There are so many scandals involving politicians that to try to list them all would make this article a book in no time. However, the news conference that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford held on Wednesday, June 24th, was one of the more bizarre “fessing up” sessions seen to date, even by Washington standards.
I watched the FOX news conference “live” and, at first, could not figure out exactly what Mark Sanford was confessing to. He talked about his love of hiking. He talked about how he had let people down, naming some of them by name. His wife was nowhere around…always a bad sign for the candidate. Then, he (finally) got down to brass tacks and admitted that he had cheated on his wife with a woman from Argentina (no less) whom he had known for 8 years via e-mail, although he said that he had only been “with” her (I assume this means in the Biblical sense) 3 times. Kind of a meager amount of poon tang for the destruction of a political career that some said had him as a front-runner for the presidential nomination for the Republican party in 2012. But, then, if you want to talk about meager amounts of sex giving you major-league headaches, John Edwards would be a good one to ask.
Edwards, as we all now know, was involved in an affair with a woman whose “adopted” stage name was Reille Hunter, formerly a videotographer for his failed presidential bid. This was while cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth Edwards’ disease was in remission, so John apparently felt that was a green light of some kind. All I know about the Edwards’ decision to keep on running in the aftermath of John’s infidelity is that I sat next to people from North Carolina at Invesco Field, and they were thoroughly disgusted by the entire mess, especially since many of them felt that Elizabeth was aware of the extent of John’s philandering but advised him to still keep on in his quest for the presidency, which would have been a fatal mistake for the Democratic party had the revelations that were triggered by stalking Edwards’ into a hotel room where he had arranged a tryst with Ms. Hunter (and her newborn child). John did the normal thing: he ran like a rabbit for a nearby restroom and barricaded himself inside. It didn’t help. He was “outed” and his career was in shambles, not to mention his marriage. In one fell swoop on Wednesday, with Mark Sanford’s revelation that, over Father’s Day weekend, he went off to South America for 7 days to be with his lover, leaving the other Carolina a rudderless ship of state, he destroyed the Carolinas’ reputation for clean-living politicians. You’ve got Edwards and you’ve got Sanford and baby makes three!
Lest we forget that these things have been going on for a long time, let’s go all the way back to Earl “Huey” Long (Louisiana, 1939-1940; 1948-1952; 1956-1960) who had an affair with a Bourbon Street stripper named Blaze Starr in the 1950s. (In the movie, Paul Newman played Huey and, later, Sean Penn.)
Strippers seem to have a sort of magnetic attraction for Washington’s finest. Back on October 16, 1974, 65-year-old Wilbur Mills was found, intoxicated and with cuts on his face, in the company of one Fanne Foxe, aka “the Argentina Firecracker,” aka Annabell Bathstella. Ms. Foxe had 2 black eyes, which were never really explained, and she had jumped into the Tidal Basin after a car crash. As facts emerged, it came to light that Ms. Foxe worked as a stripper at the Silver Slipper at 815 13th St. N.W. in Washington in 1973, a fine family-oriented establishment (not) that was located between an adult movie house and an adult bookstore. [The place charged $5.80 minimum cover charge, so you know it had to be a family kind of place.] There had been some problems with the location, including 2 revocations of their liquor license and an allegation that prostitution services were solicited by some of the girls. But Wilbur had been marching in the front door and proudly shelling out $1,700 a night in cash (in 1974!) for magnums of champagne. Other strippers at the club said that Fanne and Wilbur, although a contentious couple that fought a lot, had been keeping company since July of 1973. Soon after they met, Fanne quit stripping and became a resident of the Crystal Towers, the very same apartment complex to which Wilbur and wife Polly had moved, from Arlington. Why wasn’t Polly along this night? According to Wilbur, she had a broken foot. So, the Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, who had dined with a party at the Junkanoo Restaurant just 5 hours before, was now junkaroo, himself. (*An interesting personal note: I know someone who actually dated Fanne Foxe…after Wilbur’s indiscretion. He said she had an early…and bad…boob job, which caused her breasts to sort of become bi-level, with the implants drooping below the real breasts. She was 38 at the time of her liaison with Wilbur, so implants might have come before…or after…but the Argentina Firecracker’s breasts did sort of explode…or implode.)
Then there was Gary Hart, D, Colorado. Remember when Gary Hart was the leading contender for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1988? According to John Steele Gordon in “Gary Hart’s Monkey Business: How and Why a Congressman Got Caught” on American Heritage.com, the former Yale Divinity student (and none-too-happily married man) said, to the news media (in particular, ABC anchor John Chancellor), “You should follow me around. You’ll be very bored.” And, as John Chancellor retorted later, “We did. We weren’t.” Even Hart’s own former aide Jim McGee was quoted in Steele’s article saying, pre Donna Rice, “Hart is going to be in trouble if he can’t keep his pants on.” Hear! Hear! Hart and so many others, it would seem.
There’s little reason to belabor Bill Clinton’s extra-marital love life, “Troopergate” or Monica Lewinsky. That’s been done to death, but suffice to say, in recap, he did also have alleged liaisons with Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones before Monica and the blue dress. And those are just the ones we know about!
And what about Kirk Fordice of Mississippi (1992-2000), that staunch Republican Governor who was hospitalized after he ditched his security guards and drove himself 200 miles to Memphis, Tennessee to have lunch with a woman who was not his wife…then. When he was photographed coming back from a Paris trip with the same woman, the proverbial s*** hit the fan, his wife of 40 years divorced him, and he married the mistress from Memphis.
Then, there was Bob Wise of West Virginia (2001-2004), a Democrat who acknowledged in 2003 that he had not been faithful to his wife and family after he had an affair with another government employee’s estranged wife. That was the end of Wise’s political career, as he (wisely) did not run for a second term in 2004.
In New Jersey, James McGreevey gave this old familiar refrain a new twist when he admitted to being “a gay American” and cheating on his wife with another man. (New Jersey Democrat, 2002-2004). He and his wife, Dina Matos, were divorced in August of 2008 and, really, who can blame her?
Paul Patton of Kentucky (D, 1995-2003) had served 7 years of as Governor, in terms that focused on economic issues and education, when he also became interested in nursing homes, apparently, and took up with a western Kentucky woman who was owned a nursing home. After a tearful admission on national television not unlike the embarrassing Edwards interview, he finished his term and then folded his tent and did not seek reelection.
So far, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s hiking trip to South America has not caused him to resign the governorship, although he did give up his post as Chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association, but, really, I can’t think of a person better suited to represent Republican politicians, in general, than someone who admits that he is screwing other people while on the job, as Sanford did. However, you really have to hand it to Eliot Spitzer of New York after this.
As we all know, by now, Eliot Spitzer was that crusading New York Governor (2007-2008) who was elected on an anti-corruption platform and became famous as “Client #9” of a call girl whose name was Ashley Dupree. Supposedly, Spitzer, who was married with two daughters, spent tens of thousands of dollars to arrange visits with prostitutes and law enforcement officials were only too happy to expose the hypocrisy of his “Crusader Rabbit” rants against corruption. His wife, a fellow lawyer whom he met in law school, stood awkwardly by his side (unlike Sanford’s, who asked him to move out of the house and not speak to her) while he confessed all and resigned, taking full responsibility for his actions. Spitzer, today, blogs and deeply regrets his downward mobility, but, when it comes to “keeping it in their pants,” the days of JFK’s philandering with Fiddle and Faddle while the White House Press Corps looked the other way are long gone.
Politicians: let this be a lesson to you. Do NOT take up hiking to South America! It will end your careers.