If I have to listen to another politician telling us how sorry he is about his marital infidelities, I’m going to disappear on the Appalachian Trail and emerge years later, if ever, somewhere in Patagonia, where my meager pension will pay for all my food, gin, and other basic needs.
I’ve always known that a large number of men go into politics to accept bribes and steal from the taxpayers. Who’s worse? A thief or an adulterer? The thief is worse. His thievery harms everyone in his jurisdiction. His adultery hurts his wife, but she can protect herself with numerous personal and legal resources. She can kick the rat out if she wants to, as Governor Sanford of South Carolina now understands.
In moments of great insight, taxpayers might even encourage politicians to take up extramarital sex, cruise the toilets of Minnesota airports, or fondle interns in a closet conveniently located beside the Oval Office. The more time they spend playing around, the less time they have to steal money and take bribes.
The case of Spiro Agnew comes to mind. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Baltimore charged that he took bribes while he was a county official in Maryland, while he was the Governor of Maryland, and while he was the Vice President of the United States. During his reign as Vice President, he also wasted time flipping through his thesaurus, looking for rarely used words with which he concocted alliterative phrases that he thought would spice up the efforts of his speech writer. All this sport ended when news of his love affair with bribery suddenly danced on the headlines. What Agnew really needed was a girlfriend in South America.
Or ponder the career of Rod Blagojevich, the former Governor of Illinois. If the charges against him are proven true, he’ll always be remembered as the most inept bribe-seeker in the history of the Chicago political machine. His wife, Patti, will miss him if he goes to jail, but I’ve heard nothing about adulterous liaisons by either of them. Maybe a discrete call girl, summoned once or twice a month, could have saved the governor from greed unequaled by everyone but the bankers of Wall Street.
Female politicians, now liberated but still relatively new at the game, have set a prudish record for marital fidelity. I attribute this to the home economics classes they were forced to take in high school. But one sometimes suspects that their Gucci bags are stuffed with cash handed out by insurance companies, stealth munitions salesmen, and the previously mentioned Wall Street bankers.
I hate to be the first to suggest it, but taxpayers could troll the Web for internet porn and send the ladies, especially those in Congress, a flood of the stuff, enough to reinforce their libidos and send them home with other women’s husbands. All this fun would soon turn them into insurance, bank, and weapons haters; and they would start cutting the appropriate parts of the budget. The weapons portion of this formula, by itself, could easily lead to a federal balance sheet so fiscally sound that it would drive Dick Cheney back into his bunker forever.
When I was a boy, I had no idea how much happiness politics might bring. If I had known what Governor Sanford knew, I would have studied Spanish in high school instead of trigonometry, and I could have gone into his line of work right after graduation. I could have balanced every budget that came near me while I was lying around between flights to Buenos Aires.
But I missed my chance. I was a good boy, most of the time. Now I’m older than Bill Clinton, and I’m almost as old as Dick Cheney. My income just went down, and the price of gin just went up. Go ahead, Argentina. Cry for me.
PATRICK IRELAN is a retired high-school teacher. He is the author of A Firefly in the Night (Ice Cube Press) and Central Standard: A Time, a Place, a Family (University of Iowa Press). You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.