Last week, New York Governor David Paterson was scrutinized when it was revealed that members of his communications staff were to receive thousands of dollars in pay raises while state workers were being furloughed. Surveying the news coverage, it was hard to find an acknowledgment that these were the people who stuck with Paterson after senior communications staffers resigned, unable to work for the governor in good conscience after it was revealed that he had a role in putting the kibosh on a domestic violence case, potentially putting the victim's safety at risk.
The fact that Paterson remains in office after such a serious and damning scandal is a testament to his shamelessness and disregard for the dignity of his station. The fact that it only took a matter of weeks for the press to move beyond it is a sign of how clearly this shamelessness pays off.
Which is why it is hard to predict what Connecticut state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will do next, now that he has been caught lying about serving in Vietnam. As the New York Times charitably puts it, "It does not appear that Mr. Blumenthal ever sought to correct those mistakes" when people (himself included) implied that he was deployed to Vietnamese soil during the conflict. Yet Mr. Blumenthal deserves no charity here. He fudged his record, and he ought to drop his Democratic bid for the U.S. Senate.
Much like David Vitter ought to do, were he not so shameless. The Louisiana Republican has campaigned for abstinence-only education, and yet he frequented at least one prostitution service during his days in Congress. Like his House predecessor, Bob Livingston, he called for the resignation of President Bill Clinton for sexual dalliances outside of marriage. But unlike fellow Republican Livingston, when Vitter was caught with other women, he stayed right on in office. He looks poised to win reelection this year, miraculously for him.
Then there's Nevada Senator John Ensign, who carried on an affair with a staffer while he flirted with a 2012 run for the White House, no less. This one is still unfolding, but news reports allege that he abused his office and spent family money to make his scandal go bye-bye. Yet despite all this, he's staying put, presumably until they throw him out (which they very well might do). Hey -- Larry Craig, that flaming hypocrite, stayed in office nineteen months after his "wide stance" derailed his claim to the anti-gay identity politics.
So what kind of message does Richard Blumenthal -- or any pol, for that matter -- glean from these shameless disgraces? Perhaps the idea that he could be a Vitter instead of a Spitzer, who must seem like a chump for waking up every morning wondering, 'What if?'
The examples of Paterson, Vitter and Ensign offer salvation to Blumenthal's ambition, saying, 'Batten down the hatches and ride out the storm as long as you can. Forget the toll it takes on your family! Forget the toll it takes on the effectiveness of your office! Because there's always the chance you'll beat the rap, and people will forget, and no matter how egregious your error, you will retain POWER.'
It's a sad state of affairs that Blumenthal's next step is not so clear cut. Hopefully voters in Connecticut (and Louisiana and Nevada) will disabuse him of such a shameless notion.