by Gwen Moritz
Posted 11/19/2012 12:00 am
It’s been almost exactly a year since I last dragged out the Moritz Scale of Political Bad Behavior, which I originally developed in response to South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s five-day tryst with his Argentine soul mate back in 2009. I long to be the Richter of self-inflicted damage along the political fault lines, but until Moritz becomes synonymous with scandal magnitude, it can serve as occasional column material as reliably as John Brummett’s arrows and the letters that are wholly a pleasure for Paul Greenberg to receive.
The Moritz Scale, as you can see, ranks faux pas by political figures on a scale of 1 (behavior that “just looks bad”) to 5 (criminally bad behavior). It is applicable to political scandals that don’t involve sex — Ernie Passailaigue, former director of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, was twice measured on the Moritz Scale with nary a zipper problem — but sex certainly does seem to crop up regularly. And this installment’s subjects are currently involved in sex scandals.
The first, as you’d guess, is Gen. David Petraeus, the celebrated Army general who resigned suddenly as director of the CIA after the FBI discovered that he’d had an affair with the Army reservist who had written a fawning biography of him. I find it hard to work up much interest in other people’s private lives, but I do think that the head of the Central Intelligence Agency should be intelligent enough to avoid such compromising entanglements. And the object of his illicit affections, Paula Broadwell, sounds unstable (although not as certifiable as that female astronaut who drove cross-country wearing a diaper to try to murder a romantic rival).
I give Petraeus a 4. I haven’t (yet) heard any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, but the affair itself was sordid, and it was compounded by recklessness and stupidity. Plus, he’s 60 years old and should know better.
I also give a 4 to state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, although there may yet be some legal questions that bump Hutchinson’s score up a bit higher.
Hutchinson, you may recall, called the Little Rock Police Department back in September after a former girlfriend (before and after his divorce) named Julie McGee hit him upside the head with a “small preserved alligator head.” That alone would earn him a 3 for getting involved in a situation that your mother would describe as “tacky.” By sheer coincidence, Hutchinson’s father, former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, ordained Baptist minister and evangelist for “family values,” also earned a 3 for divorcing his wife and shortly thereafter marrying a member of his Senate staff.
But Jeremy Hutchinson’s score rose after McGee told reporter John Lyon of the Arkansas News Bureau that the senator had been supporting her with money from his campaign account and presented cancelled checks to support her claim. Now, Hutchinson says the checks were forged, and no malfeasance has been proven. But for a married elected official to get involved with a head case like McGee involves recklessness and stupidity that deserves a score at least one point higher than his dad’s.
One of several lessons to be taken from the experiences of David Petraeus and Jeremy Hutchinson is this: If you are going to start up a relationship that you wouldn’t want reporters to find out about, you need to be extremely careful in choosing your partner.
The Moritz Scale should not be confused with Moritz’s Formula, which was a breakthrough development in forensic pathology that gave investigators a mathematical tool for determining time of death based on the temperature of a corpse. Moritz’s Formula was developed by my husband’s grandfather, the late Dr. Alan R. Moritz.
Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG.com.