Mojo - June 2011

Top 11 Political Sex Scandal Apologies Other Than Weinergate [VIDEO]

| Mon Jun. 6, 2011 7:25 PM EDT

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.

Silver lining: Introduces the phrase "put your pants on and come home" into the lexicon.


2. Rep. Chris Lee (R–N.Y.)

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."

Did he resign? Yes.

Can't make it up: Souder and his aide also filmed a PSA advocating abstinence.


9. Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D–N.Y.)

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.


11. Rep. Eric Massa (D–N.Y.)

Busted: Groped male staffer and (in his own words) "tickled him until he couldn't breathe."

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.

Did he resign? Yes.

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Palin Emails: Coming Friday

| Mon Jun. 6, 2011 2:46 PM EDT

D-Day for the Sarah Palin email release is Friday.

The state of Alaska has informed media representatives that on this day it will be handing out the 24,000-plus pages of Palin's gubernatorial emails it is releasing in response to a request I initiated in September 2008, shortly after John McCain tapped the first-term Alaska governor to be his running mate. The material will be made available at 9:00 a.m., which will be Friday afternoon on the East Coast, the traditional time for a dump of government documents. But it could have been worse: the state could have opted to release the records on Friday afternoon, Alaska time.

Here's the last update we've posted on this long-running saga:

During the 2008 presidential campaign, I filed a request under Alaska's open records law, for all—yes, all—of Palin's gubernatorial emails. Other journalists and citizen activists later did the same. And after many delays—see here and here—the state is finally preparing to release those emails, probably within the next week or so.

But not all of the emails from Palin's half-term as governor will be made public. In a letter that was recently sent to me and other requesters, the state says it will be disclosing 24,199 pages of records. But it notes, "We withheld and redacted some records that are responsive to your request." Previously the state said that it had located and/or recovered 26,552 pages of emails. This suggests that state of Alaska is withholding 2,353 pages. And there's no telling how heavily the remainder of the emails will be redacted.

Romney Stuns World With Mundane Statement of Fact

| Mon Jun. 6, 2011 12:22 PM EDT

Mitt Romney capped off the week in which he made the anti-climactic announcement that he is, in fact, running for president with a statement that has drawn considerably more attention: He thinks the planet is actually warming.

At a New Hampshire campaign stop on Friday, Romney stunned the world with his rather mundane acknowledgment of facts. Via Reuters:

"I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.
"It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."

The Reuters story notes that he "broke with Republican orthodoxy" in making this statement. I would point out, however, that the GOP's last presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), came to this not-exactly-earth-shattering conclusion as well. So have others among the 2012 pool: Tim Pawlenty (though he has since apologized), Jon Huntsman, and Newt Gingrich (who has since tried to repent for that by advocating that we abolish the EPA).

Nevertheless, conservatives have declared Romney's statement to be "political suicide."

"His run for President as a Republican is now officially over," declared Charles Johnson over at (the formerly conservative blog) Little Green Footballs. The conservative blog American Thinker declared the statement a "blunder." And over at Hot Air, Allahpundit ponders whether this is a "gaffe" that could cost Romney in the primary, while wagering that Mitt will eventually flip-flop on this in some way: "Many sins can be forgiven in the name of winning, especially if/when Romney inevitably finesses his position here by endorsing 'market solutions' to the problem instead of regulation."

If believing in global warming is going to be a deal-breaker, there won't be many candidates left in the running.

Michele Bachmann, Sustainable Development, and "Tenements"

| Mon Jun. 6, 2011 10:41 AM EDT

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."

Tenements? Really?

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.

Rick Santorum: Paul Ryan's Budget Doesn't Cut Deep Enough

| Mon Jun. 6, 2011 9:00 AM EDT

Like Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich before him, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum announced this morning on ABC's Good Morning America that later today he'll officially announce his presidential candidacy in the rural Pennsylvania town where his immigrant grandfather once worked.

Santorum is arguably the most hard-line, far-right social conservative in the GOP presidential field, neck and neck with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who's expected to jump into the race later this month. (That right-wing intransigence has earned Santorum a serious Google problem.) But on GMA, Santorum sought to burnish his right-wing fiscal credibility, too, saying Rep. Paul Ryan's unpopular budget plan doesn't cut deep enough. "Not even Paul Ryan and his budget now has the temerity to go after Social Security," Santorum said.

Ryan's plan, which claims to slash $4 trillion over the next decade, has become a political lightning rod. In the recent special election in New York's 26th district, Democrats used the Ryan plan as a political bludgeon, bashing the Republican candidate Jane Corwin for calling it "a terrific first step." An early favorite, Corwin went on to lose to Democrat Kathy Hochul. According to a June poll from CNN, just 35 percent of respondents said they backed Ryan's plan, while 58 percent opposed it. Even among conservatives, 53 percent of respondents said they disagreed with Ryan's plan. In a matter of months, the plan has become too politically toxic to touch—a dilemma that pollsters had warned of in early discussions with GOP lawmakers.

As it stands, Santorum's presidential bid is a long-shot, Hail Mary pass for a politician once described by a former aide as a "a Catholic missionary who happens to be in the Senate." By embracing both far-right social and economic policies, Santorum is only steering his campaign farther into the margin—and away from any chance, however slim, of succeeding in the presidential race.

Giuliani Rips Mitt for Not Backing Down on RomneyCare

| Mon Jun. 6, 2011 8:52 AM EDT

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, isn't letting his disastrous presidential bid in 2008 prevent him from giving the GOP's 2012 presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney a serious tongue-lashing.

