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Friday scandal update: From Spitzer to Ensign to Sanford to Edwards

October 2, 2009 |  5:12 pm

You have to give Democratic ex-N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer credit for understanding a simple fact: The American public’s attention span is about as long as a TV commercial. If it's short and zippy.

When Spitzer got busted for hiring prostitutes in 2008, he immediately resigned. Now “the hooker-happy Democrat,” as the New York Post dubbed him, is contemplating a somewhat-plausible comeback.

Other politicians caught in flagrante delicto have taken a markedly different route: They haven’t stepped down. So how’s that working out for Republicans South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Nevada Sen. John Ensign?

Critics say the Republicans, whose rise and fall have eerie parallels (voting for Democrat President Clinton’s impeachment over his sex scandal among them, have been rendered ineffective by their decisions to stay in office. As long as they’re public figures, the argument goes, someone will be poking around for new details of their scandals.

So in South Carolina, even Republicans are throwing around the word “impeachment” in regard to a governor who reportedly used state funds while turning “hiking the Appalachian Trail” into a double entendre.

Now, this week, Ensign – who has been in hibernation for much of the last four months – got pummeled by a newspaper story that detailed his herculean efforts to try to silence his mistress' husband. (Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma didn't come out looking so good, either.)

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell declined to defend Ensign today, and ethics experts speculated that Ensign's actions might have crossed into criminal behavior. 

Even if they didn’t, the latest round of publicity surely will help push along a Senate ethics inquiry.

So, hmm, with all this talk of infidelity, which path do you think America's favorite baby-daddy, ex-Democratic senator and presidential candidate John Edwards, would have chosen had he been elected president?

-- Ashley Powers

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