Teavangelical lawmakers reveal their affair in worst way possible

Teavangelical lawmakers reveal their affair in worst way possible August 7, 2015

Michigan state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat carved out a niche for themselves early on as defenders of traditional family values, introducing three bills that attempted to ban same-sex marriage by a variety of dubiously constitutional means (such as requiring that all marriages in Michigan be conducted by “a minister of the Gospel, cleric, or religious practitioner”).

Today Courser and Gamrat are making headlines for another reason — unwittingly revealing their extramarital affair due to their convoluted and ill-conceived attempt to cover it up. Chad Livengood broke the story for the Detroit News — “Recordings: State rep. asked to hide relationship.” And Sarah Pulliam Bailey follows up with “Politician reportedly leaked fake male prostitution emails to hide his real affair“:

A Michigan state representative distributed a fake email that suggested he had sex with a male prostitute so he could hide his relationship with another Republican state representative who is also a home-school mom, according to the Detroit News. Both lawmakers are Christian conservatives who frequently refer to their faith.

The brain trust behind this brilliant scheme.

State Rep. Todd Courser, a married father of four, said in an audio recording that the email was intended to create a “complete smear campaign” of false claims so that a public revelation about his relationship with state Rep. Cindy Gamrat would seem “mild by comparison.”

… Courser in mid-May told a former House aide to send a mass e-mail to Republican activists and operatives appearing to be from an anonymous political enemy who said Courser was “caught behind a Lansing nightclub” having sex with a man, according to the News. Both representatives fired their aides, including the aide who sent the email, without explanation.

During two meetings recorded by the aide, Courser and Gamrat, who is also married and has three children, did not dispute the aide’s characterization of their relationship as an extramarital affair. Courser and Gamrat combined their office operations, having three aides work for both of them.

Everything about this scheme was poorly thought-out and then poorly executed — it’s like the plot of a darkly humorous Cohen brothers movie. (Pro-tip: When you’ve entrusted your loyal aide with facilitating and helping to cover-up your dark secrets, it’s never a good idea to then turn around and fire that same aide in a way that fills them with resentment, thus motivating them to deploy all the ammo you’ve given them against you.)

Particularly hilarious is Courser and Gamrat’s weird certainty that faking a gay prostitution scandal would surely eclipse concern about their plain-vanilla adultery. They seem to imagine that everyone views the world the same way they do — imagining that everyone thinks gay secks is the Worst Possible Thing Ever.

And more generally, they seem to have acted from the more general white evangelical obsession with sex as the Dirtiest of Shameful Sins, which I think probably played a role in their willingness to lie contemptuously toward their colleagues and constituents. In their religious subculture, you see, lying is never as bad as anything involving sexy bits. (And, hey, if it’s not just acceptable but virtuous to tell lies for Jesus about baby-killers, shouldn’t it also be acceptable to tell lies for Jesus to defend the institution of the family — even if what you’re defending it from is your own office romance?)

Paul Campos highlights Courser’s description of this clownish scheme as a means of “inoculating the herd,” quoting this bit from Livengood’s report:

During the May 19 meeting, Courser instructed Graham to send rank-and-file Republicans across Michigan what he called “an over-the-top story that’s obscene about me.” It was designed, Courser said on the recording, to “inoculate the herd” — an apparent reference to Courser and Gamrat’s followers in the tea party movement.

Politicians have survived scandals involving extra-marital affairs and scandals involving gay prostitutes, but I doubt it’s possible to survive a scandal that involves such a sneering dismissal of your own supporters as “the herd.” Particularly when you’ve also managed to alienate the rest of your own party through a scheme that involves misleading them into participating in your deception. As Campos drily says, “this strikes me as a less than optimal way of handling this sort of thing.”

Here’s the thing: Politicians’ personal failings aren’t always relevant to their public service, and often those personal failings aren’t even any of our business as voters (or voyeurs). But when, as in this case, those personal stories reveal brazen duplicity — “hypocrisy” is too timid a word — then I think the public has a right to know about them. Duplicity is relevant in a way that ad hominem attacks based on personal failures are not. “Dismiss Candidate X’s arguments because they are a flawed person” is meaningless. Evidence that Candidate X’s argument is duplicitous because they have demonstrated that they don’t really believe such arguments themselves is not. (See, for example, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tennessee.)

And when, as in this case, those personal failings involve the misuse of public resources, then they become public stories.

The other thing that’s often said is that stories of marital infidelity are fair game for reporters because it tells us about politicians’ “character.” That’s sometimes an elastic pretext for mere prurient interest in gossip — do we really need, for example, to interview all the former Mrs. Trumps for insight into the Donald’s character? And it’s sometimes a back-door channel to those evasive ad hominem dismissals of unrelated arguments. But sometimes this “character” talk actually is indicative of something that disqualifies a person from the office they hold or seek.

I think that’s true in this case as well based simply on what this scandal reveals about the intelligence of Rep. Courser and Rep. Gamrat. This scheme was their idea and it is indicative of their capacity for ideas. The district for a state representative in Michigan has between 77,000 and 91,000 residents. Surely Michigan voters can find someone — anyone — from Courser and Gamrat’s districts who would be smarter than this.

See also Wonkette. Because stories like this are what Wonkette is for.

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