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“Bob McDonnell Is Unfit For Office”: A Sense Of Entitlement And A Conviction Of Invulnerability

There are two swift routes to political downfall. One is sex. The other is money. The first is humiliating but survivable. The second tends to be terminal, even criminal.

Today’s topic is the second, in the form of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and the now mountainous evidence that — whether he technically complied with Virginia’s Swiss cheese disclosure laws or not in accepting thousands of dollars in gifts from a wealthy businessman — he has no business continuing in office.

The sordid McDonnell details in a bit, but first the comparisons between politicians and illicit sex and politicians and illicit money. They are linked to the twin delusions of the erring politician: his (I use the male form intentionally) sense of entitlement and his conviction of invulnerability.

I work so hard, the politician tells himself. I deserve a little (insert specific failing).

No one will find out, the politician tells himself. I was smart enough to get elected (governor/president/senator).

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

There are differences, as well, between the politician tripped up by sex and the one felled by greed. The former can argue that he was not thinking with . . . well, he was not thinking. He is hardly the first to do something dumb in the grip of lust, love, whatever.

Yet he most likely has a wife and family, collateral damage in his sexual escapades. Points off for that — and more off if he has his wife by his side at the confessional news conference.

The greedy pol is blameworthy in a different way, again both heightening and lessening his guilt. On the negative side, he was not swept away by the passion of the moment; he calculated that he could accept the money, the Rolex, whatever, and get away with it.

On the plus side — and this is explanation, not excuse — he may have been acting under familial pressure, and in what he conceived as the best interests of his family, rather than against it, as the straying spouse certainly has.

Much modern political corruption, especially of the penny-ante sort, can be explained by the yawning gap between the relatively paltry income of the politician and the wealth of the private-sector types fluttering around him.

The politician feels aggrieved, which in turn feeds his sense of entitlement. The political spouse sees her friends driving fancier cars, wearing fancier clothes — all this while her husband is probably working longer hours, to the detriment of his family. You can understand, although not excuse, the husband whose ethical judgment is warped by marital guilt, the wife whose judgment is warped by marital resentment.

Which brings us to the McDonnells, and the flagrant, repeated misconduct exposed by The Post’s Rosalind Helderman. The story began with relatively trivial, if astonishingly morally obtuse, bits of graft and back-scratching:

The $15,000 check that businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. gave to help cover the catering bill at the McDonnells’ daughter’s wedding — an event that took place three days after Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell flew to Florida, where she touted a dietary supplement made by Williams’s company, Star Scientific Inc. Three months later, Star Scientific used the governor’s mansion for a luncheon, attended by the governor, to promote the supplement.

The $6,500 Rolex, complete with engraved inscription, “71st Governor of Virginia,” that Williams bought for the governor at Maureen McDonnell’s behest. She allegedly requested the bauble moments before a meeting she had arranged for Williams to pitch a top state health official on the supplement.

● Maureen McDonnell’s reported $15,000 spree at Bergdorf Goodman, again on Williams’s tab — this a year after a staffer foiled McDonnell’s bid for a Williams-underwritten Oscar de la Renta inaugural gown.

Now comes reporting that raises the story to a new level of outrage: Williams last year gave $70,000 — supposedly a loan — to a corporation owned by McDonnell and his sister; plus $50,000 to Maureen McDonnell in 2011, and $10,000 as a wedding present this year to another McDonnell daughter.

As astonishing is the governor’s technocratic defense: that he is complying with the letter of Virginia disclosure rules, which do not require reporting of gifts to family members. “To, after the fact, impose some new requirements on an official,” McDonnell told a Norfolk radio show, “obviously wouldn’t be fair.”

But gifts and entanglements like these are simply wrong, a violation of the governor’s duty to citizens, whatever the rules. That McDonnell doesn’t get this basic point makes him unfit for office. Obviously.

 

By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 12, 2013

July 15, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Declaring Loyalties: Sex And Violence On Capitol Hill

(Warner Bros./via AP) - Searching for a theme in the debt debate, the Republicans settled on honor among thieves.

The time has come in the debt-limit fight for all Americans to declare their loyalties: Are you with the bank robbers, or are you with the dirty old men?

This unpalatable choice is as good a way as any to frame the debate in these last days before the default deadline.

On one side are House Republican leaders who, facing a rebellion of Tea Party conservatives, appealed for party unity by screening for members a clip of the 2010 film “The Town,” in which Ben Affleck’s bank-robber character tells the Jeremy Renner character: “I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we’re gonna hurt some people.” Renner replies: “Whose car we takin’?” The clip ended before the shooting and beatings that followed.

On the other side are House Democratic leaders, who had to decide how to handle Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.), accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a teenage girl (he claims it was consensual). Wu, who previously attracted attention by sending staff members photos of himself in a tiger costume, had no choice but to resign. But leaders accepted his plan to stay on the job for the debt standoff, thereby giving them one more vote against Speaker John Boehner’s debt plan.

