Al Gore, Nikki Haley: The New Sex Scandal Politics

We're entering an unlikely phase of scandal politics: the deny-it stage.

This follows the caught-in-the-headlights phase--the Spitzer-Edwards-Sanford phase.

This new stage may have begun with the recent dismissal by the Obamas of rumors about the then Senate candidate's possible affair back in 2004 with a campaign worker, Vera Baker. This denial was oddly effective because it was made by Michelle Obama--she laughed it off. But not long ago the scandal playbook would have counseled that any acknowledgement at all of such a rumor would invite the kind of scrutiny which invariably diminishes you.

Then followed Nikki Haley, who, in the face of quite credible reports--from the purported lover in question--absolutely and categorically dismissed the notion. There were emails, but, it is true, no smoking gun. And, as it happened, relatively little follow-up. Even a second allegation of another affair didn't really give the story legs--or put legions of reporters on the case. And, indeed, she came in first in the Republican primary (and now faces a run-off) and will likely be the next governor of South Carolina.

Which brings us to Al Gore and Laurie David, Larry David's ex-wife and the co-producer of Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth: They've both said pshaw to reports of their affair.

Now, in some sense, we are also at another stage: the likelihood stage.

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