On Monday, following the release of shirtless photos by Andrew Breitbart's Big Government, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D–N.Y.) announced that he had sent lewd photos and text messages to six different women in the last three years—all of whom he met online. It was a bizarre scene, made all the more so by the presence of Breitbart, who seized the podium before Weiner's press conference to take questions about his site's coverage of the scandal. But where does it rank on the spectrum of recent political apologies? Here's a quick look:
1. Sen. John Ensign (R–Nev.)
Busted: Had extra-marital affair with the wife of a close friend (and aide). Had his parents pay off the couple to keep them quiet. Used his influence to land the husband of his mistress a job.
Strategy: "Take full responsibility," but don't actually take full responsibility. Ensign says there's nothing to the reports of possible ethics violations.
Did he resign? Yes, last month, when he faced expulsion from the Senate (the first since the Civil War) on ethics charges stemming from his cover-up.
Busted: Sent shirtless photos to a Maryland woman he met on Craigslist.
Strategy: Put out a terse statement, resign immediately.
Did he resign? See above.
3. Sen. John Edwards (D–N.C.)
Busted: Cheated on cancer-stricken wife with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter. The National Enquirer publishes "spy photos" of Edwards holding Hunter's baby.
Strategy: Deny, deny, deny—and then eventually confess to the affair on Nightline: "I became, at least on the outside, something different than that young boy who grew up in a small town in North Carolina." Continue to deny paternity of the child, and then cave on that too.
Did he resign? Out of office. But he might go to prison now.
4. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)
Busted: Arrested in a sting at the Minneapolis International Airport, Craig pled guilty to soliciting sex from an undercover cop in a men's restroom.
Strategy: Blame the local newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, for pressuring him into confessing even though he did nothing wrong. Blame the confusion over whether or not he was propositioning a cop by tapping his foot on a "wide stance." Oh, and just to be clear: "I am not gay, and I never have been gay."
Did he resign? Nope.
Is there a dramatic reenactment of the arrest that uses the police report as a script?Glad you asked.
5. Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.)
Busted: GOP rising star goes missing for seven days in early 2009, causing the state police to start looking for him. Told staff that he was "hiking the Appalachian Trail," then that he was in Argentina. Conducted long-distance with affair with Argentinian woman.
Strategy: Apologize to more or less everyone he's ever met: "I hurt her. I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys. I hurt friends like Tom Davis. I hurt a lot of different folks. And all I can say is that I apologize. I —I —I would ask for your — I guess I'm not deserving of indulgence, but indulgence not for me, but for Jenny and the boys."
Did he resign? Resigned chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, but finished out his term in Columbia.
6. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)
Busted: Allegedly consorted with prostitutes in DC and New Orleans.
Strategy: Tell media to drop dead. Hold a press conference to apologize for "past failings," and then change the subject to local issues like a water resources bill and I-49 construction projects. Appear with wife at press conference, who says "I am proud to be Wendy Vitter." It's a good thing, too, because she had previously told the Times-Picayune, "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary" and that "If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."
Did he resign? Nope.
Any way things could get worse? Yes. After apologizing once more at a later event, he ran over a stop sign in the parking lot.
7. Gov. Jim McGreevey (D-N.J.)
Busted: Appointed Israeli Defense Forces vet to position as homeland security adviser; had affair with said homeland security adviser.
Strategy: Come clean, come out. "At a point in every person's life one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world. Not as we may want to see it, or hope to see it, but as it is. And so my truth is that I am a gay American."
Did he resign? Spectacularly:
8. Rep. Mark Souder (R–In.)
Busted: Affair with a part-time staffer.
Strategy: Blame the "poisonous environment of Washington," apologize to his family, acknowledge sins, improbably attempt to regain the moral high ground: "I'm sick of politicians who drag their spouses in front of the cameras rather than confront the problems that they caused."
Busted: Spent $80,000 on call girls as attorney general and governor.
Strategy: Confess to wrong-doing, keep it short, stand alongside wife.