It’s hard to decide which wins the craven crown: Exhorting colleagues by playing for them a call to criminal violence? Or trying to thwart the opposition by tolerating a 56-year-old colleague accused of forcing himself on a friend’s daughter?

Both are evidence of how desperate the warring parties are for any fleeting advantage in the fight. Someday, Democrats may rue wooing Wu to stay with them for the budget votes, and Republicans may do penance for embracing Hollywood violence. But this is not that day.

In the Democrats’ case, Wu’s grace period was a matter of arithmetic. Without him, Boehner would need 216 votes to pass his budget-cutting plan; with him, Boehner needs 217. And so Wu released a statement that he would “resign effective upon the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis.”

That’s a delay Democrats are apparently comfortable with, even though this was not the first time this tiger has prowled: He was disciplined in college after a woman accused him of trying to force her to have sex, the Oregonian newspaper reported several years ago.

At a news conference Wednesday, I asked Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairman, whether she thought Wu should go sooner — and she demurred. “I think he made the right decision to resign,” she said.

The Republicans’ problem is more complicated. Though he has made few concessions, Boehner is facing a chorus of criticism from Tea Party activists who think he has not been belligerent enough. At a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday, the co-founders of the influential Tea Party Patriots network said a poll of their supporters found 82 percent of them dissatisfied with House leadership and 74 percent inclined to see Boehner replaced.

One of the co-founders, Mark Meckler, called Boehner’s proposed budget cuts “phantom” and “fake.” Later in the day, the leader of a smaller group called Tea Party Nation called for Boehner to be ousted. And staffers for conservative lawmakers rallied interest groups to fight against Boehner’s plan.

To resist such pressure, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) thought the proper tone would be Affleck’s crime thriller, packed with sex, drugs, violence and profanity, and described by USA Today as having “murky morality.”

The selection evidently had the desired effect. After the clip, in which the Renner character asks whose car they’ll drive, Rep. Allen West (Fla.), a Tea Party favorite, announced to his colleagues: “I’m ready to drive the car!”

Over the next 24 hours, conservatives’ resistance to Boehner’s plan ebbed, and Wednesday morning, Rep. Louie Gohmert (Tex.), one of the few remaining holdouts, emerged from a caucus meeting feeling the pain McCarthy promised. “I’m a beat-up ‘no,’ ” he reported.

Democrats pretended to be offended by the film selection. “They could have used ‘Hoosiers,’ ‘Rudy’ or ‘Band of Brothers,’ ” protested Wasserman Schultz (the person would-be getaway car driver West called “vile” and “not a lady”). “Now is not the time to be thinking about putting the political hurt to the other party or the president.”

But Republicans have a defense. That effort to “hurt people” in “The Town” was planned as revenge on men who had hassled a young woman.

David Wu might want to take that as a warning.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democrats, GOP, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Don’t Men Like Schwarzenegger, John Edwards Use Condoms?

The revelation that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a  child a decade ago with a woman who was not his wife—a disclosure that comes  just a couple of years after we learned that onetime Democratic presidential  candidate John Edwards had done the same thing—begs an important question:

Exactly what century are we in?

The issue here isn’t even why a married person would have sex outside his or  her marriage, which is not an infrequent occurrence now or at previous points  in history. It’s not even about how a public person thinks he or she could  behave that way without anyone finding out. Edwards, after all, was castigated  for doing something so reckless and foolish during a time when he was under  intense media scrutiny. But the fact that Schwarzenegger was able to keep this  a secret for the entire time he was in the governor’s mansion is astounding,  and suggests maybe Edwards wasn’t as delusional as some people thought.

But has it not occurred to these men to use a condom? Birth control is readily  available. It’s legal. It’s simple to use. And it limits the fallout from an  affair. Learning of a past sexual dalliance would understandably be very  upsetting to a spouse. Learning that a child was produced from the union is  devastating and adds a living, breathing reminder of the episode, a pain  compounded by the fact that it is not the child’s fault that he or she is a  walking symbol of marital betrayal.

But seriously, if a woman approaches  a man and says, “you are so hot,” as Rielle Hunter reportedly said to  Edwards, does it not occur to the man that she might not mind having a  permanent connection to the candidate a child would secure? And what was  Schwarzenegger thinking when he had sex with someone who actually worked for  the family? Did he not consider the possibility of pregnancy?

Perhaps the use of birth control  adds to any guilt the men might feel; if the episode is planned, it is more  difficult to convince oneself that passion was to blame. It’s sort of the  counter-argument to those who believe that providing birth control to sexually  active young people will give them ideas about sex they wouldn’t otherwise  have. More likely, they are thinking about sex, and while it may not be wise to  engage in sex at a young age because of the emotional implications, the  physical consequences of sex without birth control are far more serious. One  would think adult men would know that by now.

By: Susan Milligan, U.S. News and World Report, May 18, 2011

May 19, 2011 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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