In a recent interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Giuliani singled out Mitt Romney, who officially unveiled his presidential campaign last week, and bashed the former Massachusetts governor for his 2006 health care reform plan that brought universal health care coverage to the Bay State. Giuliani described RomneyCare and ObamaCare—loathed by the GOP—as "exactly the same," and accused Romney of "telling us something that just isn't correct: that 'RomneyCare' and 'ObamaCare' are significantly different."

Giuliani went on to tell the Union Leader that Romney has done a dismal job of distancing himself from RomneyCare, and that "the best way for Mitt Romney to deal with it is to admit it's true and to say that it's a terrible mistake." (In a May speech in Michigan, Romney defended his health care reform plan, calling it "a state solution to a state problem.")

As for Giuliani's own presidential aspirations in 2012, the Union Leader reports,

While Giuliani has been making frequent visits to New Hampshire and speaking to small groups, he said he does not plan to make a decision on whether to make a second bid for President until late summer. He finished fourth in the 2008 New Hampshire primary; Romney finished second behind John McCain.

Giuliani said he will first determine whether he has the ability to put together grassroots organizations in New Hampshire and elsewhere and "decide whether you have a good chance of winning the nomination and whether you have the best chance of beating Barack Obama, which is the biggest question."

Giuliani declined an invitation to the June 13 presidential debate co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader, WMUR, and CNN, saying, "I won't debate until and unless I become a candidate."

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Rick Perry to Host Hate Group-Funded Prayer Summit

| Mon Jun. 6, 2011 8:04 AM EDT

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 Not To Do In Iowa

| Mon Jun. 6, 2011 5:11 AM EDT

Is speaking Chinese on the campaign trail a plus? Former Utah governor, ex-ambassador to China, and current GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman is about to find out. On Friday, Huntsman appeared before a national audience of evangelical activists convened by former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed. Introducing Huntsman, Reed ran through the candidate's resume, which included long stints of living abroad, both in Taiwan and later in China as President Obama's ambassador. He noted that Huntsman speaks fluent Mandarin, but promised his speech would definitely be in English.

Huntsman had other plans apparently, launching into his speech with a demonstration of his Chinese fluency. As his first introduction to the foot soldiers of the Republican Party, it didn't go over very well. As languages go, Chinese is not the most elegant to the English-speaking ear, and it seemed to be especially jarring to the nearly all-white crowd of evangelicals, who listened with shock. You could almost see the elderly Christians from Wisconsin thinking "Manchurian Candidate."

Huntsman's Chinese-speaking on the stump might be even worse for his prospects than John Kerry speaking French in 2004. Americans think even less of the Chinese than they do of the French, and more importantly, they view China as a serious threat to American prosperity, unlike those lazy French people who have a protest every time someone suggests they work past 50. Polls going back decades show that many Americans, especially Republicans, take a dim view of the Chinese, a phenomenon that some researchers attribute to 19th Century anti-Chinese immigration laws. In 1999, a survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League found that 34 percent of those who responded admitted they wouldn't want to see a Chinese-American person elected president, a figure the group had never encountered in similar surveys of attitudes towards blacks or Jews.

Americans really don't like the country of China, either, which they view as a currency-manipulating thief of good American jobs. A January Pew survey found that 36 percent of Americans had an unfavorable view of China, and the percentage of Americans who see China as the country posing the greatest threat to the US nearly doubled over the past two years, eclipsing North Korea, Iran, and Afghanistan. Views of China are even bleaker among Republicans, especially those who are tea party sympathizers. More than 70 percent of Republicans Pew surveyed believed that China is an adversary or a serious problem for the US.

Huntsman's Chinese connection clearly triggered many of these feelings among the members of the religious right listening to his speech Friday in DC. The candidate earned some polite applause when he spoke about adopting children from China. But the more Huntsman talked about his life in China, the more it sounded like he'd been fraternizing with the enemy—and doing so on behalf of the Obama administration, a role that many GOP voters believe makes him an honorary Democrat. Huntsman's global perspective and linguistic abilities might have endeared him to some Wall Street Democrats, but after Friday's performance, it was hard to imagine that the governor-turned-ambassador was going to win over a lot of Iowa GOP caucus goers by showing up at their barbecues and exclaiming, "Ni hao ma?"

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 6, 2011

Mon Jun. 6, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team load UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for air assault training at Simmons Army Airfield May 31, 2011, on Fort Bragg, N.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Acting Locally, Riffing Globally

| Mon Jun. 6, 2011 5:00 AM EDT
Students at Tintale Village Teaching Center, Nepal.

Not many New Orleans buskers who've been working the streets as long as Grandpa Elliott has (60 years) will ever perform for a crowd of 15,000—in Morocco no less. But film producer Mark Johnson and his Playing For Change Foundation has been making such unlikely events happen. For the past decade, Johnson has been globetrotting with recording equipment and a vision: to bring far-flung musicians together, sometimes through technology, sometimes face-to-face. Out last week, his second CD/DVD release, entitled Playing for Change: Songs Around the World Part 2 (PFC2), is part of his ongoing quest to re-create world music, as Johnson told Mother Jones in a 2009 interview

PFC2, like it’s 2010 predecessor, features 150 musicians from 25 countries collaborating on a variety of classics like Bob Marley’s "Three Little Birds," John Lennon’s "Imagine," and Stevie Wonder’s "Higher Ground." Johnson records and films the musicians playing outdoors on their home turf—a washpan player on a New Orleans' sidewalk, a drum circle of Zuni Indians. But each records his tracks to complement ones already recorded by fellow musicians hundreds or thousands of miles away.