There used to be only two kinds of political office in the United States, elective and appointive. The Republicans have invented the third kind: disappointive.
Less than a month into the tenure of the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives one of their rank-and-file was caught in rank behavior and filed his resignation. This despite the elaborate evasive action he took in trying to pick up women on the Internet by sending out a shirtless picture of himself. How could he have anticipated that people would still be able to identify him as a stuffed shirt?
The genius in question is a fellow named Chris Lee from upstate New York. He answered a want ad on Craig’s List from a woman who sought — get this — a mature guy. Naturally, if you look for a mate wanting, your mate will be found wanting. But the broader question for the nation is whether the Republicans leave something to be desired — leave something valuable, such as our trust, just to be desired in shallow ways.
Now I confess to having written this article once already, but it begs for a revisit. This is a critical moment in the evolution of our politics, and we can only survive with the fittest. This new bunch came to town with great promise of acuity and their moment should not be squandered on promiscuity. Keep the promise you made to the cutie you married and serve the people humbly, that’s the advice they need to follow.
Ronald Reagan wrote his son, Michael, on his wedding day: “If you truly love a girl, you shouldn’t ever want her to feel, when she sees you greet a secretary or a girl you both know, that humiliation of wondering if she was someone who caused you to be late coming home, nor should you want any other woman to be able to meet your wife and know she was smiling behind her eyes as she looked at her, the woman you love, remembering this was the woman you rejected even momentarily for her favors.” There is nothing that needs to be added to that in terms of morality, personal loyalty, and even practicality.
After fifty-two years of living and observing life, I can tell you that the average of other women lags behind the average of wives in every area: looks, intelligence, social skills, personality, demeanor, not to mention achievement and dignity. As James Thurber wrote in the New York Times almost a century ago, the non-wife has two key virtues. She builds you up without challenging you and she can be unloaded with less consequence. All the things that voters used to do for Congressmen, in fact.
We are living in too important a time and our representatives in high office have been entrusted with too important a task. At this point, they cannot cheat on their wives without cheating on us, cheating on the country, cheating on the future. Somehow they have to find the strength to put aside the whims and the women. Park those fantasies off for future reference when you are cashing retirement checks and your sun visor is not reflecting back on the voters.
Look, this is a lot less easy than it sounds, I know. There is plenty of temptation anywhere, and it is only heightened by the junction of ambition and power that is Washington, the junction of ambition and money that is New York, the junction of ambition and beauty that is Hollywood. I am not judging Christopher Lee, not by a long shot. I am not trying to portray myself as a better person by one iota. My plea — my hope — is that the higher calling substitute for the lower urges. As Maimonides declared: “Sexual fantasy can only occupy a mind diverted from wisdom.”
We are all human beings with a full complement of frailties. Still, it is possible, though not without great commitment, to devote ourselves to noble causes. This is more true at a time of national emergency. Guys, we are looking for mature people, fit and cheerful and goal-oriented, not given to deceiving themselves and others, people who take responsibility and address themselves to the long term. But we have been burnt too many times before.