Real House Members of DC

Published: February 11, 2011

By Jim Lichtman
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Episode 6: Sex and Stupidity.

“Will someone prove to me not all [Craig’s List] men look like toads?”

“Hi, hope I’m not a toad.” (see pic) “I’m a very fit, fun, classy guy…divorced, one child… Live in Cap Hill area. 6ft., 190lb blond/blue… 39…lobbyist. I promise not to disappoint.”

“Are you sure that’s not a photo from a JCPenny ad?”

“…Here…I just took one…I’m relaxing at home.”

“…How did your last date go?”

“She was not as advertised…how do people think you aren’t going to figure it out once you see them in person?”

Good question, Chris. Let’s see, how many lies can a Congressman tell before he resigns?

1) He’s not 39, he’s 46. 2) He’s not divorced, he’s married.3) He’s not a lobbyist, he’s a congressman. 4 – 6, he’s not classy, happily married, and apparently, lies and cheats on his wife. (I’m not including the lies he possibly told to others on Craig’s List, not to mention possibles told to staff and friends.)

One question that always comes to mind regarding behavior like Lee’s is why? Why do they think they can get away with it when so many others, particularly their own colleagues, have been caught?

Psychotherapist Gary Lange talks about what Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung calls the shadow side. “There is a portion of us that is a total opposite. If we don’t talk about it, it gets bigger. When people want something that they can’t get, it becomes a blind drive, meaning people become blind to the potential consequences of their actions.”

Additionally, Lange says, “individuals can act impulsively or are narcissistic. Political figures and athletes familiar with a level of success and power sometimes believe that they’re different, above the rules of the average person.” Two examples, Eliot Spitzer and Tiger Woods, both of whom seemed clearly blinded by the consequences of their behavior until they came face-to-face with the costs.

Washington Post political writer Karen Tumulty remarked that Lee “might have set a new indoor speed record for the life cycle of a Washington sex scandal…in going from revelation to resignation in just under 3 ½ hours.”

In a statement, (that’s beginning to sound more like a form letter) Lee said, “I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I am deeply sorry and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness…”

However, as The Post story points out, “Where most voters probably had a hunch that Bill Clinton had something of an eye for women who were not his wife, they liked his other qualities and his accomplishments well enough that they elected him anyway – twice. And two years after the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to his impeachment by the House, Clinton left office with approval ratings in the mid-60s, the highest of any president in half a century.”

Clinton’s approval ratings notwithstanding, the ugly reality behind a lie is this: once you get past the anger of the first lie the next question that usually comes to mind is, so what else has he lied about?

Another reality when the lying involves a politician: Once the story is released, it lowers the public’s level of trust for everyone else serving.

“See, I told you so. They’re all corrupt,” is just part of the mantra of cynicism I hear from people who place their faith in elected leaders only to have them fail to live up to the standards they expected. The reality is there are many fine public officials who serve their cities, states and federal government in an honorable and ethical way. As citizens, it is our duty to support and encourage their work.

While it’s easy to criticize, blame and complain, it’s more important to respond in a constructive and responsible way. The next time a scandal occurs involving a public official we don’t have to give in to the cynicism of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

I’m not suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand. However, as responsible citizens, we need to move past the indiscretion of the moment, and put our trust and confidence in the good work done by the many rather than focus our anger on the mistakes of the few.


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