June 22, 2004

Sex Scandal Hullabaloo

Today's Musical Selection: "Tell Me Something Good" by Chaka Khan

Hello again, all! Today I want to talk about sex. (Oh, boy!) What with Bill Clinton's autobiography "My Life As A Cheatin' Horndog (And Also President)" out on the streets, everyone's fondly reminiscing about the days when sex was a big-time scandal. Not WMDs, not Halliburton, not who knew what about who wanted to attack us where and when, but good old-fashioned tomfoolery. Ah, too bad those halcyon days are gone.

But are they? No! Thanks to Jack Ryan, candidate for the Senate from Illinois, those fun times may be coming back again! Yippee! Everyone grab your moral-condemnation cudgels!

Did you know that Jack Ryan used to be married to Jeri Ryan, the hot blonde woman on Boston Public? Notice that I said "used to." They got divorced a few years back, and it was reportedly a pretty nasty business. Nasty enough that Jack Ryan tried very hard to keep the files closed. For the kids, he said. After all, who wants to read about Mommy and Daddy saying nasty things about each other?

Unfortunately, a judge did thought the files should go public, and now we understand why Jack Ryan wanted to keep them a secret. Seems Jack Ryan has a thing for kinky sex clubs, and brought Mrs. Ryan to several of them without telling her beforehand, and tried to pressure her into doing the horizontal mambo in front of other people, which she refused.

The reverberations figure to go on with this one for a while. Rep. Ray LaHood, a Republican who was out in the lead after Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, is back again, saying he's "shocked" (shocked!) that Jack Ryan would even think of running for office with this kind of background, and called on him to drop out of the race.

Does anyone else find the sound bites involved with these scandals tiresomely repetitive? The critics of the accused say that a man like this has no business in public office. The defenders respond that the critics should quit nosing around in people's private lives. The critics say that they can't believe the defenders are condoning this behavior. The defenders say they aren't condoning anything, but this whole scandal is just about sex, and the critics are just jealous because they aren't getting any. The critics reply that it may seem to be all about sex, but it's not, because (he lied about it/he violated the sanctity of marriage/he doesn't respect women/he did it in his office/it's just plain sick). And we are too getting some.

It's all so numbingly familiar, isn't it? One minor twist: Jack Ryan, like LaHood, is a Republican.

First of all, I think Rep. LaHood deserves points for his consistency in arguing that politicians having dirty and/or illicit sex is bad. (Although we might feel a touch sorry for Mrs. LaHood.) Ryan's Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, also deserves points for declining to comment on the whole business, saying it's not his business. (Obama has clearly learned the wise politician's maxim that when your opponent has enough rope to hang himself, it's best to let him do it.)

For the most part, though, this scandal is playing out as expected. Most Republicans, aside from Rep. LaHood, are saying that Ryan should not drop out, that he's perfectly fit for office, and what's the big deal? This would include some of the same people who were rattling the White House gates back in '98, demanding that President Clinton resign for the good of the country. None of them even seem to have suffered whiplash at the sudden turnabout.

Personally, I'm of two minds about this. On one hand, I don't think Ryan should be disqualified from office on this basis. These allegations, creepy as they are, do not speak to his fitness for office. And I can believe that Ryan legitimately preferred not to have his children hear about this. It doesn't make for cheerful dinner-table conversation. ("Daddy, would you pass the rolls? And what's 'sadomasochism?'")

On the other hand, one of Ryan's potential Democratic challengers, Blair Hull, saw his campaign sink after the contents of his divorce file were made public. And if the allegations in divorce files are going to be public knowledge, then they should be equally so for everyone. (Note to aspiring politicians: Consider this Rule #1... "Do not attempt to revive your failing marriage by taking your spouse to kinky sex clubs against his/her will. And if you do, for God's sake arrange an amicable divorce.")

But should this stuff be public? I don't think so. A lot of nasty things can be said in contested divorce cases, and once it's in the record, it can't be removed later. And does any of it suggest an unfitness for office? No, it doesn't. What about it would?

Is it the specter of infidelity? Well, hell, if we're going to start purging the legislative ranks of the unfaithful, we'll never be able to get a quorum again. Is it the lying? Well, if it's not any of the public's business, then there shouldn't be any questions that would require lying. Is it the ick factor? I'll bet that you, The Reader, have done or would consider doing some things that would make other people disturbed beyond belief. (And no, I don't want to know about them either. I'm easily disturbed.) If not that, then what?

It's all part of our national schizophrenia about sex. On the one hand, we celebrate sex, publicize it and fetishize it in our popular culture. On the other hand, if someone gets caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar, succumbing to temptation, we react with shock and horror. Can you believe it? Who would ever do anything so wrong? Oh, and have you seen the latest Britney Spears video? Want to see that Janet Jackson peep show again? Apparently, we're supposed to be a nation of closet masturbators, which is arguably creepier than anything Jack Ryan stands accused of.

What do you, The Reader, think? Is hanky-panky a legitimate issue when considering a politician's fitness for office? Would a sex scandal keep you from voting for someone you otherwise would? Let your voices be heard in the comments below.

So, which young athlete would you rather not be, Darko Milicic or Matt Bush? Darko was drafted by the Pistons, rode the pine all year, was vilified for not being Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade, and was primarily notable for landing an infection during an ear-piercing gone wrong, leaving him as a ridiculous forgotten figure with bleached hair and gauze on his ears. So Larry Brown puts him in for garbage time at the end of Game 5... and he breaks his hand. So much for the Olympics! Meanwhile, Bush was drafted #1 by the Padres, primarily because he came fairly cheap, and was criticized for not being Jered Weaver or Stephen Drew. So what does the young man do? He goes and gets himself arrested in a bar fight. (He's only 18, so what he was doing at a bar is another matter.) And now the Padres have suspended him. Further punishment may be in the offing. When you're already under a cloud for being an undeserving #1, it's always a smart idea to land yourself in jail, no?

Enough for today. See you tomorrow!

Posted by Fred at June 22, 2004 06:01 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?