Post Politics: Do all powerful men cheat on their wives?

Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 11:44pm

The downfall of Sen. Paul Stanley has been no different than any other political scandal involving marital infidelity. No sooner were the man's bones picked clean than the inevitable speculation about who would be the next to fall over failing to observe his marital vows began.

It was the same after then Rep. Rob Briley's now infamous flameout. Stanley, and Briley before him, the "insiders" whispered, were just the tip of the iceberg, merely notable symptoms of a greater disease.

It isn't hard to believe. After all, Stanley and Briley were only caught in their marital infidelities accidentally.

Briley was caught because, after being arrested for driving while intoxicated, he gave police the name of his lobbyist mistress as his next of kin.

Stanley was caught violating his wedding vows because his mistress' boyfriend decided (allegedly) that it would be a good idea to call up the Senator to request hush money.

In these cases, reporters' hands were forced. They were compelled to acknowledge that which they would normally ignore. Had Briley never been pulled over or had Stanley picked a different intern, both likely still would be in office today.

This, of course, begs the question: Who else is doing what Briley and Stanley did? How ingrained is the culture of infidelity? Are we talking about the rottenest of a few bad apples or did these legislators grand implosions simply expose to the public a pervasive practice which remains mostly hidden from public view?

Of course, it isn't really any of our business.

If a man chooses to discreetly bed women other than his wife and takes pains to separate that life from his public duties, that is his business. It may be despicable. It may even be something that would affect our vote, if we knew. But whom each member of the General Assembly is sleeping with at night is not information necessary for the health of the state. Not by itself.

But the question still nags. Is it all of them, or just a few?

It nags, not just because of the prurient interest or any holier-than-thou need to feel righteous. It nags because it plants a seed. It burrows a question in the mind that is hard to answer: Would any of us be any different?

With powerful men, one after another, revealed as womanizers, can we really ignore the common denominator? Power is an aphrodisiac. It may be cliche, but it is true.

Is anyone immune?

Can one be powerful and loyal to the wife or is the allure too great once you have achieved success? Is the offer made simply too many times to consistently refuse?

Further, does it mean that this monogamous ideal some of us try to hold to is a mirage? Do regular guys "avoid temptation" because, with little power and negligible net worth, they are seldom presented with any real temptation?

If given the "freedom" that power and money provides would any man cast aside their moral code in favor sampling that which is offered? And if this is how the powerful behave, maybe behaving this way is what leads to power?

These are not questions men need to be pondering.

The powerful do have a responsibility to morality but it is not to live up to a standard. It is to not insult those that do through their brazen conduct.

If the elite wants to live their lives apart from the middle class morality many of their constituents hold dear, that is between them and their God. But when they screw up as colossally as Briley and Stanley did, they invite scrutiny into the culture enjoyed at Legislative Plaza.

Put simply, they throw an unspoken social compromise out the window.

You see, most people don't want to know every little detail of the moral turpitude that goes on at the Capitol, but when the party at the Plaza is thrown in their face, people have to react and they start asking questions that no one really wants or needs to be asked.

Leadership is needed here. Not to enforce some Christian moral code — that is not the responsibility of any secular leader. What is needed is more superficial. The leadership of both parties know who their weak sheep are. They know which members are most likely to flame out and publicly embarrass the legislature. A leader can't control the private conduct of those under his charge. But he or she can do due diligence to insure those private acts do not become public in an embarrassing way.

It will only take a few more scandals before a climate is created where those indiscretions legislators dabble in begin to be seen as fair game for questioning by the media.

No one, not the people and not the legislative class, really want to go down that road. It is the responsibility of leadership to see that we don't.

A.C. Kleinheider is's political blogger. Visit Post Politics at

11 Comments on this post:

By: dargent7 on 8/17/09 at 4:17

Maybe it's the times. But, recently, there are too many cheating husbands in political office to count. The "Dumbest Possible Idiot Award" goes to Gov. Sandford.
Is he still in office? Amazing how intelligent those S. Carolinaians are.

