In addition to being the only divorced president, Republican icon Ronald Reagan was said to play the role of Hollywood playboy even while engaged to second wife Nancy. Reagan's vice president, George H.W. Bush, was reported to have a decades-long affair with British-born Jennifer Fitzgerald. California's Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been accused of taking up with prostitutes and being a "serial groper." Sen. John McCain is an admitted adulterer, and oft-mentioned Republican candidates for 2012 like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani are even worse. Giuliani's third wife described him as a "notorious philanderer," and Gingrich didn't just cheat on his wife — he left her while she was dying of cancer to go be with an intern. Newt did this while still serving in Congress.
With the exception of Reagan, none of these Democrats or Republicans would ever receive my vote. But not because of their sex lives. Short of being a rapist, child molester, or a murderer, I couldn't care less about their personal indiscretions. Oops. Never mind about that "murderer" part. I forgot Ted Kennedy was on the list.
Like a car mechanic's handiness with a monkey wrench or a plumber's ability to plumb, when it comes to politicians, the only thing I really care about is their politics. The philandering grease monkey or cheating toilet fixer will receive my business so long as they continue to perform their job well. Their personal sins remain personal problems, not mine.
Trying to change the eternally corrupt state of politics is a monumental task by itself. Trying to change the eternally corrupt state of men's souls — what Christians call "original sin" — is not only impossible, but between such men, their families and their God.
This is nothing new for me. Critics of Republicans, who are much more forgiving of infidelity within their own ranks than they were of Bill Clinton's, are right to note the hypocrisy. Said Gov. Mark Sanford of Clinton, "I think it would be much better for the country and for him personally (to resign) ... I come from the business side ... If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing these allegations, he'd be gone."
My greatest problems with Clinton was his massive spending (which now looks like chump change compared to Bush and Obama), his lack of attention to the illegal immigration problem, the continued bombing and sanctions against Iraq that led to the death of over half a million children, and our needless military excursions into Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti. If continuing his affair with Monica Lewinsky would have caused Clinton to change his position on any of these issues, I would have rented the hotel room, ordered the champagne, and told Hillary he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. The Clintons' relationship always seemed more like a political power merger than a real marriage to me anyway.
Moralizing over Clinton's sex scandals also caused conservatives to take their eye off the ball. Wrote the late Washington Times columnist Sam Francis at the end of Clinton's presidency, "The conservatism invoked by Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Jesse Helms, and Pat Buchanan has largely vanished. Budget-bickering, obsession with Bill Clinton and his scandals, and various conspiracy theories about them replaced serious conservative politics." Francis was no apologist for Clinton's behavior, who he described as "one of the most repulsive men in American political history, mottled with the gangrene of corruption and sexual license and emitting a stench of tyranny." But when it came to big government, war, border security, and the promotion of actual conservatism, Francis agreed with me — Republicans gain little from obsessing over the salacious.
Breaking promises is always a bad thing and the more serious the promise, the more serious the betrayal. But lying to voters is also a betrayal, and I believe it is only practical that I should be first concerned with a politician's promise to me. If given a wholesome, serious conservative over a right-wing adulterer, I would likely choose the better man. But given the choice between a family-values president like Obama whose spending continues to plunge the nation into unfathomable debt or a fiscal conservative whose worst habit is spending too much time with his mistress, I would gladly take the latter.
Cheating on your wife is a horrible thing. So is cheating your country.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.