Jeff Jacoby is the terrific columnist who writes for the Boston Globe. In a message today he responds to my call for a special theory of scandal relativity to account for the electoral viability of Gerry Studds and Barney Frank and to supplement Jack Kelly’s (and Paul Mirengoff’s) general theory. Jeff writes:
Greetings from Boston! I spotted your query about the “electoral viability” of congressmen such as Barney Frank and (the late) Gerry Studds despite their entanglement in sex scandals. You know that Latin phrase that William F. Buckley often quotes — “Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi” (that which is permitted to Jove, is not permitted to oxen)? Well, there’s an analogous rule when it comes to congressional sex scandals: That which is permitted to Massachusetts congressmen is not permitted to congressmen from other states. I wrote about this back in 1995, at the time of Bob Packwood’s downfall. The column began:
It was in part at the urging of Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, that the contemptible Bob Packwood finally threw in the towel last Thursday and resigned from Congress. All the same, Simpson was embittered by the double standard at play in the Senate chamber.
“I looked around that room,” he said, “and saw people who had done things much worse.” Now which senior senator from Massachusetts do you suppose he was referring to?
And it ended:
However crude Packwood’s behavior, it pales beside the lecherous exploitation of women for which Kennedy is notorious. If Packwood is too gross to be a senator, so is Kennedy.
Except that Kennedy is from Massachusetts, so his swinish antics have never been a problem. Maybe in Oregon or Illinois depravity can cost a congressman his seat. In Massachusetts, where standards are lower, sleaziness is a bar to nothing.
The column was headlined “If Packwood disgraces the Senate, what does Ted Kennedy do?” I can’t find the column on the Globe website, but it is available online here.
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