On My Mind: Men Behaving Badly

What was he thinking? California Congressman Gary Condit — one of the first Democrats to chastise President Clinton for his sexual indiscretions with a young female intern, turns out to have engaged in the same immoral, anti-family behavior for which he so piously denounced the president.

Condit is not only an admitted liar, but while police say he is not a suspect, some wonder if he had something to do with the disappearance of his intern lover, 24-year-old Chandra Levy. Since April, the young woman, who lived in the congressman's Modesto, Calif., district, has not been seen nor heard from.

I pray no harm has come to Ms. Levy, but what concerns me most is why so many men of supposed intelligence and accomplishment can be so stupid about — not affairs of the heart — but their lust for sex.

I have lived in Washington, D.C., since post-Watergate 1974, when it was no longer media practice to ignore politicians' private lives. That year Arkansas' Wilbur Mills, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, was caught speeding by police. In his car was a stripper known as Fanne Foxe or "The Argentine Firecracker." She jumped out of the car and police fished her out of the Tidal Basin. It was scandalous, but after all the negative publicity Mills still couldn't leave Foxe alone. He later blamed it on a drinking problem. He didn't seek re-election, because he knew he would lose.

A couple of years later, Rep. Wayne Hays, chair of the House Administration Committee, put blonde and buxom Elizabeth Ray on staff as a secretary. She later admitted she couldn't file, type or answer phones, but was paid $14,000 a year to have sex with Hays. He was forced to resign.

Is It Love, Or Cheap Lust?

Why don't they learn? There is a long list of Congressmen who have allowed sex to ruin their congressional careers and most likely their marriages — some for having sex with other men, or soliciting teenage boys; some for having sex with underage girls, or prostitutes; and some were even charged with sexual assault.

Let me remind you of just a few of their names: Maryland Rep. Bob Bauman; Delaware Rep. Thomas Evans (Paula Parkinson's name should ring a bell); Illinois Rep. Daniel Crane; Massachusetts Rep. Gerry Studds; Washington Sen. Brock Adams; Ohio Rep. Donald "Buz" Lukens; Virginia Senator Charles Robb; Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood; and Illinois Representatives Mel Reynolds and Gus Savage.

Even during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal other illicit sexual relationships became public involving House speaker Newt Gingrich, and the man who was to replace him, Rep. Robert Livingstone. Even House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde admitted to an affair he had in his 40's. "Youthful indiscretion," was how he described it. In your 40's?

We now know more about our "bad boy" presidents. John F. Kennedy's womanizing, a closely guarded secret in the 60's, is now legendary. And there's the funny story about Lyndon Baines Johnson who climbed into the bed of a female staff member visiting his Texas ranch. The woman, who was startled awake, reportedly heard Johnson say, "Move over honey. This is your president."

During his presidential campaign Colorado Senator Gary Hart almost begged reporters to follow him to see if they could catch him with a woman. They did and that finished him.

Illicit sex among politicians is not unique to Washington politicians. Silver-maned Governor Edwin Edwards of Louisiana, whose slogan was "let the good times roll," was known as the "Silver Zipper."

A Call for Cleaning Up

So why don't our public figures clean up their acts? I needed answers. How can they continue to risk their careers and families for casual sex, usually with young, vulnerable females.

Thirty years ago, Myra MacPherson, author of the The Power Lovers, studied the role of sex in politics. She stated, that "the compulsive infidelity" habitually seen among politicians is regarded by psychiatrists as "a phallic game … of seeking adoration and approval; he [the politician] wants a relatively immature form of sex, one-night stands and new admirers but no commitment."

Highly-regarded U.S. statesman Henry Kissinger remarked at one time that "power was the ultimate aphrodisiac." He and others trace it back to Charles Darwin's studies of female lions and apes, which tended to mate with the most powerful males. The so-called Alpha males were big, bad, and dangerous because of their power to defeat any would-be rivals for domination.

Now there is another explanation: the male hormone, testosterone. Last year, in their book Heroes, Rogues and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior, by James and Mary Dabbs of Georgia State University, say men who achieve power often have higher levels of testosterone than other men. This helps them achieve power, but they want, need, and engage in more sexual activities. The authors say that while the dominant [i.e., high testosterone] male "can protect his mate and offspring and provide more resources, his reckless lifestyle leads at worst to early death, at best to philandering and neglect of familial duties."

I don't think any of the aforementioned politicians have died from engaging in reckless sex, but I bet many of their wives wanted to kill them.

Losing their careers, their families, and their public dignity doesn't seem to be enough to deter some of our sex-crazed politicians from behaving badly. They have learned no lessons from their colleagues. And now they have a new excuse. They may try to get away with their sexual peccadilloes by explaining they couldn't help themselves. Their testosterone "made them do it." Yeah, right.