Our politicians have done most parts of their job badly this year. I think everyone agrees on that. There is, however, one thing that they’ve done well. They’ve kept us entertained with a steady diet of sex scandals. Barely has a senator resigned in disgrace after paying off his mistress before we learn of a representative sending lewd pictures to numerous women online. Accountability seems to be the key word these days, and thus we need to hold our politicians accountable for their sex scandals. We need to make sure that the quality of the humiliation they pile on themselves does not slip, so we need some way of measuring their transgressions. I propose the following schemata for quantifying the juiciness of a sex scandal.
Office. Obviously higher ranking politicians produce better sex scandals. We will award 5 points for a legislator, 10 for a representative or big-city mayor, 20 for a senator or governor, 30 for a president, and 40 for a head of the IMF or something of that nature. Those who are only candidates for a certain office will get half the number of points assigned to that office.
Misdeed. The type of sexual misbehavior matters. More points will be awarded for more egregious deeds. We start with 10 points for a garden-variety affair, 20 points for hiring a prostitute, and up to 30 points for something particularly outrageous.
Cover-up. The longer a cover-up goes, the better. Politicians can earn up to 15 points for a particularly lengthy cover-up. Bonus points will be awarded for hush-money payments or trying to get one’s mistress out of the country.
Hypocrisy factor. Special consideration will be given to those politicians who engaged in a behavior while legislating or speaking out against it, such as hiring a call girl while prosecuting high-end call girl rings or having a black lovechild while serving as your state’s segregationist governor. Up to 30 points can be earned in this manner.
Shamelessness factor. Up to 30 additional points may be awarded for a politicians who is particularly brazen, blames others, lies in a particularly outrageous manner, or otherwise goes above and beyond the call of duty in providing sex scandal entertainment.
I must readily acknowledge the obvious fact that there’s ambiguity in all of these categories except the first one. My goal here is not pinpoint accuracy, but rather a framework in which we can tell how wells politicians are doing their job of keeping us entertained. With that caveat, I get the following scores among well-known scandals.
Larry Craig 80
Bill Clinton 70
Eliot Spitzer 65
Newt Gingrich 60
Mark Foley 55
John Edwards 50
Jack Ryan 50
David Vitter 45
Arnold Schwarzenegger 40
Mark Sanford 40 (Ten bonus points awarded for giving us the euphemism “Hiking the Appalachian Trail”)
John Ensign 40
Anthony Weiner 35
Rudy Giuliani 35
(* Dominic Strauss-Kahn is temporarily omitted while we await the resolution of the various charges against him.)
The hands-down winner at the moment is Larry Craig. The breakdown of his score was 20 points for being a Senator, 30 points for soliciting anonymous sex in a men’s bathroom, 10 for the cover-up, 10 for hypocrisy, and 10 for his now-legendary “wide stance” excuse, giving him a total of 80. While that puts him at the top right now, I have no doubt that other politicians will be vying for that position. At the rate they’re going, it can’t be too long before else sets the a new record.