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Rating the Greatest GOP Sex Scandals of the Past 20 Years

From Clarence Thomas to Mark Sanford, the definitive guide to randy Republicans

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Rating: 7. Newt's untamed loins get high marks for their comic levels of hypocrisy. What's amazing about the guy is that he has absolutely no shame, even after being exposed as a fraud. Rather than taking a more, dare we say it, Christian approach, in not judging others lest he be judged, Newt is still going on television ranting about "a gay and secular fascism in this country" that is "a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion."

2006: Rep. Mark Foley

Just over one month before the 2006 midterm elections, ABC News reported that Florida Republican Foley had sent several sexually explicit e-mails to teenage congressional pages. He referred to one of the pages as "my favorite young stud" and told him that he was "never too busy" to "spank it." Foley abruptly resigned in disgrace.

Rating: 8. As I've said throughout, there's nothing funny about sexual harassment. However, this scandal rates highly because it not only doomed Foley's career, but it exposed him as an enormous hypocrite. Foley, you see, was fond of portrayinghimself as a defender of children. Indeed, the Washington Post reported after the scandal that Foley had "built his political career in large measure on legislative proposals meant to halt the sexual predation of children and others." Foley later explained to Time magazine that he wasn't at all hypocritical for hitting on underage pages because "There was never anywhere in those conversations where someone said, 'Stop,' or 'I'm not enjoying this,' or 'This is inappropriate.' "

2007: Sen. David Vitter

On the surface, Vitter's habit of frequenting the infamous "D.C. Madam's" alleged den of inequity doesn't seem so bad. After all, he's just another family-values-lovin' pol who cheated on his wife with prostitutes. However, the rumors flying around that Vitter liked to be dressed up in adult diapers while at the brothel are what catapult this into an "Oh-this-must-be-a-Republican" sex scandal. The fact that the Louisiana senator would later co-sponsor the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment" with Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, (see next entry) makes this all the juicier.

Rating: 6. A solidly weird effort on Vitter's part, but the scandal so far hasn't forced him out of his Senate seat.

2007: Sen. Larry Craig

This scandal had everything: failed attempts at sex in the seediest location imaginable; fumbling mishaps with law-enforcement agents; and one of the all-time greatest coverup lies told by any politician. Admit it: When you heard that Craig had been arrested for allegedly playing footsy with a cop in an airport bathroom stall, you heard a muted trumpet in your head going, "Waaah, waaaah, waaaaaaaaaaaaah!" Craig's subsequent denial of the charges was classic as well, as he said he only rubbed the cop's foot for five minutes because he employed a "wide stance" while sitting on the toilet.

Rating: Like Spinal Tap's amplifiers, this one goes to 11.

2009: Gov. Mark Sanford

What makes this scandal so bizarre really has nothing to do with the sex itself, but rather that: (a) South Carolina Gov. Sanford flew all the way down to Argentina to see his mistress and planned to stay there for more than a week; (b) he didn't tell anyone on his staff, who proceeded to embarrass themselves by claiming that Sanford was "hiking the Appalachian trail"; and (c) he apparently didn't think anyone in the state would notice that their governor had disappeared. If he had just kept his affair closer to home, he might still be on the fast track to the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Alas, now it seems the Republicans are going to have to go to their fallback plan of nominating Joe the Plumber.

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