Saturday, March 02, 2013

Scoop Scandal

Most times when a politician gets caught doing what he or she shouldn't have, I, like most of you, can't understand it. Is it really that hard to play by the rules? Or at least comport yourself as any normal person would, eschewing the temptations we all encounter in everyday life and simply do the right thing? I can walk through a candy store, and tempted as I might be, don't feel the need to reach out and stuff fistfuls of gummy worms into my pockets. Is it too much to ask that our elected officials do the same?

Yet time and again, we see those who have been given the public's trust fall down woefully in this department. Usually it boils down to one of three things. Money is probably the top of the list: with all that campaign cash floating around, funds to be appropriated and lucrative contracts to be awarded, it's awfully tempting to carve out a little on the side for yourself. The net result is that money that should have gone to something or someone else winds up in your pocket. Just ask Jesse Jackson Jr. about that Rolex on his wrist.

If money first, sex is a close second. Simple affairs for sure, but just as often, new ways to show your contempt for your spouse and the voters. Be it professing to hike the Appalachian Trail while shacking up in Argentina with your squeeze (Mark Sanford), prosecuting then patronizing escort agencies (Eliot Spitzer) or sending pics of your boxers and their contents to female voters (Anthony Weiner, in the perfectly named "Weinergate"), it validates the phrase "you can't make this stuff up." Or you can, but no one would believe it.

And then there's power: what's the point of having it if you can't abuse it? Whether it's Nixon's sic'ing the IRS on his enemies, or Sarah Palin (remember her?) trying to ice a state trooper who was in a custody battle with her sister, those in charge can pull the levers of government to work in their favor. And that's just on these shores. There's Betsygate in England (wife in non-existent government job), PiƱeragate in Chile (political espionage by President PiƱera) and Dunagate in Hungry (illegal collection of information on the opposition), to name just a few. (Sidebar: my favorite ‘gate is named after the affectionate nickname James Gilbey called Princess Diana on surreptitiously recorded phone calls. Hence, Squidgygate.)

In each case, we shake our heads and wonder "what were they thinking?" Did common sense go out the window? Did they not consider the consequences of their actions? Were we in the situation – wait – we would never put ourselves in that situation. They deserve whatever happens to them: shame, hounded from office, a slot on "Dancing with the Stars." Nothing is too severe a punishment.

But then I stumble across a scandal that makes me think differently. To be honest, I'm not necessarily a big fan of Benjamin Netanyahu; he's a bit arrogant for my tastes. He's gotten snared in the past for influence peddling and corruption, as well as drawn into a recent spy scandal over the mysterious death of "Prisoner X." You can argue his culpability in all of them, even if he's never been formally convicted. But speaking for myself, if they're going to nail Bibi for something, they gotta find something better than his ice cream habit.

Or more specifically, his ice cream budget. Seems that the prime minister has a serious gelato jones to the tune of $2700 a year. (Pistachio, if you must know, vanilla for his wife.) At local prices, that's about 25 pounds a month, though it does include sorbets and frozen yogurt, especially in the summer. But in a country facing severe cuts in government spending, his sweet tooth has raised a national outcry.

However, speaking as a fellow sugar-holic, I say leave the boychik alone. If I spent my days fighting with Palestinians on one side and the Ultra-Orthodox on the other, I'd want to come home and have a dish of glida myself. True, I might opt for my favorite, chocolate peanut butter, but that's why there are different branches of Judaism.

So go ahead and nail him for political dirty tricks. Call up a commission to investigate his squirrelling away Golan Heights settlement funds for a condo in Miami Beach. And see if you can find the tapes where he shacks up with some schicksa. I'll be as outraged as you. But leave the man's ice cream alone: after all, he's only human.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves ice cream. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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