Smart Pols Stay Mum on Sanford

Condemning SC gov just gives arms opponents for next sex scandal

By Sara K. Smith
|  Monday, Jun 29, 2009  |  Updated 9:01 PM PDT
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Presidential GOP Hopefuls for 2012

AP

Speak ill of this man and Fate will draw a bull's eye on your own philandering back.

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If there's one thing we've learned from the endless string of sex scandals emanating from Washington D.C. and various state capitals, it's this: if you're in politics and you have aspirations to higher office, you should keep your mouth shut about your peers' philandering.

Leave it to the tawdry bloggers and the so-called "journalists" to squawk with outrage every time some pol gets caught with his pants down. If you're a senator, a congressman, or a governor, do not say a word -- because it will come back to bite you when you get caught cheating, which, if you're in politics for any amount of time, is nearly inevitable.

In fact, the best way to guarantee that you'll stray and get caught is probably to dump on the last guy for the very same thing. (The one possible exception to this rule is the profoundly asexual Joe Lieberman, who condemned fellow Democrat Bill Clinton's extramarital affair a decade ago and has probably never thought of sex again.)

It's such a common ritual. Politican X admits to affair, asks for privacy. Politician Y, wishing to carve out a niche as a moral crusader or cater to the values crowd or just get some free publicity before the next round of elections, runs to every major media outlet hollering about how Politican X must be accountable to the people of the state and it's not the adultery as much as the cover-up, and so on and so forth. Several years later, Politician Y admits to affair, asks for privacy, and is horrified to see that the networks actually recorded all his pious excrescence from several years ago. And suddenly he's got people calling for his head not because of his affair and not because of his lying but because of his hypocrisy.

It has happened so many times that you can pretty much predict who's going to cheat on his wife just by seeing who's yelling the loudest about the latest scandal. (Tim Pawlenty, anyone?)

Whenever these incidents arise, there is plenty of moral outrage to go around. But as James Carville suggested Sunday on CNN, smart politicians will leave the outrage to the pundits and say as little as possible about the poor fallen Governor of South Carolina. Otherwise you're just asking for trouble in your own back yard.

Thrice-married political consultant Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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