Sex Scandals Know No Party Lines

What Women Really Think
Dec. 28 2009 1:03 PM

Sex Scandals Know No Party Lines

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Rachael Larimore Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore is Slate's managing editor.

Amanda, it’s funny: My first thought when I saw the JFK photo wasn’t a parallel to other politicians, but to Tiger Woods. As in, given the attention that the Woods’ scandal created, perhaps if we’d had TMZ back in the 1950s then JFK wouldn’t have been president. But since you brought it up , do you really think that Republicans are such horrible people that the politicians get away with being hideous spouses and their followers keep voting for them anyhow? And that Democrats have some moral high ground here?

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If my years of following politics have taught me anything, it’s that our representatives might have differing opinions on taxes and spending and foreign policy but other than that they are more alike than different. They can lie and cheat and bend rules equally well: For every Duke Cunningham , there’s a William Jefferson . And being a bad husband (or wife) doesn’t seem to be a particularly red or blue trait. If it was a sin for John McCain to leave his crippled wife for a younger woman back in the '70s, it was a sin for John Edwards to cheat on his terminally ill wife with Rielle Hunter in 2007 . (We could swap names all day. Fortunately, this blog post from Newsweek ’s Gaggle blog spares us from having to do that. And it looks like we’re about even.)

If anything, I think GOP voters might be less forgiving off their politicians’ scandals. Sure, Sen. David Vitter is still going strong despite his links to the D.C. madam a few years ago. But John Ensign and Mark Sanford were both touted as possible presidential candidates before their affairs were discovered and now, even though both are still in office, their chances for 2012 are nil.

You should actually thank the GOP for being so hard on its scandal-ridden politicians. Back in 2004, the party distanced itself from Jack Ryan after the Chicago Tribune nosed around in court documents related to a custody agreement and revealed that he had wanted to have kinky sex with his own wife . At the time, Ryan, as CNN put it , was "locked in a tight race" for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois that went to … Barack Obama.

*Update, December 28, 2009 : TMZ is now reporting that the photo was not of JFK . It was from a 1967 issue of Playboy .

Photograph of Bill Clinton by Tim Sloan/Getty Images.