Did he resign? Yes.
Scandal officially jumped the shark when... Call girl Ashley Dupre launched her own music career.
10. President Bill Clinton (D)
Busted: Had sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Strategy: Tell American people he did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, but later come clean while calling on the nation to move on: "Even presidents have private lives. It is time to stop the pusrsuit of personal destruction and the prying into privates lives, and get on with our national life."
Did he resign? Nope—and he survives the impeachment proceeding too.
And? If you have nothing better to do, you can read the Starr Report in its entirety here. The 90s were so weird.
Strategy: No discernible strategy. Intitially fesses up to using "salty language" but denies any wrongdoing. Massa later resigns and goes on a media blitz and accuses a naked White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel of intimidating him in the Congressional gym. Massa calls Emmanuel the "Devil's spawn," and says the administration forced him out because he didn't vote for the Affordable Care Act.
I have a story up today on Rep. Michele Bachmann's history of saying absolutely ridiculous things—from the time she opined that Melissa Etheridge's battle with breast cancer was an opportunity for the lesbian songwriter to turn away from her sinful lifestyle, to the time she suggested letting Glenn Beck fix the federal budget deficit. But a reader emailed to let me know I missed his favorite quote. And it is a pretty fantastic one: here is Bachmann, circa 2008, warning against the eight-headed chupacabra of sustainable development:
"This is their agenda. I know it is hard to believe, it's hard to fathom—but this is 'mission accomplished for them': They want Americans to take transit and move to the inner cities. They want Americans to move to the urban core, live in tenements, [and] take light rail to their government jobs. That's their vision for America."
The idea that sustainable development is some sort of nefarious plot actually has pretty deep roots in the tea party movement. MoJo's Stephanie Mencimer reported last spring on concerns, among some on the right, that the United Nations is working in league with progressive activists and politicians to return rural America to nature.
Anyway, if your favorite Bachmann-ism didn't make the cut, feel free to post it in the comments.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has a plan to bring down unemployment, pay off the national debt, stop natural disasters, and smoke the terrorists out of their spider holes: He's hosting a prayer summit. The possible GOP presidential candidate has invited the nation's other 49 governors to join him at Houston's Reliant Stadium in early August for "The Response," a day of non-denominational Christian prayer and fasting (the latter is recommended but non-compulsory). Per the official site:
As a nation, we must come together, call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy according to His grace, mercy, and kindness towards us. A historic crisis facing our nation and threatening our future demands a historic response from the church. We must, as a people, return to the faith and hope of our fathers. The ancient paths of great men were blazed in prayer – the humility of the truly great men of history was revealed in their recognition of the power and might of Jesus to save all who call on His great name.
"There is hope for America," the site explains. "It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees."
This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise from Perry, who just six weeks ago issued a proclamation calling on residents to pray for rain for 72 hours, in response to historic wildfires. It's also similar in nature to the Texas Restoration Project, his 2006 outreach effort to pastors like Rod Parsley, the Ohio evangelist who has said Islam must be destroyed. The Houston event is being funded by the American Family Association, a conservative Christian organization that's been classified as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its incessant promotion of false, anti-gay propaganda.
The AFA's issues director, Bryan Fischer, has alleged that gays caused the Holocaust—and are planning on doing it again; that gays should be banned from holding public office; that homosexuality should be criminalized; that foreign Muslims should either be exterminated converted to Christianity or subjected to lethal force*; that American Muslims should be deported; that there should be a permanent ban on mosque construction in the United States; and that Muslims should be prohibited from serving in the armed forces.
This all sounds pretty extreme (and it is pretty extreme), but it's worth noting that Rick Perry believes some of that stuff too. He has repeatedly asserted, for instance, that Texas' homosexual conduct statute, which criminalized gay sex, was a good law that should not have overturned by the Supreme Court.
*Note: After re-reading the offending quote, Fischer is more vague about how this will work, so I've tone down the language a bit.
