Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Zombie politicians find new life after disgrace

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
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
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1918 GMT (0318 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says as violence claims three U.S. doctors, the temptation is to despair, but aid to Afghanistan has made it a much better place
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says in California, Asian-Americans are against the use of racial criteria in public colleges.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Heidi Schlumpf says if the Pope did tell an Argentinian woman married to a divorced man that she could take Communion, it may signify a softening of church rules on the divorced and sacraments
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Norcross, Georgia, Chief of Police Warren Summers says the new law that allows guns in bars, churches and schools will have unintended dangerous consequences.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Mel Robbins says social media is often ruled by haters, and people can be brutally honest.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1644 GMT (0044 HKT)
Mike Downey says the golf purists can take a hike; the game needs radical changes to win back fans and players.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1737 GMT (0137 HKT)
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1708 GMT (0108 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT