child abuse was genuine -- Anthony Mercieca, a retired Catholic priest, has admitted to molesting Foley for two years when Foley was a boy. While no saint, Foley never did anything so despicable while perpetuating the cycle. He deserves at least a little credit for confining his harassment to boys above the age of consent (in Washington and the majority of the country, though not Florida) and for not engaging in sexual contact with his victims. Being attracted to older teens makes Foley a pedarast, not a pedophile. That's good news for him because it means he can funnel this kink into a healthy relationship (say, with a young looking 25-year-old man). When the scandal broke, Foley resigned quickly, checked himself into alcohol rehab and came out as gay, which are good first steps. Now that he's acknowledging his problems rather than repressing them Foley may be able to find some real happiness.

2. Ted Haggard -- Former Leader of the National Association of Evangelicals

Ted Haggard led an evangelical Christian movement thirty million strong. Every week Haggard gave spiritual advice to George W. Bush and his advisers. Then Haggard supported a ballot initiative banning gay marriage and Mike Jones, the male prostitute Haggard had been paying the last three years for sex and methamphetamine, spilled the beans. But all's well that ends well, I guess: Haggard underwent "treatment" and was declared "completely heterosexual" after only 21 days. How was he cured so quickly? The minister who "cured" him said it was because his homosexual activity wasn't "constant." "By that standard," wrote sex columnist Dan Savage, "I've been completely heterosexual since, gee, about 10 minutes after 2:00 this morning."

What possesses a person to deny who they are, then, when they're caught lying, deny it again? Perhaps making a lot of money as the head of a mega-church has something to do with it, but I really wouldn't know. Plenty of people manage to reconcile their Christian faith with their homosexuality, mostly by remembering that if they weren't gay a literal interpretation of the Book of Leviticus would still send them to hell anyway for shaving, eating lobster or wearing wool-linen blends. Haggard could have lived out of the closet without denying his spirituality. He chose not be honest, was outed, then chose not to be honest again. I guess the worst hells really are the ones we make for ourselves.

1. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) -- US Senator, 1991-present

It can’t come as much of a surprise that Larry Craig is the top sex scandal of the Bush Era. In June 2007 this moral values conservative who opposed gay marriage, voted against making gay bashing a hate crime, and once called Bill Clinton “a naughty boy” because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover cop in the men’s room of the Minneapolis airport. Craig plead guilty like he thought maybe nobody would notice, then when they did he entertained everyone with a string of ludicrous denials that he maintains to this day.

Craig’s wide stance is now the butt (er, subject) of a thousand jokes but its significance didn’t stop there. The Craig scandal was a watershed moment in Bush Era politics -- the moment where, in the wake of Haggard and Foley, people seriously began to wonder if every anti-gay crusader in the Republican Party was in fact a closeted homo. Everything I've said about McGreevey, Murphy, Allen, Foley and Haggard goes for Craig as well. Sexuality is part of who we all are. If we can't accept it and be open about it, we're doomed to fulfill our sexual needs in secretive, unhealthy, unsafe and deeply shameful ways that can have serious effects on careers and loved ones. Honesty is the best policy, the truism goes. Larry Craig is one of an enormous group of people who hasn't learned that lesson yet.


  1. whoa,.

    and dont forget the latest with ol' John Edwards, and the late night hotel scandal, in September 2008.

    O the politician and sexual repression,.
    Actually still true for many american(s) men.,