The United States is far from a perfect country, and we all know that goes double for the government that runs it. In the nation’s capital there are enough buffoons, nutjobs, war-mongers, liars, creeps, poltroons, hucksters, and snollygosters to shake a stick at. Or as they are called in D.C., members of Congress.
From time to time, however, an individual within the ranks excels at these and other “qualities” to such a degree as to put his peers to shame by making them look like altar boys and girl scouts by comparison. In our time, that person is Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.).
In Thursday’s Republican primary for Tennessee’s fourth congressional district, DesJarlais’ lead over challenger state Sen. Jim Tracy — after all the ballots were counted — was a mere 35 votes. The AP has not officially called the race and a recount is likely forthcoming, but that this race was not a blowout in Tracy’s favor is a damning indictment of the voters of that district, just as DesJarlais’ victories in the 2010 and 2012 general elections were before that.
Less than two months before the 2010 midterms, divorce proceedings from the first marriage of DesJarlais, who was challenging Democratic incumbent Lincoln Davis, emerged and indicated that he had a history of “violent and threatening” behavior toward his wife. This included:
“…dry firing a gun outside [his wife’s] locked bedroom door, admission of suidical ideation, holding a gun in his mouth for three hours, an incident of physical intimidation at the hospital; and previous threatening behavior… i.e. shoving, tripping, pushing down, etc.”
Riding the 2010 Tea Party wave, DesJarlais trounced the incumbent 57% to 39%.
DesJarlais voters could be forgiven for giving little if any weight to the veracity of claims in a divorce proceeding, but subsequent revelations left no doubt as to bottom-scraping nature of his character. Furthermore, DesJarlais admitted to displaying suicidal ideation to his wife, and it seems he has not denied any of the other aforementioned incidents.
While running for reelection in 2012, DesJarlais — a physician — found himself embroiled in a scandal that, in any sane congressional district, would have meant certain doom for his campaign. In the weeks before the election, two women came forward to say they had sexual relations with DesJarlais while he was married and while they were under his medical care. Said one of the women, “His biggest thing that’s completely unethical is him just picking up women while he’s a doctor… I mean, seriously, that’s his big no-no… He’s just a hound.”
But this was just the tip of the iceberg.
At this time, Huffington Post obtained a transcript of a phone call between DesJarlais and one of his mistresses in which the staunchly anti-abortion DesJarlais pressured her to get an abortion. When presented with the transcript, he did not deny its contents.
And according to one of the women, DesJarlais — a staunch anti-drug politician who just in May voted against an amendment prohibiting the federal government from interfering with states’ medical marijuana laws — also smoked marijuana, and prescribed her medication. You don’t have to be a medical professional to know that this is a conflict of interest.
After coasting to reelection 56% to 44% in 2012, it was revealed just two weeks later that DesJarlais had admitted under oath to having six affairs. And as it turns out, the anti-abortion family man had not only encouraged one of his mistresses to get an abortion, but his wife to get two.
To summarize: Scott DesJarlais is a family values, pro-life, anti-marijuana, anti-big government conservative who’s had at least a half dozen affairs, slept with at least two women under his professional medical care, was complicit in at least three abortions, and has smoked marijuana.
Unlike 2010 and 2012, all of this information was out in the open for everyone to see by last night, and yet the GOP primary voters of Tennessee’s fourth congressional district saw fit to nominate this man once again. And if DesJarlais can fend off another Republican in this conservative district, you better believe he can win a third term in November against Democrat Lenda Sherrell, against whom he’s a heavy favorite.
It’s true that everyone is flawed, and DesJarlais certainly is more than most. But the most galling thing about his sordid life isn’t that it’s sordid, but it’s his glaring multiple levels of hypocrisy, and the total disconnect between how he acts personally and how he votes as a United States congressman.
Of course, virtually everyone is also a hypocrite in one way or another, but the fact that most voters in a congressional district are willing to abandon any semblance of principled representation is a damning self-indictment.
And it’s why Tennessee’s fourth congressional district is the shame of America.