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 NashvillePost.com's political blogger. Visit Post Politics at http://postpolitics.net