Virginia’s First Lady of swag Sunday, Jun 30 2013 

Have you taken notice of the New Language of Culpability? People are no longer guilty of willful wrongdoing. Like Anthony Wiener, the current front-runner – as distinguished from viral front-shower – in the New York mayoral race, they have either been “stupid,” or “dumb,” in their misconduct.

No moral or ethical factor involved, understand, no reflection on the wrongdoer’s character. He – or she, as the case may be – is guilty only of “staggeringly bad judgment,” the staggeringly fatuous phrase applied by The Washington Post to the First Lady of Virginia’s (1) ordering a $6,500 Rolex watch from Virginia businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. to present to her husband, Gov. Bob McDonnell; and (2) persuading Williams, in the strongest First Lady-like terms, to take her shopping at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan (a “jaunt,” as the Post called it, that “rang up $15,000 on Mr. Williams’s tab”).

This is the same McDonnell couple, keep in mind, that “persuaded” Williams to pick up the $15,000 catering tab for their daughter’s wedding, in return for which, according to the Post, “the known quid pro quos include the luncheon at the governor’s mansion, hosted by Ms. McDonnell, to help launch the signature product of Mr. Williams’s struggling company, and a plug for the same product delivered by Ms. McDonnell at a conference in Florida.”

All of which, the Post concludes, constitute “damaging revelations” that threaten to destroy Bob McDonnell’s “otherwise admirable legacy as governor.”

Too bad, isn’t it? A good governor and his otherwise admirable wife embarrassed – is that the right predicate, or am I being judgmental? – for merely suggesting and accepting what, in my native Louisiana, we call “swag” from favor-seekers.

No, that’s not right. Comparing Bob and Imelda McDonnell to, say, Louisiana’s last great political hustler, Edwin Edwards, is unfair. To Edwards, that is. Fast Eddie would never have had the bad judgment to take a $6,500 Rolex from a favor-seeker. Too blatant. He would have directed the supplicant to give him cash so he could buy his own watch.

Sound bite to remember

“I think any man in business would be foolish to fool around with his secretary. If it’s somebody else’s secretary, fine.”

– Barry Goldwater

Thirteen years? Unlucky (or unlikely) number Thursday, Dec 8 2011 

So Herman Cain has dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination after a woman came forward with a lurid story of a 13-year sexual relationship with the one-time GOP frontrunner.

My cynical Louisiana-bred reaction? Big mistake to leave the race. In former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ famous formulation, there is no practical reason for any modern-day politician to quit running unless he’s found in bed with a live boy or a dead girl.

Consider David Vitter, still spouting platitudes on the U.S. Senate floor, despite being listed as a frequent guest at a wicked Washington call house. Or, for that matter, the private life of Cain’s successor as the Iowa frontrunner, Newt Gingrich.

No, what Herman Cain should have done on getting word of a pending sex scandal was punch in Edwin Edwards’ number to find out what Edwards advised Bill Clinton when a model named Gennifer Flowers claimed that she had a 12-year relationship with Clinton during his days as attorney general and governor of Arkansas.

As Edwards recalled the occasion, Clinton, then in the early stage of his run for the presidency, got news of the charge while on a fund-raising trip to New Orleans. Concerned about its impact, he asked his fellow Southern governor, Edwards, what he should do.

“I told him,” said Edwards, “that if that sort of claim were made against me I’d say, ‘12 weeks, maybe. Twelve months, maybe. But 12 years? Never.’”

Clinton, a simple Arkansas philanderer who lacked the flair of his Louisiana counterpart, said he didn’t think he could do that. Instead he and Hillary headed for “60 Minutes” and the first of what would be an eight-year series of “Stand by Your Man” reconciliations.

It worked, but I still prefer Edwards’ way. Mendacious perhaps, but it had the virtue of political wit, an element sadly lacking in the current race for the Republican nomination. For that reason alone, we’re going to miss Herman Cain’s presence in the field. He was the only candidate running who could at times be intentionally funny.

Sound Bite to Remember (Occupiers and Tea Party members take note)

“Every reform movement has a lunatic fringe.”

                               — Theodore Roosevelt (1913)