The Speaker of the Missouri House, John Diehl (R-89), just resigned. He seems to have been carrying on an affair with a nineteen year old student intern and he rather stupidly let his id override common sense when it came to exchanging salacious tweets that have now been made public. Is anyone really surprised? It’s an old story. Diehl is far from the first politician to let his exaggerated sense of self-importance fog his brain when it came to exercising what must have seemed like a perquisite of office, especially given the otherwise anything goes culture of the Missouri GOP.
But as gratifying as it is to see a hypocrite exposed, nobody is claiming that the young woman was coerced by Diehl. Politicians, no matter how personally unappealing, seem to have their groupies too – power, they say, is a potent aphrodisiac and Diehl was a big poohbah in the little Missouri political tent. No matter what you think about it, since it doesn’t rise to the level of illegality, what Diehl did was his own business. It only concerns him, his family and the intern. When Bill Clinton’s intern came to light, I said the same thing and I’m not going to change my tune now.
Don’t get me wrong. From an aesthetic point of view Diehl’s behavior seems seriously sad and creepy. There’s also the hypocrisy factor which probably justifies some of the outcry. Diehl is, as you might have guessed, one of those GOP “family values” types with a particularly strong enthusiasm for anti-gay panders:
Earlier this year, Diehl and the president pro-tempore of the state Senate filed an amicus brief in defense of the state’s anti-gay-marriage amendment, leading the Missouri Family Policy Council, the state affiliate of the Family Research Council, to praise the speaker “for demonstrating moral leadership and true integrity in standing up for the sacred institution of marriage and the family values of the people of Missouri.” The state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention thanked him for “fighting to defend biblical marriage.”
Seems a bit ironic now. Diehl has also pushed abortion restrictions during his tenure, co-sponsored a 2012 bill prohibiting Gay-Straight Alliances in public schools, and tried to restrict the availability of birth control insurance coverage for those whose employers want to claim religious privilege to defy the law.
All in all, Diehl’s pose as a thorough-going, rightwing Christian warrior makes his dirty old man routine especially revolting. But he’s got lots of company in the GOP in recent years. And many of these Christian sinners have continued to be re-elected – does the name David Vitter ring a bell – by constituents who evidently care more about what politicians do in office than when they go home. Correctly, I think.
Nevertheless, I have to admit that I’m enjoying the public way that the chickens have come home to roost for Rep. Diehl and I’ll be more than glad to see the back of him. But it isn’t because of his sleazy sexual behavior. When it comes to official malfeasance, there are far more serious charges to level against Diehl in his role as leader and enabler for the legislative GOP in Missouri. We mustn’t fail to give him a double-sized helping of credit for:
— 700 Missourians who will die unnecessarily every year because of the failure of the GOPers in Jefferson City to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid.
— 6,300 of Missouri’s poorest children who will loose welfare benefits.
— Putting legal guns in felons’ hands. Along with everybody else’s.
— Underfunding education. Yet again.
— Beggaring the state to give tax cuts to the wealthy, who shovel the excess back into campaign coffers by the handfuls. In Missouri those greenbacks don’t just exercise their free speech rights, they shout.
There’s more, of course. And I didn’t even touch on Diehl’s behind the scenes embrace of the corruption that runs rampant in Jefferson City. Thanks to Diehl and his like-minded cronies in the statehouse, Missourians might just as well give up and accept the coming blight. And as long as public immorality is defined in terms of private sexual behavior rather than in terms of public corruption and indifference to the needs of the state’s citizens, we’re not likely to see much difference, no matter which on-the-make GOP clone takes Diehl’s place. But it does do a body good to see one of the malefactors frogmarched, metaphorically speaking, out of office.
* Edited slightly for clarity’ three links added.