The DC Madam

This will be interesting. The so-called "DC Madam", Deborah Jeane Palfrey, is threatening to reveal her customer list and the first of what may be many highly-placed cads just resigned.

Palfrey is alleged to have run a prostitution ring for 13 years before her retirement in 2006 and supposedly has records reflecting "transactions" with thousands of highly-placed officials.

Palfrey has denied she ran a prostitution ring. Her company, Pamela Martin and Associates, was simply a "high-end adult fantasy firm which offered legal sexual and erotic services across the spectrum of adult sexual behavior and did so without incident during its 13 year tenure," she said.

Palfrey contends her escort service provided university educated women to engage in legal game-playing of a sexual nature at 275 dollars an hour for a 90 minute session, the Washington Post reported.

But Palfrey has also hinted that she has a record of the phone numbers of thousands of more than 10,000 customers that could embarrass more the a few of the US capital's high-fliers.

Friday, the US State Department announced that Randall Tobias, the embattled head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), was resigning for unspecified personal reasons.

However ABC News, which said Palfrey has provided it with a record of the numbers of calls to her private cell phone, reported that Tobias stepped down after they spoke to him about his allegedly contacting her number.

Tobias since 2003 also was President George W. Bush's first global AIDS coordinator, a job which drew criticism for his emphasis on faithfulness to partners and abstinence over condom use in trying to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus.

Before entering government he was chairman, president and chief executive of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, and also, from 1997-2000, chairman of the board of trustees at Duke University. MORE

Mr. Tobias sounds like a very wealthy and powerful man. ABC News has a little more detail on the "services" he purchased from Palfrey.

On Thursday, Tobias told ABC News he had several times called the "Pamela Martin and Associates" escort service "to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage."

Tobias, who is married, said there had been "no sex," and that recently he had been using another service "with Central Americans" to provide massages. MORE

Hmmm, "no sex," Mr. Tobias says. Where have we heard that before? Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he is being truthful. It still seems pretty stupid to call an escort service that offers "legal sexual and erotic services across the spectrum of adult sexual behavior" and have a woman come to his home for a private massage. What does he expect people to think?

Here's the problem, and I said this same thing in my pre-blog days about Bill Clinton and Gary Condit: People who live double lives like this make themselves vulnerable to blackmail. This is very dangerous for government officials who possess national secrets and are in position to make important decisions that affect many people. Even if we forget the morality of it, those we place in high office need to above reproach for purely practical reasons.

Mr. Tobias at least did the honorable thing by resigning. I feel sorry for his family and others that will be torn apart if more names are revealed by Palfrey. I also have to wonder why the background checks that are supposedly done on administration appointees did not reveal his proclivities - this sort of activity probably did not start recently. Either the FBI is doing incomplete investigations, or the White House know about it and appointed him anyway. Neither possibility is good. Another good question is whether the boards at Eli Lillyand Duke University knew what their chairman was doing to relax.

The saddest part is that I'm probably in the minority in being bothered by this. When other men are exposed like Tobias, the public reaction will probably be a big yawn. The Clinton scandal demonstrated that most of the American public doesn't really care if the president fools around as long as the economy is booming and his wife stands by him.

I look at it another way: any man who will lie and cheat on his own wife will not think twice about doing the same to the rest of us, whether he is the president of deputy undersecretary of whatever. People will say "he's only human like the rest of us." True enough, and I don't expect perfection. Still, is basic honesty is too much to ask of our leaders? Apparently so.

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