You're famous and you've been caught in public with your pants down. How do you get out of it? Easy: be beautiful.
Here in Illinois, we're still abuzz with the news that Republican senatorial candidate Jack Ryan withdrew from the Senate race because it was revealed that he's a swinger. The city's flagship paper The Chicago Tribune naturally sprinted to the moral high ground and nudged Ryan toward removing himself from the ballot — this is after the Tribune sued to have the sealed divorce proceedings, which detailed his allegedly clumsy attempts at swinging, opened.
"More troubling — and more certain than the allegations in a divorce file — is that Ryan was not honest with Republican primary voters, nor with party leaders who asked him, before the election, if his divorce records would embarrass him or the party," read one smug, self-congratulatory editorial. "He said they would not."
I'd like to say that I raced to the high moral ground as well, but I was too titillated by the thought of Ryan's ex-wife, Star Trek: Voyager and Boston Public alum Jeri Ryan, doing unspeakable acts at Parisian sex clubs. (Full disclosure: I'm a man.) I'd seen her scantily clad in Maxim, but now I had better atmospherics for those scantily clad visions. Whips, chains, and cages (her testimony), oh my!
And I wasn't alone. Most men leered along with me or stood in gender solidarity with Ryan — no actual infidelity occurred, what a politician does in front of a bevy of strangers on soiled mattresses with whips and chains in a dingy, underground New York City sex club is none of our business, etc., etc., etc. Even the voice of the male libido — and, more recently, the left — Howard Stern said he'd vote for the conservative Ryan because he'd "banged Seven of Nine," the former Mrs. Ryan's Voyager character.
For me, there were only two downsides to this scandal: (1) the alleged behavior wasn't videotaped and therefore available on the Internet for my voyeuristic pleasure; and (2) Jeri Ryan was such a prude. For Ryan, there was one rather large drawback: The GOP never liked him and he provided them with a noose when he didn't honestly inform them what kind of kinky skeletons — alleged or otherwise — might be lurking in those sealed court documents.
If Ryan had been chummier with the state's Republican elite, powerful Illinois party members such as Speaker of the House Denny Hastert and beloved former Gov. Jim Edgar would have promptly championed Ryan's not-so-sordid account: that, once and only once, he'd escorted the comely Mrs. Ryan during a romantic getaway to a Parisian nightclub that happened to feature risqué sexual activities; that they both became immediately uncomfortable and left shortly thereafter.
Then the spin started. While some polls claimed Ryan was making progress, most indicated he was trailing Democratic golden boy Barack Obama by at least 10 points. In the press, Ryan was a complete afterthought. If nothing else, the scandal secured what Ryan needed most: face time. Best yet, this would allow him to shop his best attribute in spades — his looks. The sex scandal would get a lot less ugly, literally, when voters saw how attractive he and the ex were.
The pulchritudinous receive an unfair advantage in life. Namely, we, the non-pulchritudinous, cut them a shit-load of slack. They're like babies and puppies. At first, we're pissed they shit on the floor, but then we remember how cute they are and all is quickly forgiven. As for sex scandals, it's never unpleasant to think of attractive people in compromising positions — or any other position for that matter.
Want proof? Take Monicagate as an antithetical anecdote.
People weren't upset (or, if you're a Republican, really, really upset) because the president was involved in an extramarital affair — that's par for the presidential course. FDR was supposedly cheating on Eleanor, and he didn't have the use of his legs. It wasn't even that the president diddled a woman with a cigar and engaged in some light anilingus in the Oval Office.
Here's what offended the general public and Republican Party's sensibilities (subconsciously or otherwise): Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky are ugly people who did ugly things to each other. If Bill Clinton looked like Jack Ryan and Monica Lewinsky like Jeri Ryan, men (Republicans included) would have saluted him — no matter how depraved the acts. If even one of them was more aesthetically pleasing the backlash would have been calmer, the impeachment proceedings extra silly.
But Bill Clinton was blessed with political acumen and Monica Lewinsky with the ability to design handbags. That removed titillation from the equation and, unfortunately for Clinton, left only the cold, hard facts — a sitting president blatantly, and uniquely, cheating on the first lady on public property. When isolated under an intense magnifying glass like the Starr Report, outrage and impeachment follow.
Six years later, Clinton's still scrubbing his legacy clean. He better keep the cleaning products handy because no matter how history ultimately defines his policies all the political good he did will remain a footnote to his womanizing. In the end, he'll be remembered as the president who fucked the fat girl with a cigar in the Oval Office.
Clinton's political idol, JFK, is also recalled as a notorious womanizer, but his infidelities are a side note to his legacy as a forward-thinking peacemaker. The reason is simple: JFK, Marilyn Monroe, and the countless other women JFK bedded during his presidency were all exceedingly attractive and classy; Bill Clinton is ugly white trash from Arkansas.