Since the public shaming of former presidential candidate and admitted adulterer John Edwards was confirmed a couple months ago, I’ve found myself repeatedly asking the question of why some politicians, or in the case of Edwards, former politicians, have their political careers ruined when they get caught up in a sex scandal and others, like Bill Clinton, don’t.
Why is it that John McCain and Newt Gingrich haven’t had their political careers dogged for leaving their wives for a mistress, but Gary Hart’s political career was destroyed because of a photograph of him with a young woman on the end of a dock?
How exactly has Chappaquiddick Ted Kennedy been able to get re-elected for so long? And how was Gerry Studds, a Congressman from Massachusetts who confessed to having sex with a 17-year-old male page in the early ’80s, able to serve 14 more years when Mark Foley’s sexually explicit e-mails and instant messages to underage male pages prompted his hasty removal from office?
A new book by Susan Wise Bauer, called “The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin and Public Confession in America” takes an in-depth look at these and many other questions involving sexual sin in the world of politics and religion — i.e. Jimmy Swaggart’s treatment versus Jim Bakker’s and many more. Laura Miller has a review of the book worth reading at Salon.com.