Monday, January 3, 2011

Scandal Retrospective: Christine O'Donnell, Rand Paul, Eliot Spitzer

As a new, Tea Party-influenced Congress is sworn in, it may be a fitting time to reveal that failed, Tea Party-backed, abstinence-promoting Republican Senate candidate from Delaware Christine O'Donnell and I have kissed the same woman -- a punk in fact, but not a conservative.  (Prior to her religious awakening, the young O'Donnell had wild parties and wild acquaintances, some with tattoos and heroin habits, though it wasn't a junkie that kissed us both.)  I would not necessarily conclude that O'Donnell is bi, though her sister is a lesbian, and my impression is that homosexuality and a certain open-mindedness often run in families. 

I would imagine that some of the same people who think I was "oversharing" on C-SPAN2 (as one tweeter far too close to that situation to judge put it) would have loved some additional O'Donnell "dirt" prior to the election (and they'll get absolutely no more details from me now, by the way, so don't bother asking no matter who you work for and what TV show you want to put me on; the election is over, and indeed was probably effectively over by the time Elvira was parodying O'Donnell's "I am not a witch" campaign ad).  I'm not indiscriminate with the inside info, though, and it's not so clear to me that O'Donnell is guilty of any real hypocrisy warranting more pummeling. 

If anything, that Gawker piece about one fellow's night in bed with a post-conversion O'Donnell sounds to me like pretty good evidence that she's trying, in her rather dumb, technical way, to stick to her principles, after what she admits was a lusty youth.  O'Donnell probably isn't a hypocrite.  More likely just nuts.  Crazy chicks and sexual moderation are at best uneasy, temporary allies, for some reason.  Add either rock n' roll or religion -- in some cases both -- to the mix, and, much as I might wish otherwise, you have to expect trouble, I've repeatedly found.  (I don't know why these things go together, but as I age, I'm becoming more resigned to the fact that certain constellations of psychological attributes just do -- like childhood molestation victims turning into adult anorexics.)

If O'Donnell is uncertain about the need for a separation between church and state (which, in her defense, is not the Constitution's own phrasing of the principle) and admits to having had a date on a "Satanic altar" in her pre-conversion youth, I'm surprised none of her foes put two and two together and issued an ad warning that she might institute a Satanic government if elected.  But trying to make people sound like heretics can backfire, a fact beautifully exploited by the Rand Paul senatorial campaign in one of my favorite political ads of 2010, after Paul's foolish opponent tried to make it sound as if Paul literally worships the god Aqua-Buddha, who was conjured up for a college prank in Paul's own youth. 


But it wasn't really the religion or the sex or even the overall weirdness that did in O'Donnell.  By the
time she was making post-election appearances on Leno to joke about her loss, she simply seemed like someone prone to doubletalk her way out of any questions about her past or controversial views.  A choice quote from a USA Today article about her loss:

"I just couldn't see her as my senator in Washington," said Gary Stulir, a forty-one-year-old Republican from Smyrna. "She just couldn't take responsibility for anything she did or said."

In a world of irresponsible people, a little public shaming, carefully deployed, can be a perfect moral corrective (that's just my philosophy).  To take an example from alternative rock history, I remember thinking it showed a certain admirable seriousness on the part of both Peter Gabriel and his wife when it was rumored he (or she, depending on which version of the rumor it was) went around with a shaved head for a while as a means of publicly showing humility for cheating.  I found myself trusting them both more because of that incident (but then, this may be the kind of thinking that leads one to think a cute rock drummer with an eyepatch who admits the cops caught her fair and square seems like a good egg, so I have to be careful). 

Speaking of public shaming, shortly after the election, my ex-prostitute acquaintance Tracy Quan (who I know via politics, let me add) wrote an article polling readers on the question of whether New York governor Eliot Spitzer was wrong to wear socks in bed when he was having sex with a prostitute.  The raising of standards has to start somewhere -- and as Scott Nybakken has said, the Spitzer scandal has had so many amusing and interesting side effects over the past couple years (Paterson, etc.) that it is like "a fountain of political ambrosia, peeing joy into our very souls."  Amen.  Now Nybakken, he's a good person.

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