Well! Did you all see the news yesterday? Gawker broke a story about Representative Chris Lee of New York exchanging flirty emails with a woman who had placed some sort of post on Craig’s List. He emailed her shirtless pics of himself, lied about his age and posed as a divorced lobbyist looking for some fun. He’s actually a married Member of Congress looking for some fun. Or he was. Now he’s a former Member of Congress and the state of his marriage is probably considerably less solid than it seemed 24 hours ago.
My only regret is that he resigned immediately. Now the story will go away and I’ll be back to hearing about Miley Cyrus when I want something salacious to occupy my mind.
Usually when these powerful-people-having-affairs things break I find them highly entertaining because they almost never handle them well. They deny and dissemble and duck and dodge when anyone with a brain knows they’re guilty as hell. And if they’d just admit to misbehavior, apologize, and back away from the moral high ground they previously tried to occupy, everyone would forget about it and move on. Think about it. If Bill Clinton had said “I DID have sexual relations with that woman and now Hillary is really mad at me and I need to go work on my marriage in private. Oh yeah, and that Defense of Marriage Act where I try to define marriage for everyone based on a limited moral scope? I clearly have no moral standing to impose my own judgments about marriage on you all. I retract it.”, we all would have been spared the endless torture (and millions of wasted tax dollars) of Kenneth Starr and his ridiculous investigation.
Instead, what we usually get are spectacles like Larry Craig with his “wide stance” saying that he wasn’t gay and never had been gay when it was becoming clearer and clearer by the second that the guy was very interested in many things that were pretty gay. Like sex with guys in restrooms. Not that all gay people do that but the ones who lurk in closets their whole lives and publicly rock a rabid anti-gay stance can end up resorting to some pretty unsavory things. And in the process get to wear a scarlet H. For “Hypocrite”. And also “Horny”. And “Heebie-jeebies” because sex in public restrooms? Blech.
I don’t know a whole lot about Chris Lee. He sat on the Financial Services Committee before getting on the Ways and Means Committee and has a business and technology background. A quick look at bills he’d signed onto during his short stay in this current Congress show that he was happy to lend his name to anti-choice legislation. He, like the vast majority of House Republicans, voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 which would have provided greater health care safety nets, including access to contraception. Gawker indicates that he opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as well so it’s safe to say he was sympathetic to conservative moral posturing, even if he wasn’t an overt moral crusader. Which is good because he’s clearly someone with a set of flaws in his execution of morality.
Just like everyone else.
His affair is basically not my business. I’m not his wife nor am I the woman he propositioned so I’m untouched by his actions. But I get a twist in my gut when I think that he might be the type of guy who wants to dictate the sexual behavior of others by limiting access to a full range of reproductive health services and the demonstration of love between same sex partners when he’s off cavorting, or attempting to cavort, with women he’s meeting on Craig’s List (and really? Craig’s List? How pedestrian…). He’s willing to make exceptions for himself while trying to impose iron-clad rules for others. That’s not right. It’s not fair. And it shouldn’t be his, or any elected official’s, job.
There are, as I see it, only three reasons to legislate: to protect the health and safety of the populace; to protect law and order; to promote a strong economy. All that nosy-parker, busy-body, church-lady judgmental legislating about sex, its practice, and its outcomes doesn’t fall into those categories. Access to contraception does not negatively impact anything; quite the opposite. Same for access to information about sex. And as for the free expression of consenting, adult homosexual love? Give me a break. That shouldn’t even be a question. Not. The. Government’s. Business.
Chris Lee is about to wander off into obscurity to cope with the consequences of his philandering with his family. Which is as it should be. We should all do him the favor of allowing him privacy to work on his marriage or end it, as he sees fit. I hope that his erstwhile brethren in Congress will grant all of us the same courtesy and stop trying to legislate morality, especially when it’s possible that, like Lee, they’re woefully unqualified to do so.