Former Congressman Chris Lee, R-NY

Conservatives don’t philander more than liberals, but they don’t get elected by claiming to be more moral than the other guy.  They don’t try to legislate personal morality for the rest of us.  Americans love to forgive a sinner, but  hate a hypocrite.

Chris Lee, a conservative Republican congressman from western New York, resigned fron Congress less than four hours after “Gawker,” an online gossip site, published a picture of him, shirtless, and a story about his flirtations with a stranger who had advertised for a man on Craigslist.

The scandal was tailor-made for Twitter, where Lee’s denial, reversal, and resignation unfolded in just a few hours.

The speed with which the Lee Flee played out was the most remarkable element of the scandal – aside, of course, from the remarkably bad judgment in sending a half-naked picture to a woman he never met.

For people less obsessive about political gossip than “Gawker” readers, Lee’s political career expired before they even knew it was sick.  Lee refused to dangle in the wind while late-night talk show hosts turned him into a punch line.

Still, Lee went from a promising Repobulican with a prized seat on the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday to an ex-congressman with a lot of explaining to do on Wednesday. His Craigslist personna – a divorced lobbyist – may soon become reality.

Lee voted with the Republican leadership 100 percent of the time on all roll call votes, and co-sponsored a bill that would make it illegal for federal dollars to pay for abortions, except in the case of “forcible rape.”

Ever since the law against using federal funds for abortions was passed, rape, incest, and the health of the mother have been exceptions to the rule, under the “Hyde Amendment.”  Changing the wording to “forcible rape” raises the question of what “forcible” means.

What about date rape, or a rape that does not leave bruises on the woman?  What about statutory rape, sex with a teen-ager, who is too young under the law to consent?  Suppose the woman is drugged and unconscious, and force probably was unnecessary.

Lee joined 173 members of Congress, who thought limiting the definition of rape to “forcible” rape, without defining “forcible,” possibly denying abortion to many rape victims, was OK.  I suppose they thought too many undeserving rape victims were getting federal money for their abortions.

The lack of compassion and forethought is appalling.

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