In the last 24 hours, not one, but two stories of infidelity broke the news—both relating to politicians, of course. (Duh, no one cares about the general public and their “healthy relationships”… or lack there of). North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and Minnesota State Rep. Tim Kelly and Rep. Tara Mack saw their name in headlines. While the indiscretions are similar, the difference is how they are being handled publicly.
Wrigley’s affair was outed by a blogger yesterday who highlighted his infidelity with a woman unrelated to his political profession.
In response to the now-public affair, Wrigley and his wife invited a handful of journalists into their home for interviews, discussing the issue and admitting his faults. Wrigley said in The Forum, “Many months ago I went to Kathleen and I acknowledged to her that I had been unfaithful.That was an intensely difficult time and we turned to our longtime pastor and prayer and also to professional guidance to begin the process of reconstituting the trust that I had damaged.”
Though I will won’t condone cheating, what I can respect about Wrigley is that he came clean to his wife, Kathleen, months beforehand, attended counseling as a couple, and agreed together to work to save their 17-year marriage, if for no other reason than for the sake of their three children. “Our family is worth the work,” she said.
It wasn’t just that the lieutenant governor admitted his faults, it was the way he did it. Wrigley handled the situation like a human being. An ordinary, U.S. citizen who had committed adultery and was mature enough to admit his faults and seek help to save his marriage. Ultimately, he is a human being first and a politician second.
What I can’t respect, however, is the way that Kelly and Mack handled their predicament, which was very similar.
Last week, the two were approached by a park ranger in Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, Minnesota, around 4:30 PM for what Kelly says was initially just a “parking violation.” While the two said they were “exchanging documents” (which sounds just as fishy), the citation states that the park ranger witnessed Kelly “making out with female in car. When I approached the car the female’s pants were unzipped and pulled down.”
The representatives, married to other people, received misdemeanors and were cited and fined for a county parks ordinance that prohibits “any act ‘that constitutes a nuisance.’”
Today, the two actively insist that these allegations are not true and that the park ranger was telling a lie. “I’ve since learned the park ranger included false information in his notes, that I understand have now been obtained illegally. What he wrote is an absolute lie, and I intend on filing a complaint,” Kelly said.
Mack also insisted telling her side of the story, “When we met, a park ranger approached my vehicle and told me I was double-parked,” she said. “Approximately ten minutes later, he returned to my vehicle with a parking ticket citing a nuisance. When I asked what that meant, he responded ‘whatever I want it to mean.’”
True or not, rather than addressing the issue head on, like Wrigley did, these politicians acted as politicians do. They used their media experience to write a press release-style argument, aiming to convince us that they are perfect little angels who simply like to meet up at random parking lots to exchange business papers.
This is an example of how two similar situations can be handled completely differently. Two politicians, who should have had the political savvy to fess up and admit they were caught in a terrible situation, instead said, “Nuh-uh! No, we didn’t!” like a couple of children. While Wrigley’s scandal will be out of the public eye in no time, Kelly and Mack will continue to wither away in the spotlight, as they’ve now created reason for investigation and further negative publicity.
No one’s perfect, but we tend to hold our elected officials to a higher standard. After all, they are making decisions that impact us all. But no matter who we are or when we make mistakes, we can choose to accept responsibility and move on or linger in our own denial. It’s not the weight of the conflict by which we should be measured, but by the strength and sincerity of the resolution.