Commentary: Sex scandal rule No. 1 — don't make things worse

The Charlotte ObserverJune 8, 2011 

Thank you, gentlemen, for attending this seminar titled "Ethical Fulcrums of Political Integrity for Lecherous Pigs."

Because this is a remedial course, we'll skip over Lesson One, "What Were You Thinking?" and get right to Lesson Two, "You Were Thinking You'd Get Away With It? Seriously?"

Congressman Weiner, let's use you as an example. In looking back over your case, you made a few minor errors.

Sexting images of your face and other scenic splendors to strangers and porn stars always falls under the heading, "Probably Not a Good Idea."

Your case was compounded by your unfortunate name, "Anthony."

Inept handling of inquiries as to whether the nether region in question was actually yours may have made things worse.

This leads us to Lesson Three, "This Is No Time for a Memorable Speech."

Remember, when in the Deny-Deny-Deny phase, it is essential that you not spout pithy quotes. You want to sound like the chairman of the Federal Reserve, not Mark Twain.

Avoid phrases like "with certitude," "tabloid trash," "wide stance" or "Appalachian Trail." Such talk has peculiar sticking power in the public imagination.

Mr. Edwards, if you'll put the comb down a second, we'll see what can be learned from your approach. When we sent you to the Senate, so you could spend half your freshman term running for president, we were relying on you to show good judgment.

Hiring your fuzzy-numpkins on the campaign staff, impregnating same and cooking up a kooky cover-up was not Solomon-like. It was more like a subplot in "Hangover III." Put down the mirror, Arnold, and please see Lesson Four, "If Lying Fails, Try Coming Clean."

All of you need to be mindful of the serious consequences of a political sex scandal. Getting caught can lead to ridicule, indictment or a talk-show gig on CNN.

Mr. Sanford, you are the case study for Lesson Five, "Enough Already."

After making your public confession, do not stick around explaining in detail how you've located your soul mate on some distant shore, how you yearn to bask in her radiance, how the world wobbles in her presence. This is more than anyone deserves to know and only encourages the lonely to re-up on Match.com.

People recognize that a certain amount of deception goes with mating behavior everywhere in the animal kingdom, ranging from vivid plumage to padded bosoms. This is widely understood and tolerated. Whole sectors of our economy are built on it.

We are a forgiving people. Most of us have dirty laundry, too.

We just can't forgive deliberate falsehoods from those we elect. In politics, that's the line you can't cross.

Those of you who came clean right off, you can leave. You may even be eligible for a comeback.

Rep. Weiner and Mr. Edwards, your homework is Lesson Six: "Pants on Fire."

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