POLLITT: Washington Sex Scandals

Revelations that Mephistophelean Clinton political consultant and family values strategist Dick Morris paid a call girl named Sherry Rowlands for kinky sex had me sympathizing with the man for the first time. Imagine a 48-year-old mover and shaker who pays $200 an hour to caress the feet of and receive some well-deserved discipline from a woman whose age was first reported as 42! What, not a teenager in one of those fetching school uniforms he and the President are so keen on? Not a twentysomething policy analyst with a thing for married men? A man who loves the company of women his own age so much he will pay for the privilege of sucking their toes -- who daydreams, says Rowlands, of trysts with mature Hillary Clinton! -- this is not a man to hound from public life so quickly. Unfortunately, the early report must have been a typo, because according to the Star, which is publishing Ms. Rowlands's "love diaries," she is actually a mere 37. So the heck with him, I say. Let the tabs do their worst.You'd think by now politicians would realize that promoting family values is like wearing a Kick Me sign on your back. Two years ago John Major's Back to Basics campaign foundered amid gales of laughter as Tory after supposedly straight-arrow Tory turned out to have a mistress or a love child and more fetishes than the Museum of Natural History. (It wasn't all so funny, actually: One political wife committed suicide; Stephen Milligan died under bizarre circumstances that may have included autoerotic asphyxiation.).Here in the States, recent years have brought us Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones, the Packwood diaries, Enid and Joe Waldholtz, the jailing of Mel Reynolds for having sex with a minor, the outing of Jim Kolbe as gay after he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, and revelations of Newt's callous ditching of his first wife and failure to pay child support. Joe Conason in The New York Observer and Karen Houppert in The Village Voice charge Bob Dole with similarly caddish behavior in his first marriage; after twenty-three years of devotion, Phyllis Dole -- the woman who put Dole back together from that war wound that seems to constitute his entire political platform -- found herself replaced by a nontyping girlfriend-on-the-payroll and divorced with lightning speed in proceedings so rushed no records exist. Both the judge and her lawyer were Dole cronies, which may explain why he got the house and she got the furniture plus $18,000 a year on his salary of $115,000 and no child support. I guess right-wing antifeminist Danielle Crittenden hadn't heard about that when she contributed an item to The Wall Street Journal's "Does Character Count?" forum praising Dole for his "old-fashioned uptightness" and likening his convention speech to the words of a "wise grandfather," "a tough reminder of what good character is, and what the enduring truths of nationhood are." Maybe the Defense of Marriage Act should have been called the Defense of Remarriage Act.For obvious reasons, male pundits are quick to adopt a sub specie aeternitatis attitude to what they like to call "peccadilloes." Thus, in that same Wall Street Journal forum, Gary Hart (of all people!) blames "sensationalized journalism" for the low quality of today's political leaders.Female pundits have less incentive to take the lofty view. For one thing, women are still more likely to be the ones asked to play the suffer-in-silence role. For another, the old public-private distinction, now in tatters, never covered them, and still doesn't. Women in public life are judged twenty-four hours a day on matters much more trivial than illicit foot fondling: their hair, their clothes, their voices (shrill? strident?), their weight, their cookie-baking and their record of attendance at Little League. When you consider the contortions demanded of women, who must contrive to combine, or appear to combine, attractiveness and asexuality, brains and deference, zeal for work and absence of ambition, it doesn't seem much to ask that men in politics live by the family values they are eager to enforce on the rest of us.Actually, the Morris scandal suggests an answer to one of life's great mysteries: How will those 3 million-plus mothers to be thrown off welfare support themselves? Family values don't seem to generate much work. Government-funded public service jobs, the current pipe dream of the liberal intelligentsia, cost a fortune and lead nowhere. No, as the President reminds us in his convention speech, the solution lies with private enterprise.Welfare moms should take a leaf from struggling single mother Sherry Rowlands. They should become dominatrixes. Here is a lucrative profession with flexible hours that combine well with child-rearing, which, indeed, it resembles in many ways. Most moms already possess many of the required skills -- spanking, diapering, playing unbelievably boring games of make-believe -- obviating costly training. Simply rework your usual mommyspeak ("Walk the dog now, or no TV") into the argot of your new career ("Bark like a dog NOW, you miserable worm, or I'm talking to Fox TV"). You get to wear great clothes, and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases is practically nonexistent.We hear constantly that poor black women, deformed by the "welfare culture," are too bossy and man-hating for marriage. Moreover, a recent New York Times article suggests that single mothers, black and white, accustomed to wielding authority at home, take poorly to the subservience demanded by employers. For these women, the dominatrix business is perfect: Dissing your boss is your job. Unlike government-funded leaf-raking, it offers, too, the promise of economic growth: Ms. Rowlands now runs a cleaning service called "A Woman's Touch," giving needed employment to others. Psychologists tell us that men who go for this kink tend to be rich, powerful, domineering types -- like Morris. Too much pressure at work (according to the Star, his sessions with Rowlands helped Morris "relax") or just a guilty conscience? Whatever. As anyone who follows politics knows, there's a vast untapped customer pool out there.Single mothers, discarded housewives and other family-values victims: Forget the elections. Vote with your feet!

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