Old white guys

Many Republicans preach morality but do the opposite, as the latest scandal underscores.

Pete Domenici
Former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici disclosed recently that he has a son born in secrecy over 30 years ago [AP]

Who knew that seeming double-centenerian Pete Domenici was such a player? None of us, it turns out, until this week, when the former longtime Senator of New Mexico admitted to an extra-marital affair with a colleague’s [Senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada] daughter, which produced a now-thirty-something son. 

Domenici is certainly not the first politician to suffer from “Strom Thurmond’s Disease”. You may remember the late Senator Thurmond, he of the presidential campaign in 1948 based on the segregation of the races – something he couldn’t personally accomplish with the hired help in his own household (let’s call it an Early Schwarzenegger). Just two weeks ago, at the age of 87, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, his bi-racial child who could not acknowledge her father publicly until his death in 2003, passed away herself. Just another sad story of conservative hypocrisy, and in Thurmond’s case, one of many dalliances with women not his wife for the “family values”-spouting, Lost Cause romantic.  

This is not to say this kind of thing doesn’t happen on the Democratic/liberal side. I have two words for you. John and Edwards. Yet, the difference is that like most Republicans, Domenici was abundantly concerned what was going on in our private lives if we were gay, a woman, or a President being impeached in the 1990s over an affair. He was a moral exemplar, you see, who was so pristine and pure you’d think he brought the Ten Commandments down from the Sandia Mountain Range just outside his birthplace of Albuquerque. He could deign to lecture us all, including then President Bill Clinton. 

For kicks, here was his statement at the time, dripping with enough irony to quench even Marco Rubio’s thirst. It’s the kind that makes people hate politicians the world over, particularly those who aren’t satisfied just ruining their own personal lives, but have some compulsion to stick their heads, gopher-hole style, into our bedrooms:

Truthfulness is the first pillar of good character in the Character Counts program of which I have been part of establishing in New Mexico… Guess which one of these pillars comes first? Trustworthiness. Trustworthiness… So what do I say to the children in my state when they ask, “Didn’t the President lie? Doesn’t that mean he isn’t trustworthy? Then, Senator, why didn’t the Senate punish him?”

 Rubio to reply to Obama State of the Union

Ooh, I have an answer! How about you tell the children of your state that if character counts, your life adds up to a goose egg? Or you tell them how you were a federally deputised Peeping Tom, so arrogant as to open his mouth on issues of “moral character” while hiding the existence of a son, because you had the self-control of Marco Rubio at an Evian bottling plant? (sorry, just can’t resist).

Frankly, the most important part of this affair is that it’s another reminder of why the troupe of old men playing pajama dress up, known as the “Tea Party”, are so perpetually angry. This is the way the world is supposed to exist, Mad Men style, as it had in the past. Old white guys thumping Bibles on weekends while warning us all of impending “human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”, and doing the very things they warned us to avoid.

No longer do they get to just live in this world of white, male privilege, and it’s a serious bummer. It’s why you see Ted Nugent doing performance art for dementia, and more famous white guys from David Mamet to Rick Warren striking out with articles or tweets that make no sense in the real world. And let’s not even get started on Pope Benedict.

These guys have to actually answer today for the ultimate form of elitism: their white male privilege of being able to tell us all how to behave while blithely ignoring the very same dictates. But single women, Latinos, well-educated whites, gays and lesbians, African-Americans and others they used to dominate by custom or sheer numbers aren’t listening anymore. We’ve looked at the world they made, the one catyclysm every two years of the Bush Administration, and have realised we know better. And we have the numbers at polling booths, and it’s driving them bonkers.

So thanks Pete Domenici for reminding us of your world, the one we’re leaving behind. And by the way, if you want real family values, not the ones of Republican preachers, spend time with your family. Read them great books with real values, like my friend Adam Roth’s Checking Up On Daddy. Don’t waste another moment listening to the corn-friend hucksterism of the Domenicis of this world.

Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients. 

Follow him on Twitter: @CliffSchecter