There are two types of disasters – natural and man-made. We seem to be having an epidemic of both. This column is about the latter, the disasters that people, mostly powerful men it seems, bring upon themselves.
Of course this is nothing new. Gary Hart wanted to be President but got caught with Donna doing “Monkey Business” on a boat of that name. Then there’s Bill Clinton, who apparently couldn’t resist Monica, the young intern with the blue dress.
You’d think public figures would have learned from the mishaps of others, but somehow oversized egos get in the way of undersized common sense – and not just in our country. We’ve been hearing for years about Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, whose 24-7 amorous capers have recently been eclipsed by the allegations against his French compatriot, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose fall from the echelons of power happened literally overnight. Unless his lawyers (or the conspiracy theorists) come up with a credible defense, this man’s career, not to mention his freedom, is toast.
Eliot Spitzer paid to play and had to resign as New York’s Governor. Nevada’s John Ensign quit the Senate recently after being outed as a complete cad. His bizarre story includes a payment by his parents, if you can believe it, to the Senator’s former chief of staff with whose wife the Senator was having … well, you get the idea. Arnold Schwarzenegger is another recent case, although the surprise is more that the “love child” was kept secret for so long than that he existed. Maybe the Terminator can find a role for John Edwards in his next movie. Between the two of them they could start their own “birther” movement.
I don’t know any of these people, or Tiger Woods either, but I do know Dick Morris, whom I met on a beach in Aruba back in the late 1970’s. He told me that he was in the business of helping politicians run for office, and that he had worked on Bill Clinton’s Arkansas campaigns. I asked Dick when he was going to run a presidential campaign. “When Bill Clinton runs for President,” he told me.
At the time, Clinton was Governor, and over the following years I saw Dick from time to time, either in New York or in Massachusetts, where he was an adviser to Governor Weld. For some reason Dick wasn’t visible when Clinton ran for President the first time, but he was in the thick of the re-election campaign, serving as the President’s campaign manager.
Then disaster struck. Dick got caught on a hotel balcony with a member of the world’s oldest profession, and he resigned from the campaign. Dick’s picture was on the cover of Time Magazine two weeks in a row – pre- and post-balcony.
I decided I should give Dick a call – what are friends for, after all? His wife, Eileen, answered the phone, Dick came on the line, and I realized that I hadn’t planned what to say. I could have quoted the last line of the movie Some Like it Hot – “Well, nobody’s perfect” – but that didn’t occur to me. Instead I came up with these priceless words: “We all make mistakes.” Dick, who grew up in New York City replied, “Yes, Joe, but I made mine in Macy’s Window.”
Dick Morris has long since come back in full force. He writes books and articles, appears regularly on Fox News, and gives advice to politicians. All in all, Dick serves as a role model for others who have run afoul of moral sensibilities. So does former Governor Spitzer, who has a nightly television show on CNN. Maybe former Senator Ensign has a future on the Animal Planet channel. Before politics, he was a veterinarian.