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At Least Spanky Had Grace To Leave Quietly

A Commentary By Debra J. Saunders

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Will the sex scandal of former GOP Assemblyman Mike Duvall make a difference for the California GOP? In that Duvall -- now known as Spanky -- had the good sense to resign 15 hours into the scandal, the answer would be: No.

Orange County Republicans are like weeds. Cut off one and another will grow in its place. With any luck, Duvall's replacement will respect the position and not treat the Capitol like a frat house. True, Duvall comes across as another Republican family-values hypocrite -- but that's only because he proved to be one. The beefy lawmaker bragged in graphic detail before what he thought was a turned-off Capitol microphone about two affairs -- one with a Sacramento lobbyist with business before the energy committee on which he was vice chairman. Insiders, who wouldn't blink at the news of a lawmaker straying outside his marriage vows, were left dumbstruck at the Duvall's barrier-breaking stupidity.

The issue isn't that Duvall failed as a role model, because no one knew who he was until his chatter about spanking and lingerie catapulted Duvall from Sacramento obscurity into the limelight of international scorn.

GOP leaders did not lift a finger to defend Duvall for saying the indefensible. To the contrary, even before Duvall's resignation, Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh called on Duvall to quit.

Why does this keep happening to family-values Republicans? Probably for the same reason it happens to Democrats, like former Sen. John Edwards and former prosecutor and New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer: Because it happens. And because they get caught.

In a sense, Duvall's fall shows how too-big political egos are a problem that takes care of itself. Pols get arrogant, and that means sloppy.

Except, as coming across as a man with too much time on his hands, Duvall's chatter besmirches the work of serious lawmakers. Ditto Sacto lobbyists. Especially female lobbyists, the vast majority of whom get their jobs done despite the grabby presumptions of some members.

After resigning, Duvall released a statement in which he essentially denied that he had an affair. He explained, "My offense was engaging in inappropriate story-telling, and I regret my language and choice of words." Hmmm. I do believe he regrets his "choice of words."

At least Duvall spared his wife, two children, himself, the Assembly and his party by resigning immediately. By not prolonging the embarrassment, he already has begun his rehabilitation.

Yes, Californians will remember Duvall for his caught-on-tape remarks, but they'll also remember that he chose to exit gracefully.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, another family-values Republican with a girlfriend, would do well to observe and replicate these actions.

South Carolina editorial boards haven't called for Sanford's resignation because he had an affair with an Argentine woman. They want him out because he was caught telling too many stories, starting with one about a solo hike on the Appalachian Trail that never happened.

But they also want him out, I suspect, because Sanford talked too much. American voters can forgive many things, but they want to be spared the details.

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