What's next for Bachmann? One thing is unlikely: a quiet retirement. Here are some alternate possibilities.
Editor's note:MoJo's Tim Murphy compiled the list below as Bachmann began her presidential bid, after Fox News' Chris Wallace asked her if she was a flake. Murphy traveled to Minnesota to investigate Bachmann's rise through the ranks of conservative politics; read his profile of the congresswoman.
Sometime this month, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is expected to travel to Waterloo, Iowa, to officially announce her presidential candidacy. Her odds, while firmly in Hail Mary territory, are still better than you might think: With Republicans less than thrilled with the primary field, Bachmann stands at least a fighter's chance in socially conservative states like Iowa and South Carolina.
Now in just her third term in Congress, Bachmann, the leader of the House tea party caucus, has earned a reputation as one of the lower chamber's leading bomb-throwers, lobbing overheated rhetoric at Democrats and needling establishment Republicans. Her Minnesota colleague, Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison once accused her of "psycho talk"; in an interview with Politico, a Pawlenty aide was just as blunt: "She's a real pain in the ass." Former state Sen. Dean Johnson, who was the Republican minority leader during Bachmann's stint in St. Paul, has said, "I don't think I ever served with anybody who I mistrusted more, from either side of the aisle."
Ouch. Bachmann also has a tendency to stretch the truth, or simply sidestep it altogether. Bill Adair, editor of PolitiFact, recently told Minnesota Public Radio that he has never researched a Bachmann quote and found it to be true (the only major politician for which that's the case).
Here's an incomplete guide to Bachmann's greatest hits:
On Thursday, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin passed through Boston as part of her totally-not-a-presidential-campaign-test-run, family-vacation (yeah, right) East Coast bus tour. Because the purported mission of the trip is to help Americans "appreciate the significance of our nation's historic sites, patriotic events and diverse cultures," the former half-term Alaska governor did what most tour groups do when they come to the city: she checked out the Freedom Trail, which winds past historic landmarks like the Old North Church and Paul Revere's house. As she explained on her blog, "There's so much history here. It's amazing how much of our nation's history can be found in just two and a half miles on the Freedom Trail." There certainly is a lot of history to be found on the Freedom Trail, but Palin appears to have lost most of it.
Here's how she described Paul Revere's famous ride:
…he who warned the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms, uh, by ringin' those bells and, um, makin' sure as he's ridin' his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we're gonna be secure and we were gonna be free. And we we're gonna be armed.
This is actually the opposite of everything Paul Revere did. He wasn't sending any messages to the British soldiers who were about to move on the patriots' weapons stockpiles and arrest key leaders. According to history, Revere was warning the Minutemen that the Brits were coming so these militia members could prepare. He did not ring any bells. He instructed a friend to put either one or two lights in the tower of the Old North Church ("one if by land, two if by sea"). He did not fire any warning shots. His ride at the time was no act of symbolism; it was a stealth operation in support of a local resistance movement whose goals at that point remained largely undefined.
Palin's Revere narrative is the latest in an emerging, alternative history of the American Revolution as researched by Republican presidential candidates. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) floated her own contrarian theory last month when she told a crowd in New Hampshire that "It's your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world, you are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard." That mistake—Lexington and Concord are in Massachusetts—would seem a lot more accidental if she hadn't made it twice—in prepared remarks. (In a related incident, she suggested that the Founding Fathers tried to abolish slavery.) Herman Cain, the former pizza titan who's currently polling in second in Iowa, recently told Americans to "reread" the Constitution: "When you get to the part about 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,' don't stop there, keep reading." But if you're trying to read the Constitution and you come across the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,' you should really stop, because you will have been reading the Declaration of Independence.
We don't mean to nitpick—we just think that if you launch a major publicity tour on the subject of great moments in American history, it might make sense to brush up on the details first. We can only imagine how Palin might try to spin this: "Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. If the story doesn't sound like what you read on Wikipedia, you know who to blame: the elite liberal media."