Infidelity thins convention ranks

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Call girls, little white lies, big fat fibs, wavering loyalties, wincing spouses, unfortunate remarks, questionable use of campaign funds and, yes, one possible love child.

A newly realized culture of seduction has cast a potential pall over the Democratic convention this week and diminished the role of certain party luminaries and up-and-comers who could have had starring roles at the podium.

Their passions clouded their reputations, at least temporarily, and it happened only two years after Democrats captured control of Congress from a scandal-scarred GOP it blasted for promoting a “culture of corruption” on Capitol Hill.

The Democratic convention has billed itself to be green, all-American and diverse. But it’s not necessarily forgiving.

There is a roster of rejects expected to be absent from the proceedings, which begin in a matter of hours. Former presidential hopeful John Edwards won’t be there. Neither will former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa - all passed up for a pivotal moment before tens of thousands of Democratic loyalists after their sexual dalliances became public.

“A silver lining in these scandals is that infidelity is still scandalous. This shows that all the efforts to discount Bill Clinton’s cheating as ‘just sex’ didn’t change the national perception - or even Democrats’ - that fidelity matters,” said Wendy Wright, president of the Concerned Women for America.

“Infidelity - sexual or financial - carries national security risks, making a politician vulnerable to blackmail or criminal behavior to cover up his actions. But it also betrays a lack of character and good judgment, that he is willing to sacrifice everything that matters, even people who depend on him, for something not nearly as important,” she added.

Yet in a troubled post-911, post-Monica Lewinsky world, does yet another story about yet another unfaithful politician still resonate with the public? Some think not.

“There are two trend lines that would indicate these concerns will not be a factor. One, the anxiety level in the public is so deep and serious right now that some of the trivial, sensational issues are not going to have the impact they had in the past,” said Democratic consultant Dan Gerstein.

“The second thing is that it’s a mistake to think the public only sees imperfection and failings of just the other side. Both parties have their share of peccadilloes. For every Eliott Spitzer and John Edwards, there’s a Larry Craig or a Mark Foley,” Mr. Gerstein said.

Indeed, shenanigans is a bipartisan sport. In 2006 and 2007, it was the Republican time at bat, when such lawmakers as Rep. Mark Foley of Florida and Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho were caught making lewd advances to congressional pages and a police officer, respectively. The former resigned, the latter did not.

The Foley saga unfolded in the weeks before the 2006 midterm election, adding fuel to the “culture of corruption” refrain Democrats practiced when promising ethics reforms if given control of Congress.

When then-House Majority Leader Tom Delay, Texas Republican, was indicted in Texas on charges of money laundering in 2005, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, called it “the latest example that Republicans in Congress are plagued by a culture of corruption at the expense of the American people.”

Mr. Delay, whose trial is still pending, was followed by fellow Republicans Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham of California, who was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for taking bribes, and former Rep. Robert W. Ney of Ohio, who received a 30-month sentence for taking payoffs from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Ney - who collected luxury junkets, expensive meals and campaign contributions in exchange for doing legislative favors for Abramoff - became the Democrats’ poster boy for Republican corruption in the 2006 campaign.

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