Democrats and establishment Republicans have targeted two GOP U.S. Senate candidates — Georgia’s Herschel Walker and Pennsylvania’s Sean Parnell — over allegations from messy divorces. The charges against both are unproven. But Democrats have an actual wife-beater in the upper chamber. They would do well to remember that as they sling mud at these outsiders.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) has held his seat despite confessing, “I slapped my then-wife, Diane,” beating her so badly she sustained a black eye. That he got away with it is a testament to Delaware’s low profile, but it also speaks to voters’ willingness to forgive past transgressions, even heinous ones.
Mr. Carper dismisses the incident as old news, although he lied about it to voters during his 1982 House campaign when the New York Post reported his wife’s two children “were slapped around and bruised by Carper for doing such things as leaving the family dog on the bed.”
The crime is worse than the coverup, but he now calls bringing up his wife-beating an attempt to “create political mischief” and dismisses the assault as “a mistake.” That’s spin so effective, he could be a Tilt-A-Whirl on the boardwalk.
Voters are meant to think, “Well, we all make mistakes.” Never mind that a “mistake,” strictly defined, is pouring orange juice on your Franken Berry or spraying Pledge on a steak because the can’s the same color as Pam cooking spray. It’s not balling up your fist and slugging a woman or child. That’s a choice.
Mr. Carper made it, and his ex-wife paid the price.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who punched his now-wife, lost his job in the NFL and hasn’t worked since. Of course, Mr. Rice is black, and it seems that while a white man can be in the Senate after domestic violence, the same exception does not apply to a job as important as carrying a ball into the end zone.
This brings us to Herschel Walker, also African American. Mr. Walker‘s ex-wife claims that the former NFL star pointed a gun at her. Mr. Walker denies the allegations while being frank about his struggles with mental illness at the time. Notably, there is no physical proof along the line of those written in Mrs. Carper‘s bruises.
Sean Parnell‘s wife filed — and quickly lifted — two protection orders. Again, there is no evidence he ever laid a finger on her, much less a fist. Nor does she allege any such thing. Had Mr. Parnell or Mr. Walker been able to sell lies as effectively as Mr. Carper, they might well have desks together in the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr. Dooley, a stereotypical Irish cipher for the author’s political observations, memorably remarked at his Chicago pub, “Politics ain’t beanbag. Tis a man’s game, an’ women, childer, cripples an’ prohybitionists’d do well to keep out iv it.”
That was 1895. In the enlightened year of 2021, women, the disabled and even Clamato-drinking teetotalers like Mitt Romney throw hats in the ring. We seek representatives who didn’t start running for office in preschool and know all too well that divorces can get messy, so private lives are best left private — or so we say for candidates on our team.
Voters will ultimately decide if the allegations against these candidates disqualify them from office. Mr. Walker benefits from being well-known in his state, as Mr. Carper was in his, and is probably the more likely to survive.
Mr. Parnell has the tougher hill to climb. Still, neither has allegations against them close to what Mr. Carper is proven to have done. His party should have to answer for that hypocrisy if they persist in using it to beat up the candidates.
Likewise, Republicans in Mr. Parnell‘s primary fight should have to explain why their Old Boys Club remains silent on Mr. Carper‘s abuse while clutching their pearls and trashing a fellow party member without evidence.
In the Federalist Papers, James Madison noted, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” No candidate is an angel, but just one is proven to have beaten a woman black and blue, and he’s already in the U.S. Senate.
Elections often turn on issues having nothing to do with policy, which is the only reason we really hire them to do the job, as we heard again and again during both the Clinton and Trump presidencies. Nevertheless, Mr. Walker and Mr. Parnell may indeed join the 117th Congress. If they do, despite the current bean-bagging, neither will be a proven black eye on the U.S. Senate.
That distinction will belong to Tom Carper and Tom Carper alone.
• Dean Karayanis is a producer for the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show, longtime Rush Limbaugh staffer, and host of the History Author Show on iHeartRadio @HistoryDean.