Text-Message Scandals Sink U.S. Politicians, Save European Ones?

We know the story of Eliot Spitzer. The former New York governor was forced to resign after the Feds tracked text messages from a madame called "Rachelle" to a prostitute called "Kristen," lining up a rendezvous with a certain "Client 9." Cue public outrage, moral indignation and the likely end of Spitzer's political career.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick? Text messages on his phone are alleged to reveal, despite his denials, a steamy affair with his chief of staff. Result? Outrage, indictment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, his political career on life support.

But in Finland, a politician's steamy text messages led to the opposite result. The foreign minister, Ilkka Kanerva, was caught romantically texting an exotic dancer, all on his official government-issued cell phone, and it could have helped his career.

Johanna Tukiainen — the recipient of those text messages — said, "they were flirtatious and very suggestive, and they got heavier and heavier. The more he sent, the more suggestive they became."

The result? Not outrage, but a big boost to Kanerva's popularity. One reason his approval ratings went up might be the Finns' cell phone culture. No country is more cell phone-obsessed or fanatically high-tech than Finland. It is, after all, the world's biggest maker of cell phones, the country that brought us Nokia. Texting is in their blood … and apparently, in their politics.

In 2005, Kanerva, who is divorced, but has a live-in girlfriend, also sent text messages to a nude model. Kanerva's boss, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, could sympathize with him. Vanhanen's former mistress published a tell-all book, chronicling all his racy texts and e-mails. And the prime minister broke up with his mistress with a text that read, "It's over."

According to reports in the Finnish tabloids, Kanerva sent more than 200 messages to Tukiainen — everything from asking her what she was wearing under her dress to suggesting a sexual encounter with her sister.

The dancer at the center of the scandal appears to be reveling in all the attention. She's believed to have sold the entire contents of all 200 messages to a Finnish tabloid.

Kanerva did finally apologize … after a week.

In a late night news conference, he told reporters, "I have committed a gross miscalculation, and given it was I who did so, the fault is, of course, mine."

So why do amorous texts spell trouble for a Detroit mayor, but not a Finnish foreign minister? London columnist and critic Andrew Mueller says it's partly to do with how different countries perceive their leaders.

"U.S. leaders are built up to be saintly," he said. "European leaders, anything but." Mueller added that for European politicians, it's "even endearing to be flawed."

So what did the Finnish prime minister do after breaking up with his mistress? He turned, publicly, to Internet dating. In Finland, all really is fair in love and texting.