COMMENTARY | It only took four hours for Rep. Christopher Lee (R-NY) to resign his position in the U. S. House of Representatives after a shirtless photo of the Congressman and a few flirtatious and misrepresentational e-mails alleged to be between him and a Craigslist contact were posted on the Gawker website. The hint of scandal has become a firestorm on the Internet. Some claim that the quickness of Rep. Chris Lee’s capitulation was indicative of something far worse. Others are indicating that his resignation was prompted by a no-tolerance GOP leadership. Although his resignation might be the result of a confluence of varied factors, there could be something to the idea that the Republican Party could be attempting to institute swift damage control within their ranks.
The scandal began when the online magazine Gawker posted a shirtless photo of the Congressman. They also posted several e-mails that highlighted a dialogue between Rep. Chris Lee and the unidentified woman he met via a Craigslist forum. Flirtatious, the e-mails indicated that Chris Lee was divorced (he is married) and a lobbyist (which he might aspire to now that he has resigned). When contacted for comment, a spokesman from his office noted that Rep. Lee had informed the office that his Facebook account had been hacked in January.
But many do not believe this is a hack job…
Political scandals occur, and when they do, they seem to hit far quicker and with much more popular force than they once did, perhaps as a result of the 24-hour news cycle and the quickness to which information can be disseminated. At the same time, the same factors that make the scandal a hot topic can quickly fade, supplanted and eliminated from the news by onrushing events and other stories that capture the interest of the masses. It is the latter that Republicans hope will save them from further embarrassment. That, and other Republicans not getting caught up in something scandalous that makes the next news cycle.
Republicans seem to have an added burden of explanation attendant to their scandals, especially ones of a sexual nature. It is a self-imposed burden, but one that makes them look far more hypocritical when caught up in controversy or scandal that strays across a moral demarcation line. Representing themselves as the champions of “family values,” the belief that the nuclear family is the essential moral cornerstone of society, they lend themselves as easy targets when a member steps outside the accepted boundaries of those values.
Rep. Christopher Lee’s straying from the “family values” principles of the Republican Party is nothing new. However, the quickness with which he has left office certainly is. In fact, it is almost unheard of…
Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) was caught in a huge political scandal in June 2009 that centered around an extramarital affair. Even though he admitted to the affair during a press conference, he refused to step down and, in fact, finished his term as governor of South Carolina, only relinquishing the office after the 2010 election.
Senator John Ensign (R-NV) got caught up in a sex scandal just prior to Sanford’s very public fiasco. Ensign also did not resign from his position, the matter supposedly relegated to the past, something with which he and his family had already supposedly dealt.
Those scandals did nothing to enhance the GOP’s political capital. There is little doubt that Republican leadership would like to steer clear of anything resembling those tabloid-driven days of tawdry headlines. The quickness with which Rep. Chris Lee resigned may not be so much an involuntary signal of something even worse to be discovered. It very well could be the result of the quickness with which the Republican Party, newly returned to power in at least half of Congress and hopeful of gaining ground in 2012, is willing to distance — even sever — itself from someone who has exhibited values other than those with which they have become almost synonymous.