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Political philandering
by Nathan Orme
Apr 24, 2011 | 649 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
One of my earliest memories of politics is a photo on the cover of a checkstand tabloid depicting former Sen. Gary Hart with a beautiful woman sitting on his lap. Not exactly the way Thomas Jefferson would have imagined a young American being introduced to his great experiment in democracy.

I was only 11 years old at the time the image appeared on the cover of the National Enquirer, but I remember thinking, “How did that decrepit old man get that beautiful girl?” Even at that age, my appreciation of the fairer sex was developed enough to know a hot woman when I saw one. I understood that I was closer to her age than he was.

As many of you will remember, Hart’s presidential aspirations were shattered by the allegations in the media that he had an extramarital affair with the young model, Donna Rice. I didn’t pay attention to the details at the time, but it appears Hart was caught nearly red handed, though he vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Then, of course, a decade or so later there was dear old President Bill Clinton and his scandal with the intern, Monica Lewinsky. I was watching on television from the newsroom of a small newspaper in Wisconsin as Clinton made his public announcement and apology. I was an intern at the time, but was not getting any action of the presidential kind. Not that there were any older women I worked with who wanted to be my Mrs. Robinson. As the Clinton saga unfolded, I learned that a politician can survive an indiscretion though not without some serious embarrassment.

This week, however, our own Sen. John Ensign was not so lucky. His admitted affair with former staffer Cynthia Hampton and subsequent “gift” to her husband, Doug, prompted an ethics investigation and lots of bad press. Ensign’s departure from politics was incremental, starting with an attempt to overcome and say he’d run for re-election in 2012, then that he wouldn’t and finally quitting altogether.

The official investigation into Ensign’s actions was initially dropped but now has been reopened. He is accused of illegally helping Doug Hampton’s lobbying career. On the surface, it looks like he was caught messing around with the man’s wife and then tried to make amends by helping him out, thereby violating ethics rules.

Whether it is politicians or celebrities or the next door neighbor, everybody loves a good sex scandal. Why? Because everybody loves sex and everybody loves to watch others’ downfall. It is a story that has been told for centuries. It appeals to something primal in our human souls, something that gives the watcher a sense of superiority — until it happens to them.

That’s the funny thing: We see all these great collapses yet for some reason people continue making the same mistakes. You’d think all these famous people would learn from the follies of their predecessors and not go down the same path. But somehow they do.

My theory is that people who live in the spotlight are in a different realm than us normal folks. In their world, everything is amplified: intelligence, fame, power, importance. The air smells sweeter, the food tastes better, the sex is hotter and the defeat is bitterer. The problem is that in our country, normal people have the opportunity to enter the spotlight. When they get there they often continue to act like normal people by following normal urges. Then, when they get caught with their pants down, they try to cover their tracks using the tools at their disposal and screw it all up.

There is no perfect way to cover up cheating on a spouse, but you certainly don’t leave incriminating emails or phone records, you don’t go for a “midnight haircut” to explain a rendezvous and you don’t go in public with your undercover lover. So why would a politician take a photograph with their lover sitting on their lap aboard a yacht, why would one use the Oval Office as a bordello and why would one use their money and position of national prominence to get their lover’s spouse a job?

The one time I met Sen. Ensign, he seemed a little slimy to me. His tan was too perfect and his demeanor too smug — but I guess some women are drawn to that. But he was no rock star, whose job description includes racking up the babes. I understand that the world of politics is built on the bricks of power, which is a powerful aphrodisiac, but in my short time I have seen how the powerful can fall and if that isn’t a cold shower, I don’t know what is.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy the latest copy of the National Enquirer.

Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at
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