Monday, August 10, 2009

Temptations On the Plaza

An Associated Press story says what many of us already knew-that temptations to "stray," or engage in professionally inappropriate behavior, are very high up at the Legislative Plaza:

Tennessee lawmakers say the recently exposed illicit relationship of a state senator highlights the temptations that exist on Capitol Hill.

Paul Stanley, a Republican from Germantown, resigned after court documents revealed he admitted to investigators that he'd had an affair with his 22-year-old intern, McKensie Morrison, and acknowledged taking explicit photos of her in his Nashville apartment.

"I tell you, you have to build your defenses against that," said Floyd, R-Chattanooga. "You just cannot place yourself to be in a position to be tempted."

"Opportunity is the problem," he said. "And you get to thinking the rules don't apply to you."

University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato believes politicians are born risk-takers who have a propensity to stray.

"The temptations are great," Sabato said. "You know power is an aphrodisiac. There are people who will throw themselves at elected officials. I've seen it happen. There are actually political groupies who do that."

I do not for a second believe that what happened to Paul Stanley or any number of other legislators of both parties is the fault of the woman involved-at least not solely. Even if someone is a "political groupie" who "throws themselves" at the powerful (and there are plenty of such people), elected officialdom have to allow themselves to be thrown at. Opportunity for this sort of thing is abundant on the Hill, and the offenders are bipartisan.

Up until now, the press and the party opposite has treated Paul Stanley's scandal as though it were some shocking incident that never happens in Nashville. The reality is that what happened to Paul Stanley is more common than any of the press pundits or anyone on the Hill cares to admit. No, that doesn't mean that inappropriate behavior between legislators and lobbyists, interns, or staff happens every day or all the time. Nor should saying that this behavior is "too common" be understood mean that most legislators have engaged in that kind of conduct or condone it.

What it does mean is that in a professional environment where the public business is conducted, there is enough "extracurricular activity" that Paul Stanley's story isn't the least bit surprising. There are those placing Stanley under indictment because his public stands on family issues did not match his private conduct. Perfection isn't the issue, and neither is Paul Stanley's so-called hypocrisy. Stanley's affair has no bearing on whether Planned Barrenhood should be State-funded or whether the law should protect the traditional nuclear family as the principle means to rear children. As matters of law, those ideas uphold timeless principles that existed before Paul Stanley (or anyone else), and will be rooted in eternal truths long after such people are gone.

The real difficulty is that there are a few of our legislators (over the years I would say the number may seem high but really represents but a fraction of the General Assembly) who seem to regress in maturity when they are elected to the Legislature. It is a disease that has impacted members-usually men-of both parties and even a few folks who are otherwise admirable people who have made great efforts for their constituents. For some reason, the air, water, or something in the atmosphere at the Capitol causes some grown men to develop the hormones of a college freshman. One would hate to have to teach a class in office ethics and decorum to such people. When respected veteran lawmakers and astute political observers see a problem with the possibility of inappropriate relationships among some in our General Assembly, and it happens frequently enough, then something must be done to prevent the high honor of election to office from often becoming the low disgrace of "just another slimy politician."

Perfection isn't the issue-many legislators have unfortunately given to temptation. The real matter at hand is the ability of members to recall why they are at the Capitol to begin with. The best way to insure that your "private life" doesn't become part of the State's political life is to keep your private life well clear of the public sphere.

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At Monday, August 10, 2009 7:09:00 PM, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

Good story. Part of the problem is the parties every single night.

The good ones are meeting with their constitutes and lobbyists, but their are plenty there just to get laid.

At Wednesday, August 12, 2009 11:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another column on infidelity in the Legislature...but, still no mention of the infidelity of your own Representative?!

C'mon Dave...until you address this issue you have NO credibility....


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