Scandals, controversy liven race for the White House - Jason A. Smith

I was wondering how long it would take before the presidential election got interesting. It's been difficult to get excited about this contest, at least until a few weeks ago.

However, the race, in recent days, has gotten a bit nastier, with the help of a few rumors, a disgraced governor and a preacher with a big mouth.

It all started last month, as Arizona Sen. John McCain was faced with insinuations that he had an affair with a female lobbyist, named Vicki Iseman. Soon after the news of the alleged dalliance began to circulate, the Republican senator was forced to defend himself.

GOP advisers suggested the best way for McCain to diffuse the situation was to do so quickly, before the story became even more sensational.

To some extent, the controversy surrounding McCain seems to have abated fairly quickly, but I think that has less to do with the senator's adamant denials of the affair, and more to do with the firestorms his Democratic counterparts have had to deal with.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's controversy centers on one of his supporters, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and some choice words the clergyman recently had for his country during one of his sermons. Although Obama initially declined to make a statement about his pastor's comments, he was soon put in the position of having to decide whether to continue supporting a man he has long admired, or to denounce Wright's incendiary words.

One person who gave her opinion on what Obama should have done, in response to the situation, was Obama's adversary in the race for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Thankfully, Obama chose to distance himself from Wright, but by then, much of the damage was already done.

Just when you thought the presidential candidates' troubles were over, Clinton herself became entangled in a scandal that wasn't even her fault.

By now, most of America has likely heard about how Gov. Eliot Spitzer was forced to leave office as a result of being named as a client in a prostitution ring. The scandal has had negative implications on the campaign for Clinton, whom Spitzer supported.

Within days, she too was forced to distance herself from someone who had pledged to support her presidential bid.

In each of these cases, I don't think the candidates themselves are to blame for the bullets they have had to dodge in recent weeks. Although some may argue in McCain's case that there may be something to the rumors of extramarital activity, innuendo and suspicion are not uncommon in a presidential race.

If he's sticking around for the remainder of this contest, it could be because he knows he didn't do anything wrong.

As for Obama and Clinton, they're both dealing with unintended consequences, brought on by associations with the wrong people.

As for the race itself, I'm still not terribly excited about it. But I suppose these controversies, and others like them, will give me something to watch until November.

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161, or via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.