Kinder & the Non-Scandal Scandal
Missouri’s lieutenant governor Peter Kinder has become embroiled in a sexless sex scandal. A photo of him and former Penthouse Pet Tammy Chapman has been making the rounds and the problem is that the photo was taken at a pantless bar. Kinder was, presumably, wearing pants and the photo does not show the Pet below the waist.
Kinder’s handlers initially tried to blame the liberal media for manufacturing a scandal. However, this defense failed as it turned out the story was correct in its details. Of course, there is the question of whether or not this situation is really a scandal. While I am generally skeptical of the unceasing cries about media liberal bias, I do agree that the media has a bias in terms of tending to present stories in ways calculated to attract attention. This seems to result in the media folks casting non-scandals as scandals. After all, the term “scandal” catches peoples’ attention. So, I shall endeavor to sort out whether this is a scandal or not.
While I would not go to a strip club myself (mainly because they seem like sad, pathetic places), this aspect of the scandal hardly seems all that scandalous. While strip clubs are typically looked down on by folks who want to take the moral high ground, they are legal and a (somewhat) accepted part of the culture. Kinder is also single hence there is not even the small moral concern that a married man is staring at half naked women. As such, this part is a bit creepy, but not a scandal.
However, Chapman alleges that Kinder was obsessed with her in the 1990s and that he recently offered her the chance to live in a condo paid for by his campaign finances. If this is true, then this would clearly be a more serious matter. Obviously enough, using campaign money to provide someone with a condo is morally unacceptable and most likely illegal. Naturally it should not be assumed that Kinder actually made such an offer, nor should it be assumed that even if he did mention such an offer that it was intended seriously. As such, until it is shown that Kinder did something wrong, he should be regarded as innocent. But, if this accusation has merit, then it would provide grounds for a scandal.
Oddly enough, Kinder tried the “youth defense” regarding his past involvement with Chapman. While it is well established that the youth generally have worse judgment than the more mature, there are two obvious replies here. First, being young is still not a good excuse. Second, Kinder was 40 when he was first involved with her. As much as I would like to regard the 40s as a time of the folly of youth, that is not the case. So, the youth defense fails.
Of course, being involved with a former Penthouse Pet is not illegal nor would I be inclined to take it as evidence for being unfit for office. If he were married or if he was cavorting with hookers, then things would be rather different. However, Kinder casts himself as a conservative and this sort of behavior has not endeared him to the social conservatives in his party. After all, a good social conservative is not supposed to hang out at strip clubs. However, this does not seem to really hit a level that is worthy of being a scandal. True, it can be manufactured into a scandal, but this hardly seems justified.
While the truth of Chapman’s allegations are not yet known, one thing that is known is that Kinder has spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on hotel stays. While staying in hotels on the taxpayer’s dime is not illegal (provided the proper procedures are used) this does stain his Tea Party credentials. After all, the Tea Party is supposed to be all about reducing government spending and Kinder’s taste for luxury hotels and tax dollars runs afoul of this. However, Kinder certainly seems to have done nothing illegal, hence all that can be said is that he seems to fail to practice what he preaches. This is hardly a scandal.
“I am sorry, but the price of cavorting with Penthouse Pets in your 40s is that you don’t get to be governor of a Bible Belt state in your 50s,” Garrison wrote.