Political Sex Scandals: Forget Party. It’s The Wives.

I do just what I want to do
I want everything and I want you, too
I wish I could explain to you
But the things men without women do
You just don’t understand

– Little Steven, Men Without Women

As the Weinergate story continues to build up steam  one side conversation that comes up frequently is about whether it will have any impact on the Democratic congressman because….well, he’s a Democrat. I say forget that. If the story breaks the way it seems to be breaking, ignore his party affiliation. Watch his wife.

Lots of people think there’s a double standard based on whether the scandal is about a Republican or Democrat. Republicans view this as an example of media bias and Democrats view it as side effect of Republican’s focus on family issues but both sides accept for the most part that the double standard exists. I’m going to offer an alternative theory for your consideration. It’s not about politics.

It’s about women.

Specifically, it’s about the wives of politicians and how they react. This is a bigger factor than party affiliation. Often, the voters just don’t care. The wives always care but sometimes put the money and power and ambition above other considerations. (I’m looking at you, Hillary.)

Or take another case I know well; the John Edwards affair. When the Enquirer broke the story of John Edwards getting caught at the Beverly Hilton with Rielle Hunter, it wasn’t like the late Elizabeth Edwards didn’t know who Hunter was. In fact, she’d confronted John about his affair just a few days after he announced his Presidential run. Elizabeth could have chosen to end his ambitions right then and there. She chose not to. As Brad Crone, a Raleigh-based Democratic consultant said “While she’s the victim, she clearly didn’t stand in the way of the cover-up."

And once Elizabeth turned on Edwards, it was over for him.

Now, I do think that there may a cultural factor that is peripherally related to politics – at the margins, Democratic wives may be ambitious and politically focused than Republican wives, who may be more religious or focused on their own family. As I said, though, at the margin – there’s no rule here.

Compare David Vitter (Republican) with Elliot Spitzer (Democrat) and their respective hooker scandals. Spitzer resigned almost immediately. Vitter stuck it out and there’s Wendy Vitter, standing right by his side as he sticks to the career path. You really don’t need to watch the video  — look at her face in the clip thumbnail. Sticking it out ain’t easy. 

Those southern, family values Republicans elected Vitter again.

Compare that to Elliot Spitzer

Close friends have stated that Spitzer spends most of his time with his family, and regularly meets with lawyers in his father Bernard’s real estate office in Manhattan. Spitzer and his wife have entered couples therapy because of Spitzer’s adultery.

Look at almost any of these sex scandals and you’ll see the real factor how the wives reacted.

When Chris Lee (R – NY) was caught with his pants down with his shirt off, he immediately resigned and went home. I don’t have any insight there, but my first thought was that his wife told him he’d lost his D..C. privileges.

Larry Craig (R – ID) retired but didn’t resign and fought back.

Literally and figuratively, Suzanne Craig, wife of Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, stood by her man as he spoke to reporters Tuesday, denying that he is gay and saying that he mistakenly pleaded guilty to charges that he had propositioned an undercover police officer for sex in an airport men’s room.

And Barney Frank? No women at all.

What’s Mrs. Weiner to do? Thankfully, she has Hillary to call on for advice and support.


  1. Lee, I see Kos is now in full defense mode. they are claiming the picture has been edited. This link claims to use a method to show it is http://errorlevelanalysis.com/permalink/428f7a2/ . However there is one problem. If you look at the original RT posted by @PatriotUSA76 the picture still shows up, despite being deleted http://twitter.com/#!/patriotusa76/status/74317507355357185
    The yfrog id# h25m3luj matches the one archived on the congressional page and the photos of the deleted tweet.

    Now you I and everyone with half a brain knows this wasn’t photoshopped. Heck Weiner isn’t claiming that, he’s claiming it was hacked. But as you have a far bigger audience than I do, I just wanted to point this out.

  2. I apologize. I meant to post that last comment in your other story where it was more appropriate.

  3. Just found you via AceofSpades…seeing how you are quoting Little Steven…I am a fan and a follower. You had me at “men without women”…
    good stuff, great site.

  4. I’m still struggling to wrap my arms around the details of the article, having read it a couple times now, and the premise seems to float around a little. Maybe that’s for lack of sleep (mine not yours), but hear me out. Allow me to start here:

    [O]ne side conversation that comes up frequently is about whether [Weinergate] will have any impact on the Democratic congressman [Weiner] because … he’s a Democrat.

