Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Zombie politicians find new life after disgrace

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Wed April 3, 2013
Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, resigned from Congress in 2011 after being embroiled for weeks in a sex scandal linked to his lewd online exchanges with women. Weiner announced in May that he was running for mayor of New York City, saying in a video announcing his campaign, "I hope I get a second chance to work for you." Weiner's comeback bid suffered a potential setback Tuesday, July 23, when he acknowledged more sexually tinged exchanges with an unnamed woman. "What I did was wrong," Weiner said in a statement about the newly emerged communications. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, resigned from Congress in 2011 after being embroiled for weeks in a sex scandal linked to his lewd online exchanges with women. Weiner announced in May that he was running for mayor of New York City, saying in a video announcing his campaign, "I hope I get a second chance to work for you." Weiner's comeback bid suffered a potential setback Tuesday, July 23, when he acknowledged more sexually tinged exchanges with an unnamed woman. "What I did was wrong," Weiner said in a statement about the newly emerged communications.
HIDE CAPTION
Anthony Weiner
Eliot Spitzer
Mark Sanford
Bill Clinton
Newt Gingrich
Gary Hart
Dennis Kucinich
David Vitter
Marion Barry
Richard Nixon
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Disgraced politicians can write a book, go on TV, run for office again
  • Obeidallah: Fallen politicians never die, just like zombies
  • Just think of Bob Ney, Eliot Spitzer, Tom DeLay, Rod Blagojevich, Mark Sanford, he says
  • Obeidallah: Are we so forgiving because we reward fame regardless of how it's attained?

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top 3 stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Ronald Reagan once joked, "Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed, there are many rewards. If you disgrace yourself, you can always write a book."

Today, that joke would have to be updated to add that not only can you write a book, but you can also be on reality TV show, host cable news programs, run for office again and possibly even win.

Disgraced politicians never die. They're like Jason from the "Friday the 13th" movies -- you just can't kill them. They keep coming at you like the political version of zombies.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Sure, some fallen politicians still write books about their "adventures."

Former Ohio congressman Bob Ney recently made the rounds on the talk show circuit to promote his new memoir. Ney, who resigned in 2006, served more than a year in prison after pleading guilty to corruption charges in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



But books are nothing compared to the other ways sullied politicians can profit off of their newly found infamy.

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer -- who resigned because he was caught frequenting prostitutes -- went on to host not one, but two different shows on cable TV. The first one was on CNN, and the second one was on Current TV.

CIA Director David Petraeus stepped down Friday, November 9, 2012, citing an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Many questions surround the affair, including why it was necessary for Petraeus to resign and the future of his marriage to his wife, Holly. Here's a look at other U.S. sexual scandals that led to political stumbles and downfalls. CIA Director David Petraeus stepped down Friday, November 9, 2012, citing an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Many questions surround the affair, including why it was necessary for Petraeus to resign and the future of his marriage to his wife, Holly. Here's a look at other U.S. sexual scandals that led to political stumbles and downfalls.
Public figures, private missteps
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
Photos: Public figures, private missteps Photos: Public figures, private missteps

Then there's exploiting your scandal in the time between when you're indicted and convicted of the crime. Former Texas congressman Tom DeLay -- while under indictment and awaiting a trial date -- appeared as a contestant on the hit TV show "Dancing with the Stars." DeLay was later convicted of campaign finance violations and money laundering.

But the guy who set the bar high for all disgraced politicians is former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

After being removed from office by the state legislature and while under indictment, Blagojevich wrote a book about his scandal, went on "The Daily Show" and "Letterman" and was a contestant on Season 9 of Donald Trump's "The Celebrity Apprentice." Blagojevich even appeared at the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con (a comic book convention), where he charged $50 for autographs and $80 for a photo with him. He was subsequently convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Among politicians who don't end up in jail, some try hard to become elected officials again. They want to go back to the very place that caused their problems. It's like a recovering drug addict asking to work at a meth lab -- not a good combo.

Mark Sanford: How I learned from scandal

Just look at former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who is running to fill a recently vacated Congressional seat. As a refresher, Sanford disappeared for six days in 2009 while governor. At first, Sanford's office publicly stated that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. However, we soon found out that he was actually in Argentina visiting the woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

Sanford seeks 'redemption' in wild congressional race

Sanford later paid $74,000 to settle charges that he had misused state resources and campaign funds in conducting his affair. However, Sanford refused to resign and completed his term.

Flash forward to March 19: Sanford came in first in a crowded field of Republicans in the GOP Congressional primary. Recent polls show him with a 10-point lead over his opponent in the Republican primary runoff scheduled for April 2.

Sanford's quest for forgiveness in return to political life

And don't forget Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic Congressman from New York City. As most people, and all comedians, vividly recall, Weiner had "accidentally" tweeted photos of himself in his underwear to a young woman on Twitter. Weiner later admitted to having non-sexual but "inappropriate" relationships with various women on social media. Weiner resigned from Congress a few weeks after the scandal broke in June 2011.

What's Weiner up to now? Apparently he has figured out how to use Twitter and is at least considering a return to politics. Weiner revealed he had spent more than $100,000 on polls recently to explore possibly running for office in New York City.

What does it say about us that these disgraced politicians have success -- however fleetingly -- after their scandals? Is it because we are a forgiving lot who believe in second chances if the person has sincerely apologized and seeks redemption? Or is it because we are all infected with the reality-show mindset where we reward fame regardless of how it's attained?

Plenty of people don't distinguish between whether a person is famous for good or bad reasons. All that matters is if a person has made it to that semi-exclusive club of celebritydom. After that, enough people will support the person to merit securing a book deal, being cast on a reality show and maybe run for office.

Look, I'm all for redemption and second chances. But I'm also aware that just like we saw with Jason in "Friday the 13th" movies, the longer he's alive, the more damage he will do.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT