It’s been a rough week for Sarah Palin. Publish Green released Palin and Obama — Lovers When We Met by investigative journalist Howard Decker on Monday. The book wonders what if the two were lovers in the early 1980s when both lived in Hawaii. Now a second book, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, by muckraker Joe McGinniss claims Palin has a “fetish” for black men, had an affair with the First Dude’s business partner and engaged in extensive cocaine and marijuana use during college. Oh, and she hooked up with Glen Rice.
Allegations of misconduct against politicians are nothing new. It almost seems more surprising when self-appointed moral guardians don’t get caught talking dirty with teenage boys or smoking meth with gay hookers. Indeed, the list of public figures not involved in moral turpitude might be shorter than one of those who are. During the Clinton impeachment hearings, Larry Flynt offered a sum of money to anyone with proof of marital infidelities on the part of the hounds snapping at Bubba’s heels. It didn’t take long before a scorned ex-wife collected and Bob Barr’s political career lay in ruins.
Politicians certainly have a right to privacy, and there is something deeply troubling and undemocratic about the constant “recall via scandal” efforts (see also: a certain New York Congressman with a wacky last name who’s out of Congress for flirting on the Internet). And, hey, everyone gets a little wild at college. What else is college for? Studying? Sure, if you’re a nerd. The rest of us were too busy drinking enough to kill a wolverine and putting every substance known to man in our nose and up our ass to have time for studying.
Sarah Palin—and Bob Barr, Mark Foley and Ted Haggard for that matter—are different in a meaningful way, however. I can’t speak for you, but I don’t fly around the country telling teenagers to keep their flies zipped until marriage while handing out hard time for doing the same stuff I did in college, which by the way was fun as hell. When you put yourself on a tall pedestal, prepare for an epic fall.
The allegations surrounding Palin have another dimension still: clearly, women are really making inroads in U.S. politics. When you’re a scrub backbencher, you can do pretty much anything you like, provided you don’t ruffle any feathers. When you’re a prominent political fundraiser and mouthpiece on the national stage, you’d better watch how you act in public and in private. Future leaders of America take note: be on your best behavior from grade school. Only the relentlessly boring need apply for positions of power in this country.
No one spent a lot of time digging up long-hidden scandals about Shirley Chisolm or Carol Mosely because no one cared enough to. The fact that a man went so far as to move next door to Palin in the hope of digging up dirt tells us much about how high—excuse the pun—women have risen on the political stage. No longer restricted to token positions, ladies now occupy the highest levels of power. Since Clinton appointed Madeline Albright as Secretary of State in 1997, women have occupied the office for 10 of the last 14 years. Ella T. Grasso made history in 1975 as the first female governor who wasn’t also the wife or widow of a former governor. Nearly 30 women have been chief executives of their respective states since, with six serving today.
Welcome to the big leagues, ladies. I hope it’s everything you’ve always dreamed of.