One of the more socially destructive aspects of the (Bill) Clinton legacy has been the elevation of Brazening It Out--"It" being the kind of scandal that once upon a time shamed politicians into resignation over breaching what were once widely recognized as the boundaries of propriety through extra-marital affairs, gambling, and other reckless behaviors.
GOP Sen. John Vitter of DC Madam infamy comes to mind as one who, pre-Bill (and Monica), would have quietly disappeared, but there are many others. GOP Rep. Vito Fosella, whose drunk-driving arrest led to revelations of a longstanding affair and illegitimate child with a retired Air Force Colonel --a lady--is still on the fence over whether he will resign or run for re-electon.
Having decided to tough out Utter Exposure--with no regard for the deletrious impact that revelations of his low-life behavior would have both on citizens (including children), and the world (including terrorists)--Bill Clinton made himself the Patron Saint of Political Survival at Any Cost. All that was required to worship at this altar was the sacrifice of shame.
It also required the approval--or, if not approval, apathy--of his peer group and the public. But I am wondering if we are seeing any incremental change here. Today's New York Times carries a story out of Ohio that reveals some encouraging gumption of the part of the offending official's peer group. It seems the Democratic attorney general Marc Dann has finally resigned over an admitted extra-marital affair and related sexual harassment charges after having "refused Gov. Ted Strickland’s repeated public calls for him to step down." What made the difference?
The NYT reports:
The scandal that resulted in his downfall began on April 6 when The Columbus Dispatch reported that two women in his office had filed sexual harassment complaints against Anthony Gutierrez, a leading aide and longtime friend.
Less than a month later, Mr. Dann — 46, married and the father of three children — admitted to an affair with his scheduler and acknowledged that it had contributed to an office atmosphere that led to the harassment claims.
Mr. Strickland and seven other prominent Ohio Democrats sent him a letter last week demanding his resignation, but he refused. “I am in the office, have rolled up my sleeves and am working on behalf of the people of the state of Ohio,” he wrote in an e-mail message to his staff.
Here we see Dann following the Clinton playbook--striking the old working-on-behalf-of-the-people pose. But his fellow Democrats didn't play with him as Congressional Democrats with Clinton did back in the Bad Old Nineties.
But on Tuesday, Democratic legislators introduced nine articles of impeachment against him, accusing him of obstructing an internal investigation into sexual harassment. In a second inquiry, investigators for the state inspector general raided Mr. Dann’s office on Wednesday and confiscated a number of computers.
Maybe the Ohio Dems simply didn't like Dann, but maybe the Ohio Dems didn't like his behavior.
Mr. Strickland said at the news conference Wednesday that he would appoint a successor to Mr. Dann. That appointee will face a special election in November to fill out the remainder of the term, which expires in January 2011.
Asked what he wanted in a new attorney general, Mr. Strickland said, “Maturity.”
Good thinking, Guv.