What's Up with Sex and Politics?

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, New York Times columnist Gail Collins discussed the intersection of sex and politics in light of recent scandals.

This year has been filled with political sex scandals and the list got long enough for Gail Collins to write about it.

From John Edwards to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Newt Gingrich to New York's own Chris Lee, Collins said the scandals run the gamut and the political spectrum, but there is a particular nature to the Republican variety.

These sex scandals have layers

Newt Gingrich, for example:

It's not just one thing...it's not that Newt Gingrich is on his third wife. It's that Newt Gingrich is on his third wife and this is the wife he was having an affair with when she worked for the House of Representatives when he was trying to impeach Bill Clinton for Monica Lewinsky and he's also got this $500,000 Tiffany bill. And there you are. It just goes on and on and on, it's not just one 'did he or didn't he'.

Gingrich may have some other problems, Collins said. In response to a question about his Tiffany's bill, on Sunday's Face the Nation, Gingrich said about his family's expenses: "we are frugal." Here's what Gail Collins had to say about that:

Once again, you have a situation in which the poor Newt Gingrich is dragged on to a sophisticated Sunday morning talk show and tricked into things that he didn't actually mean to say...I'm really enjoying the Newt Gingrich thing but we've long since passed the point that this was anything but a side show...

His whole history, all of the adultery, all of the strangeness going back and forth, with the different wives, it all points to a real personality disorder. He's just attention- deficit driven when it comes to life, I mean he can't focus on anything for more than two seconds. He's completely erratic and nobody's going to want him to be president under any circumstances and this all feeds into it...this is the culmination of a long-burning disaster that has been Newt.

As for the "layering" scandals, this goes for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Paladino too, Collins said. Democrats have had their own stories as well, but the Republicans hang their names on the the words of high moral values and their actions aren't following suit, she said.

The Republicans are what's in play right now. You don't have sort of a great scrap bowl within the Democratic party for posts and stuff, they're kind of on a different level right now. Certainly Democrats are capable of working things up to this level but I do think being 'the party of family values' complicates things more. The fact that John Ensign was going to his prayer group to discuss what to do about the adulterous relationship he had with his chief aid's wife who was also working for him, put a new layer on it.

Self Control

The latest? Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced on Sunday that he would not run for president on the Republican ticket in 2012. His reason? His wife didn't want him to. Daniels' marital history involves his wife leaving him for another man and returning a few years later to remarry the governor. Collins said the exposure of all this could have been avoided. It didn't even make him look bad, she said.

The media will respect certain family boundaries as long as you respect the boundaries, as long as the wife doesn't campaign, doesn't do introductions to her husband at big Indiana events, as Mrs. Daniels did last week. I mean there's a way to control this stuff but it has to involve self control on both sides, not just the media's.

Sexual assault is no marital affair

An interview on this topic won't fly without mentioning the the former IMF leader, Dominic Strauss Kahn who lost his job over the alleged assault of a cleaning woman in his New York hotel. But this is no marital affair, Collins said, and the press should make the distinction.

Good lord. There's a total difference...that's not speakable. There's no discussion about how we feel about stuff like that...that's just appalling and my lord, this man never seemed to stop...and the reports that are coming out, I'm amazed he had enough time to bail out Greece!