Editorial: Sen. Stanley’s precipitous fall

On July 29, 2009, in News 2009, by Mark Norris

Political demise in slow motion: The call for the disgraced conservative to “do the right thing” came after a week of persuasion.

July 29, 2009

The demise of state Sen. Paul Stanley’s political career provides another sad reminder of the persistent, intoxicating influence of high office.

The illusion of entitlement that clouds the judgment of seemingly intelligent men and women is a powerful force.

The Germantown Republican’s resignation Tuesday came none too soon. It took a week for it to become clear that it was all over for Stanley, and that’s a little discouraging.

A sexual relationship with a legislative intern goes beyond infidelity. To exert power over underlings in the workplace for sexual gratification is a colossal lapse of judgment that should disqualify any man or woman from a position of responsibility — public or private.

Stanley did much harm to the image of Tennessee politics. He also helped reinforce a stereotype created by the likes of Larry Craig, Mark Sanford, John Ensign and others — the Puritanical advocate of family values whose personal behavior doesn’t match his speech.

Stanley built his reputation as a friend of business and a defender of traditional values. He sponsored a bill prohibiting adoption by unmarried couples, spoke out in opposition to family planning and advocated sexual abstinence before marriage.

Little wonder that the Republican party is working hard to discourage the contrast between his politics and his behavior.

Those who “seem to be taking pleasure in the irony of some of Paul’s public positions as compared to his private failures,” said Lang Wiseman, chairman of the Shelby County GOP, are engaging in “crass, objectionable, and misguided” thinking.

Wiseman was correct to say, however, that it was “clear that the time has come for Paul to resign his seat in the Senate.”

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville agreed it was the “right thing” to do “for his family’s sake and for the sake of his constituents.”

In fact, Stanley seemed to have little if any support in his district for his decision not to turn in his resignation immediately after the affair became public last week.

Germantown constituents asked about the affair last week expressed disappointment in the senator, sympathized with his wife and children, noted the contrast between his public and private lives and said he should step down.

Norris, the Senate majority leader, said he had been “working to resolve this situation all week without resorting to press releases and press conferences.”

Stanley’s reluctance to move on has been a source of embarrassment not only for the party but for Tennessee politics in general. It was time to move on.

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