Wednesday, October 04, 2006

This wit of Louisiana politics

Edwin Edwards resides in a Texas federal prison. Back when he was a free man and the long-time governor of Louisiana he claimed the only way he could lose an election was if he "was caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy."

Not only did this quip display the type of wit that propelled a known criminal to state-wide office*, it seemed to have a logic that could be applied beyond the cesspool that is Louisiana politics -- and is oft-quoted because of that.

Yet it doesn't hold up to scrutiny when applied broadly. The Foley scandal reminds us that in 1983 Congressmen Gary Studds of Massachusetts admitted to having a sexual relationship with a male page ten years earlier. He even took the then 17-year old with him on a taxpayer financed congressional trip to Morocco for some underage fun in the African sun.

Studds was censored by congress but refused to apologize and turned his back when the censure was read. His home district rewarded his defiance by re-electing him six times.

So why in 2006, when homosexuality is far more accepted than it was 1983, has Mark Foley's live 16 year old boy -- one he likely never physically touched -- sent him fleeing the House of Representives for "alcohol" rehab and left his party's leadership in disarray?

While it is true an event unfolding in real-time is starker than something being revisited ten years later-- as was the case with the outing of the Studds affair, the far bigger difference between the two indiscretions is the recorded electronic communication between Foley and the teenager.

These creepy, overtly sexual IM's are boldfaced all over the internet for anyone with a mouse and modem to read and cringe at.

I'm sure if the public of 1983 had caught a whiff of the spoken dialogue between Stubbs and his young male page, Stubbs wouldn't have been engaging in congressional grandstanding in the aftermath.

I think we have seen the future of all political sex scandals. If not all political scandals.

When the next corrupt, clever populist sweeps his way into the Louisiana statehouse he'll come ready with a quip about how the key to winning elections is having never heard of the Internet.

*When Edwards left office in 1987, disgraced, a local political writer commented, "The only way Edwards could ever be elected again is if he runs against Adolph Hitler." Lo and behold Edwards plotted his political comeback in 1991 against Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke. He narrowly defeated Duke to retake the governorship. His unofficial campaign slogan was "vote for the crook."

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