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Souder Exception Proves Rule of GOP Adultery

May 18, 2010

No boy, no problem. For the adulterers of the Republican Party, that has long been the rule. Which makes the resignation of Indiana GOP Congressman and family values merchant Mark Souder over an affair with staffer Tracy Jackson all the more exceptional. While Eliot Spitzer, Gary Hart, Jim McGreevey and Eric Massa may also have believed they "sinned against God," apparently for their political careers their bigger sin was being a Democrat. Just ask Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mark Sanford, John Ensign or David Vitter.
The headlines on Tuesday's Drudge Report say it all. Just above "Republican Congressman Resign After Affair w/Staffer [Female]", the right-wing's favorite rumor-monger screams, "Gingrich Downloads...80% Chance Obama Loses...Says He'll Likely Run in '12." (Hat tip to Intoxination.)
To be sure, Newt Gingrich long ago proved that serial philandering is no barrier to leadership of the Republicans' so-called values voters. Now considered a potential frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, the thrice-married former Speaker of the House was an adulterer of legendary proportions. Newt informed his first wife that he wanted a divorce as she lay in a hospital bed battling cancer. Gingrich's second wife swap came after a long affair with Congressional staffer Calista Bisek. Having confessed his sins to and an apparent blessing from James Dobson in 2007, Gingrich this spring converted to Catholicism just in time to criticize Barack Obama's speech at Notre Dame. By then, Republicans and Meet the Press had long ago accepted his repentance:

"There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards. There's certainly times when I've fallen short of God's standards."

Of course, when it comes to the three-peat among Republican Catholics, Rudy Giuliani is the poster child. Giuliani split from wife number two while mayor of New York City, living for a time with gay friends. Despite that and his "Tryst Fund" scandal with dog dissector mistress turned wife Judith Nathan, Rudy can still be seen on your TV screen bashing President Obama. And thanks to his high-profile campaign to prevent his friends and former roommates from marrying, Giuliani continues to thrive in Republican circles despite his past admission:

"I pray like a lawyer. I try to make a deal - get me out of this jam, and I'll start going back to church."

Meanwhile in South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford is hoping to hike the Appalachian Trail from GOP family values icon to Argentina and back. Despite acknowledging that his "soul mate" isn't Jesus but his mistress in Buenos Aires, Sanford survived an impeachment inquiry into his misuse of state funds. Just days after comparing himself to King David, Sanford revealed that remaining in office was all part of God's plan:

"It's in the spirit of making good from bad that I am committing to you and the larger family of South Carolinians to use this experience to both trust God in his larger work of changing me, and from my end, to work to becoming a better and more effective leader."

Nevada Senator and fellow C Streeter John Ensign has also survived against all odds, at least for now. Thanks to the machinations of Oklahoma Senator turned C Street marriage counselor Tom Coburn, Ensign has continued in office despite cheating on his wife with a close family friend who also happened to be the spouse of an employee. Only time will tell if Ensign's "I commented all I was going to comment on that" line will hold up in the face of an ethics inquiry.
Then there's Louisiana's David Vitter. While the Jewish Democratic governor of New York Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace after his prostitution scandal, the Christian Republican Vitter still walks the halls of the Senate. The Clinton inquisitor and same-sex marriage opponent ("the most basic institution in human history") apparently has already made amends with the Almighty for "a very serious sin in my past" involving hookers and diapers:

"Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there - with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."

Whether that's enough for the voters of Louisiana remains to be seen.
None of which is to suggest that Democrats can never survive a close-but-no-cigar brush with political perdition after being caught in the act. But Bill Clinton is the exception to the rule (and JFK's indiscretions long-predated Gary Hart's precedent-setting Monkey Business.). In contrast, as Larry Craig and Mark Foley showed, it has to be raining men for a Republican career to be jeopardized. (As Fox News reported in September 2007, Senator Ensign "strongly suggested" that Craig resign, calling his conduct "had strongly suggested that he resign.") As for Newt Gingrich, you can watch him on your television pretty much any night, plugging his book and calling the Obama administration a "secular socialist machine [which] represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did."
That, and preparing to run for President.
UPDATE 1: A signer of the 1994 Contract with America, Mark Souder is finally honoring his term limits pledge.
UPDATE 2: The Souder imbroglio broke just days after rumors began to swirl that two-family man Vito Fossella might run to regain his old House seat from Staten Island.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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