Former Democrat Governor Edwin Edwards of Louisiana gave the political world what has since become known as the “dead girl, live boy rule” of politics when, en route to his 1984 election to a third term, he estimated his chances by saying “the only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy”.
It’s a metaphor for doing something so insanely stupid as to upend politically reality, or at least getting caught doing it. As another former Louisiana Governor Earl Long put it in the movie Blaze, “A politician’s got to be discreet in his indiscretions”.
But being discreet is getting tougher.
Since the dawn of the Internet, along with email and its spawn text messaging, a smart politician with any survival instincts has to know that anything sent to anyone – no matter how trusted they may be at the moment – can one day pop up on the front page of the newspaper, show up on TV, or in the email in-boxes of every voter in their district. Many a job has been lost on account of the “reply all” button.
Further, thanks to the ubiquitous smart phone, virtually everyone everywhere is equipped with a handheld digital camera and voice recorder that can quickly capture that obscene rant at a constituent, or the discreet exit from the no-tell motel with that hot new intern, and post it on Facebook in a matter of seconds.
Despite that, human nature is what it is, and people continue to do dumb things. Add that to a culture that continues to chase the lowest common denominator and you end up with a lot of unfortunately “candid” moments and busted careers. On the bright side, this gives voters a chance to see what they actually got on Election Day, often much to their disappointment.
That said, the “dead girl, live boy rule” has been more than adequate to cover the idiocy of politicians of all stripes up to this point. But every now and then someone comes along who does something so colossally and epically stupid that rules have to be re-written to account for it.
Clearly it’s one thing to get caught doing something foolish, but it’s something else to willfully and repeatedly do so in a self-absorbed, sociopathic and exhibitionist way, especially after you’ve already been busted and drummed out of office for doing it once before. Which brings us to the latest case of Anthony Weiner and what I’ll call the new “Carlos Danger corollary”, which covers using technology in an insanely moronic and reckless way – like taking pictures of yourself naked and intentionally sharing them with someone in a format that is just one mouse click away from being front page news.
So here’s the updated rule: never get caught with a dead girl or a live boy; or take pictures of your junk and send them to people. Politicians, take note.
Now that it’s becoming so much easier to get caught, we’ve got an increasing number of politicians who want second chances; a trail blazed by Bill Clinton and followed by many more ever since.