Can Anyone Explain This?

Scott DesJarlais is a rabidly pro-life congressman from a reliably red district in Tennessee. He’s also a doctor who cheated on his wife with at least two of his patients, and was caught on tape encouraging one of them to have an abortion. In a rational world, you’d expect him to lose the primary election following those revelations. You’d be wrong.

I’ll let Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) take it from here…

“Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who pressured a woman—one of two patients he admitted having affairs with—to get an abortion in the 1990s, appears to have narrowly avoided becoming the fourth Republican incumbent to lose a primary this year. With 100 percent of precincts reporting on Thursday, he led state Sen. Jim Tracy by 35 votes—34,787 to 34,752. (The results are not official and a recount is possible, although the state has no law mandating one in such circumstances.) The abortion revelation emerged after DesJarlais’ 2012 primary, when the only thing standing between him and reelection in the deeply Republican district was a token Democratic candidate in the general election.

But after his reelection, the dominoes continued to fall. Divorce transcripts released two weeks after the race revealed that he and his first wife had decided to abort two pregnancies. That proved a problem for the congressman, who is adamantly pro-life: Per his website, “Congressman DesJarlais believes that all life should be cherished and protected. He has received a 100% score by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the oldest and the largest national pro-life organization in the United States.”

My favorite part of this was that his opponent put out an ad calling attention to DesJarlais’ hypocrisy and this was his response:

DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson called the piece “just the sort of disgusting gutter politics we’d expected from [U.S. House Democratic leader] Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Washington.”

Yeah, that’s disgusting. No, not the fact that he cheated on his wife multiple times despite his allegedly “pro-family” principles. Not the fact that he did it with his patients, which can get your medical license yanked and is probably the single biggest ethical breach a doctor can make. Not the fact that he encouraged one of his mistresses to get an abortion despite his self-declared opposition to abortion. No, it’s disgusting to point out that vile behavior. But remember, DesJarlais is exactly the kind of guy who lectures liberals about moral relativism and says his religious values guide him.

If those things don’t disqualify you from winning an election full of allegedly pro-family, pro-life voters, what the hell could possibly do so?

My question exactly.


  1. He operates from a “Do as I say, not as I do.” platform. This is certainly another song we have heard before; this is just one of the slimiest efforts by the New Age Republicans. To my way of thinking, this situation is even worse than the state that actually elected a known dead man to a political office in recent years.

  2. Words, not actions, are the important part. Bending your knee and proclaiming fealty to a particular tribe is really the point of the exercise. Those outside the tribe and the lesser members within it are really the only people expected to adhere to the rules.

  3. The explanation is simple: he’s a shill for a cause; he lacks ethical and moral values, he lacks relevant experience, but he so desperately wants to be elected that he will say or do anything. He’s the perfect example of why our governing body can’t govern.

  4. Guessing his votes are exactly in line with what his constituency wants. And really, isn’t that what matters?

  5. You might avoid defining this guy and his ilk with their chosen euphemism, “pro-life.” My guess is that like most so-called “pro-lifers” his outward-facing position doesn’t extend to other pro-life issues like, say, opposition to war and the death penalty, assuring food, nutrition, housing or education for underprivileged classes, etc. Let’s call it what it is: unconstitutional intrusion into women’s rights. Doesn’t quite have the same jingoist ring to it as “pro-life” but it’s a lot more accurate.

  6. I totally agree, Todd, except that your description doesn’t roll of the tongue. Can we come up with an acronym? Everything else has one; there are so many in the media that I frequently have no idea what the issue is or what organization they are referring to.

  7. It just might be that the real interests of those who vote for such candidates are not those that appear straightforwardly on the surface. There is something, often not articulated, underneath. It is probably akin to fear, that is, fear that their remembered way of life is disappearing because of changes wrought by others. They will be likely to vote for anyone who says that he or she will restore “their country” to them.

    And we turn to Proust and others to be reminded that memory always distorts.

  8. IOKIYAR – It’s okay if you’re a Republican.

    Not sure the capital R is appropriate.

  9. Maybe Proust and the others who stated “memory always distorts” sounds like something I have believed of many voters for years. I believe too many people vote for a familiar name on the ballot; having no idea what the person stands for or what they have done. It is simply a familiar name and if they have been elected before, guess I’ll just keep themwhere they are.

  10. This sort of story has now reached the “dog bites man” level. O.K., some elected representative has been found to be a glaring and obvious hypocrite. So? For me the real story is in how his constituents are processing this awfulness–not just awful to them, but to anyone with ethical sensibilities. How is it that they actually voted for and may eventually vote for this guy whose conduct shows him to be a liar? Now that he is exposed as the incarnation of what they hate, how can these people support such a person? How do they reconcile that clash?

  11. What’s scary about this story is the revelation of 34,787 Tennesseans who believe that this person is fully qualified to decide on laws to govern their lives.

    What force in their lives leads to that decision?

    Was there any due diligence on their part?

  12. The Republican Party is out of control, various Police departments
    around the US are out of Control.

    What’s going to happen next?

  13. Do I see a fascist government in our future? When the “red scare” was a big deal, a colleague for whom I have great respect, said that there was only one condition where Americans would support a communist government. It would be in reaction to the establishment of a fascist government. The center is giving way.

  14. Try this one from the campaign trail – a voter admitted that he agreed my opponent was a crony capitalist and his lobbying day-job seemed to continue while he was acting as a City-County Councillor. He didn’t like that. However, he told me, he only had my word that I was different, so he didn’t know why he should vote for me.

    Perhaps we prefer the devil we know.

  15. According to the first Mrs Hershmann, Brandt Hershmann conned her into having an abortion, according to an interview she gave before his first election, and he also has a 100% from Right to Life. Apparently, as long as you treat women with contempt you get a 100% from that group.

  16. The expression is “anti-choice.” People who support roe v wade as decided should never capitulate and offer up the Luntzism “pro-life.”

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