    What sort of impact do you mean? Political, I assume, but if the worst-case scenario occurs (an extra-marital affair is revealed, say), what are the possible purely political ramifications? He resigns or is “forced” to resign? He steps down from some senior position at a charity?

    There is no doubt that his wife could push those things if this pans out for the worst, but a public outcry could lead to them too. Or he could simply do those preemptively out of a sense of shame or wounded honor or to discourage anyone from digging deeper. His wife is a factor in 1/3 of those. I think the remaining 2 are just as important, and the article does not attempt to dissuade me from this.

    The bottom line in all 3: who or what influences Weiner or a particular politician caught in a scandal and how do we determine it? I can’t answer that, and I can’t buy the premise that the wife is the predominant influence without a convincing demonstration showing how that was determined.


    Republicans view this [double standard] as an example of media bias and Democrats view it as side effect of Republican’s focus on family issues…

    If the wife tells Weiner to resign, then the media is out of the picture. But if this turns into a scandal and she’s duped (“my husband would never do that”) or Weiner doesn’t care about her feelings/advice/whatever, that leaves public outcry and, ultimately, Weiner’s conscience/self-interest to make something happen. Assuming Weiner thinks he’s going to get away with it, that leaves public outcry. This is addressed somewhat when you mention:

    Often, the voters just don’t care.

    They can’t not care until they have a choice to care presented to them. I would expect that choice to come from the media in the form of a news story. Watch or read the story, decide if you care. There are voters who would care about this (certainly the Republicans who focus on family issues would) and surely every voter in his district has a right to know the facts about this.


    And once Elizabeth turned on Edwards [after his affair], it was over for him.

    How did it play out? Couldn’t he have just quietly divorced her and carried on his political path? If so, why didn’t he? A strong connection between wife and politician is not a given (I’m looking at you, Newt), and I don’t think John and Elizabeth are necessarily the standard bearers for how political couples address a scandal.

    Note the conspicuous absence of Bill Clinton in the article. I don’t think anyone waited for Hillary to authorize investigations. The facts burned Bill, and only because they became public.


    Look at almost any of these sex scandals [Spitzer, et. al.] and you’ll see the real factor how the wives reacted.

    I’m not seeing it. Did Spitzer resign because his wife told him to? Did Vitter stick it out in spite of his wife’s advice? Whatever I may see on his wife’s face, it’s not showing me what she said or what motivated Vitter. Could it be that I’m simply seeing the face of a loyal, trusting wife who was shamed by the (surely false!) news coverage who is now forced to stand in public? The article doesn’t dissuade me here either.


    Those southern, family values Republicans elected Vitter again.

    No, Mr. Stranahan, a majority of voters from both parties elected Vitter again.

    But why is that? Could it be that they never heard about the scandal at all? Could it be that the southern, family values media scrubbed the story for southern, family values consumption? These aren’t serious questions, obviously, but reintroducing the voters into the article entails reintroducing the media as well. And stereotyping the voters to fill a hole in your argument doesn’t help.


    I don’t have any insight [into Chris Lee’s decision to resign] there, but my first thought was that his wife told him he’d lost his D..C. privileges.

    My first thought is that he didn’t want anyone learning what else he had been up to — certainly not his wife. I don’t have any insight into the case either so I guess this one is a stalemate.

    Overall, it seems like the article tries to build a solid theory (“watch the wives” explicitly, “and forget the politician and the public” implicitly) from personal assumptions about case studies. That’s exactly the foundation for “media bias” articles. Case studies and assumptions are often all we have to work with, but it is difficult to use them to persuade those who have already accepted some other case studies and assumptions as sufficiently explanatory, particularly when the other theory better fits one’s worldview. Also, with the wives theory, there is a looming spectre rustling the curtains in the background: the politician’s guilty conscience and an angry populace.

    Happy Memorial Day. And thanks for covering weinergate.



  1. Dan Wolfe @patriotusa76 Twitter Stream 4/11/2011 to 5/29/2011 « Daily Dose - [...] Stranahan  by patriotusa76 Political Sex Scandals: Forget Party. It’s The Wives.http://bit.ly/l3M0ZZ | new on…
  2. For God Sakes, WHO CARES About #Weinergate?!? - [...] 7) It’s a story that allows tangential posts about topics I’m interested in, like this one about sex scandals…

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