What Can We Learn from Scandals?

jay carneyThe vast array of scandals we have experienced the last few months has captured my attention like it has for so many other Americans.

Here is the scandal roundup; at least some of the bigger, more recent ones.

Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford bested Elisabeth Colbert (sister of comedian Stephen Colbert) in the first district congressional race. He is the guy who went off the grid while governor to visit his Argentinian mistress in 2009. His wife divorced him and accused him of trespassing. Sanford paid several thousand dollars in fines for ethics violations and is now engaged to his former mistress.

Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is running for the powerful comptroller post in New York City. He admitted to paying as much as $80,000 to prostitutes while Governor.

Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner is running for mayor of New York City. He resigned from his congressional seat amid a sexting scandal in which he sent a picture of his “member” to women in 2011. Recently, while running for Mayor of New York City, it was revealed that his sexting continued after therapy. His support is withering while he stubbornly continues his campaign.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner vowed this week to stay in office even though he has been accused of sexual harassment by several prominent women. He did consent to two weeks of rehab while receiving daily briefings as mayor.

Celebrity chief and queen of southern cookin’ Paula Deen admitted to using the “N-word” in the 1980’s as she was deposed in a case involving her brother’s restaurant where she is part owner. Her contracts with the Food Network, her publisher, and ten other major companies have been cancelled.

Alec Baldwin tweeted a message full of homophobic slurs to a reporter who blogged that Baldwin’s wife tweeted during James Gandolfini’s memorial service. In 2007, after a bitter divorce from actress Kim Bassinger, his 11-year daughter revealed an expletive laced voicemail Baldwin left for her resulting in him temporarily losing visitation rights.

Nearly one year ago, In Benghazi, Libya, four Americans were killed in an attack, including the American Ambassador to the country. The attack went on for several hours as some officials watched in real time. Yet, the consulate staff was not provided with additional protection. The administration has not been forthcoming with details and many questions remain unanswered.

Beginning in 2010, the IRS began selectively hyper-scrutinizing and delaying the applications of conservative organizations for 501 (c3) tax exempt statuses. Words, like tea party and patriot were flagged, as well as, organizations that emphasized education about the Constitution or Bill of Rights. Two IRS officials have resigned while the investigation continues.

Recently, we learned the administration has obtained the phone records of all AP reporters and the private emails of Fox News reporter, James Rosen. This kind of behavior threatens a free press as it has a “chilling effect” upon those who might be sources who may fear being spied upon by the government or accused of some crime.

National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden revealed a massive blanket snooping program aimed indiscriminately at all Americans that included access to almost everything transmitted via phone or the Internet. For over a month he has been holed up at a Moscow airport as he seeks a country to grant him asylum. In the US, he has been hailed as a hero and accused of espionage.  

The acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch enthusiast who killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager lit ups the media a few days ago. Talk of further investigations and racial profiling accompanied demonstrations around the country followed the verdict.

What conclusions can we draw from all of this? Here are mine. I hope you will share yours.

Politicians and Sex

  • Politicians and sexual scandals seem to go together. They have for a long, long time.
  • We seem to be willing to forgive our politicians of a few sexual indiscretions, but when there is an ongoing, unending pattern, we draw the line.
  • Our moral and ethical values toward sexual issues have progressively gotten more relaxed.
  • A big issue in a person’s private life will probably affect his public, professional performance.
  • Politicians (and perhaps most people) tend to lie when their bad behavior catches up with them.
  • Politicians seem to be willing to do about anything to hang on to their position.

Celebs and Indiscretions

  • Some people can be total jerks and get away without suffering much media imposed disgrace. I am thinking of Alec Baldwin and wonder if it is because he favors and has been a benefactor for several liberal causes, since most of the media lean left.
  • Other people are disproportionately punished for their indiscretions. Paula Deen was perfect media fodder. She is an overweight southerner who made delicious, but unhealthy dishes even after she knew she was a type 2 diabetic. Her remark was made over 30 years ago at a time and place when, unfortunately, such language was not uncommon.


  • The public interest in the growing series of government scandals that President labeled “phony scandals” in recent speeches is waning rather rapidly, revealing an uninformed public that has low expectations of its government and is very weary of political skirmishes.  Unfortunately, the administration is counting on that weariness as they continue to stonewall various investigations.
  • If there are any of these scandals we should be concerned about, it is those that that threaten our freedom and the very nature of our democratic government. Unfortunately, the populous seems to be asleep, more concerned about pop culture crazes than serious issues.
  • Race is the big taboo in our country these days. While people were livid about the jury’s decision in the George Zimmerman trial, there is an unwillingness to talk about the serious issues in the black community, the breakdown of the family and black-on-black violence. Those who raise these issues are quickly dismissed as racists. That PC-ness which results in the squelched conversation continues to erode understanding and causes frustrations to mount and people become more-and-more extreme in their positions.


About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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