Archive for June, 2009

Everybody loves a list

Monday, June 29th, 2009

As far as high profile philanderers go, Mark Sanford is a notably lucky one. He was barely done with his de rigueur confession/apology before Michael Jackson keeled over, thus ensuring that Sanford almost immediately became a media afterthought. You can’t buy that kind of good fortune.

Still, let’s not let Sanford slip away too quietly before weighing his place in that ever-growing file of political sleazeballs (sex hijinks category). Loathsome as his behavior was, I barely have Sanford in my top five of modern-day, despicable horndogs. Just for grins and arguments, here’s what my list looks like:

(5) Mark Sanford. It’s bizarre that any governor could believe he could sneak away to South America for a boinkfest with his mistress and no one would notice he’s gone. And the fact that Sanford — who has four sons — did so over the Father’s Day weekend is appalling. But he’d always been a loose cannon, apparently, so at least he’s consistent. Also, give him credit for one sign of perverse decency: As a writer for Slate pointed out, Sanford alone among high profile cheaters admitted he actually cared for his paramour. “It beats the hell out of seducing somebody, kicking her to the curb, and pretending she was nothing to you—or really meaning it,” the writer noted. Then again, the primary focus of his apology was his mistress rather than his wife and children. That’s how Sanford earned his way onto the list.

(4) Larry Craig. For pure tawdriness, getting arrested at a major airport for using a public toilet as a pick-up spot for gay sex should rocket Craig to No. 1. But he’s saved from that fate by the fact that no actual sex took place. (The object of Craig’s affection, remember, was an undercover cop.) Craig was only charged with, and pleaded guilty to, disorderly conduct. Truth is, he makes my list because he was an insufferable family-values nag, and because he didn’t have the decency to resign his Senate seat.

(3) Bill Clinton. If I compiled these rankings solely on the media attention generated by a sleazeball’s behavior, Clinton would be No. 1 with a bullet. It’s hard to top a constitutional crisis and impeachment of a president for dramatic fallout from a fling. But no one could claim to be surprised by Clinton’s philandering. Gennifer Flowers told us he was a cheater, and we elected him anyway. Clinton earned his spot on this list for his bald-faced, finger-wagging lie about “that woman.”

(2) Eliot Spitzer. I originally had Spitzer at No. 1, but dropped him into second place (for reasons explained below). As New York’s attorney general, Spitzer had built a career — as well as a successful pursuit of the governor’s office — on the moralistic prosecution of business executives who didn’t meet his exacting standards. But like so many ambitious, powerful people, he believed the rules didn’t apply to him. Spitzer had prosecuted other people on prostitution charges, but frolicked with hookers himself. How does this guy even show himself in public nowadays?

(1) John Edwards. Here, surely, is the benchmark for sleaze. It’s bad enough that Edwards cheated on his wife with his campaign videographer while running for president. It’s worse that his wife suffered (and still suffers) from late-stage breast cancer at the time. It’s worse yet that Edwards excused his behavior (in part) by noting that his wife’s cancer was in remission while he carried on with his paramour. Then there’s the child borne by the mistress, and the piles of money paid to her and the male campaign staffer who unconvincingly claimed to be the baby’s father. Add into that mix the shoe that still awaits its drop — the verification of Edwards’ paternity of the baby — and we’ve got a record of sleaziness for the ages.