By: sidneyames on 8/17/09 at 6:24

D7, you are probably the best husband in the world!??? I'm sure you have never ever lusted after a hottie!??? ha, ha, ha. And before you start your name calling, remember one thing - every time you call me a name, I strongly believe you are a mirror reflection of me, so you are calling yourself the same name and probably in front of your bathroom mirror, if it isn't steamed up!. And I love it! It's a way for me to reassure me that my SOUTH CAROLINA roots are deep and smart. Remember before you cut down the S. Carolinaians, Michelle O'bama's family roots are there. So let's don't talk down your Prezzi-dent's wife's family tree, now. Ya'll hear! Ya'll come on back now!

By: frank brown on 8/17/09 at 6:48

AND the wives of the powerful men cheat on their husbands as well. Everybody is having sex with somebody.

By: viking on 8/17/09 at 6:51

"If a man chooses to discreetly bed women other than his wife and takes pains to separate that life from his public duties, that is his business. It may be despicable. It may even be something that would affect our vote, if we knew. But whom each member of the General Assembly is sleeping with at night is not information necessary for the health of the state. Not by itself." Yes it is. The individual leaves themselves wide open to possible political influence by special interests looking for specific votes. " Vote my way on this bill or the details of your relationships will become public." I wonder how much of that goes on in the Legislature?

By: pandabear on 8/17/09 at 7:10

...that depends on your definition of "powerful"...

By: sidneyames on 8/17/09 at 10:58

Viking, you are someone I would vote for because you have a brain and you use it for more than a door stop. You are so correct. A person who would cheat on their spouse would cheat on their constitutiants and their country. They fall easy prey to blackmailers and people who would sabotage our freedom and our safety. It does matter. It lends itself to ETHICS. And Frank Brown, "NO" everyone is not having sex with someone. Some people are powerful and ethical enough to abstain. Trust me!

By: lyndafjones on 8/17/09 at 10:58

Does this editorial imply that all holders of public office cheat on their wives or merely speculate out loud in order to cast dispersion? Trust is indeed important.

There are a good number of legislators who serve our State faithfully and without scandal for years. In fact, I would say more than 95%. The good ones are embarrassed by the corrupt ones. However, a "good " senator has no power to throw out a "corrupt or immoral " one. Its a democracy. The vote of the people controls.

Are you implying that the Speaker is and should be aware of the private affairs of all representatives? Are you implying that if an elected official suspects his office mate of something improper, he should shout it from the roof tops? Or should he mind his own business for his own constituents in his own district ?

Do the residents of Shelby county even care about something that a Knox county representative does at a hotel?

Moral leadership may be a nice ideal. But you seem to be "shoulding" on everyone who dares to serve their State.

By: frank brown on 8/17/09 at 1:31


You are correct there are some women who are so fat and ugly that they cannot give it away and some men with a testosterone level so low that thinking about it is too tiring for them.

By: gratefulted on 8/17/09 at 2:11

So South Carolinians are basing their credibility on the connection with Miclelle Obama's roots? That is, at best, pitiful.

By: billp on 8/17/09 at 3:04

It's important to remember that when a Democratic official is caught in a sex scandal (Clinton, Edwards, Spitzer) an immoral, hypocritical adulterer has finally been exposed for what he always has been. He should be impeached or resign immediately.

When a sex scandal entraps a Republican official (Ensign, Sanford, Vitter), a decent, God-fearing Christian only showed he is human like all of us, and this uncharacteristic lapse in judgment should not overshadow his strong moral convictions and dedication to his constituents. He should be allowed to continue his good work; let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Any questions? Remember, IOKIYAR (It's Okay If You're A Republican).

By: sidneyames on 8/18/09 at 6:24

gratefulted on 8/17/09 at 3:11
So South Carolinians are basing their credibility on the connection with Miclelle Obama's roots? That is, at best, pitiful.
No gratefulted. I was just reminding D7 that his favorite first lady was rooted in the very place he is running down. I don't actually think that is true, but he probably does. And, billp, it's not OK if you're a republican, especially! Reps are supposed to represent family values, etc. The dems are loose cannons, ie, Bill Clinton and they get a pass from everyone, including reps. And Frank, you forgot to mention the miriads of "fat and ugly men" on the planet. You know, the ones who don't shave, clean their finger nails or toe nails, don't wear clean clothes, snore and snort, eat like pigs and contaminate the air with certain bodily functions. Oops! I just described my husband! LMAO - out loud. Of course, I forgot to mention that I'm a contestant in the Mrs. World of Wonderful pagent! ha, ha, ha. Believe that and I'll sell you some desert property in Belle Meade!