So you’ve decided to burn down an orphanage
April 10, 2008
Today’s topic is how you, an average citizen who just happens to be a major scumbag politician, can avoid public scorn. The simple secret is to come clean before anyone suspects something is wrong. For example, let’s say you are a United States Congressperson who intends to set fire to the Orphanage For Really Cute Children. There are right and wrong ways to do this.
Right: Call a press conference before you set the orphanage on fire. Set the fire. Go directly to the press conference. Look into the cameras and say, “I set fire to the orphanage. I am aware this has hurt many people, but this matter is between me and God.” Try to keep a straight face.
Wrong: Do not set fire to the orphanage. Have the press accuse you of setting fire to the orphanage. Deny having set fire to the orphanage. Resign in shame.
I learned the proper method from New York politician David Paterson. Within days of his inauguration as Governor last month, Paterson admitted to extramarital affairs and past marijuana and cocaine use. His admission stifled the possibility of an ensuing scandal and instead made the other 49 governors jealous of how he’s a cool guy who has no problems getting laid.
This contrasts with Paterson’s predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, who resigned March 17 after the press learned he paid $4,300 for sex to a woman who, as he was shocked to learn, was a prostitute.
Spitzer did something no politician should ever have done. I am not saying this because governors need to stay away from prostitutes. No, it is because this proved Spitzer’s fiscal irresponsibility. A fiscally responsible governor would have taken that same $4,300 and flown out to Nevada, where a limo would take him to a legal brothel to spend several hours with multiple polling experts (ha ha). With the remaining money he would buy his wife a really nice apology stripper.
But Spitzer opted to spend the money for one hour in a D.C. hotel, and he got busted, so he was forced, as punishment, to frown his frowniest frown at a bunch of television cameras while avoiding eye contact with his wife, who at any second could have woken from her stupor and bludgeoned him to death with her shoe. This all achieved the important political goal of taking attention away from his comb over, which hides his baldness about as effectively as if he drew lines on his scalp with a permanent marker.
Political scandals have the tendency to ignite because of a force so dark and evil that, like Dick Clark, it will never ever go away: the media. If a politician comes right out and confesses to being a recovering serial puppy kicker, there’s not much to analyze. It just gets tucked into a “Lighter Side of the News” segment, and the anchors go back to explaining why a common household item has secret health benefits or is deadly, or both.
But when the story breaks before the confession, there is plenty to speculate about, as seen from this real CNN transcript that actually happened except for the parts I made up:
Lou Dobbs: “Well, Wolf, I don’t know when Governor Blagojevich is going to admit to putting the bank’s ballpoint pen in his pocket and walking away, but he sure owes an apology to all the Illinois voters whose money paid for that pen.”
Wolf Blitzer: “Yes, Lou, and I understand the pen even had the bank’s logo on it. We go now to senior ballpoint pen correspondent Nancy Grace, who has a breaking update.”
Nancy Grace (via satellite): “The pen had blue ink, Wolf.”
With this lesson in mind, I invite you readers to preempt the media and make your most burning confession to me, a trained journalism professional who will handle your serious personal matter in the respectable manner of making fun of it. Send your best confession, or confessions, to [email protected] (subject line “Confession”), and I will put the best ones in a future column, because that is about a hundred times easier than writing the column myself. I will change names to protect the innocent, by which I mean me. I openly confess that I do not want to be sued.
Scott is a second-year law student. He denies involvement in next week’s orphanage fire.