The word "dilemma" is one of the most misused in the English language. Some describe the choice between eating sushi or Italian as a dilemma. But since both are delicious it's not a dilemma. A dilemma is two equally unappealing options. Roy Moore presented the people of Alabama, most of whom are conservative, with a true dilemma in last week's U.S. Senate race.
We know a little bit about dilemmas here in Louisiana. The 1991 governor's race between David Duke and Edwin Edwards was the mother of all dilemmas for Louisiana voters. We feel you, Alabamians.
Nine women courageously came forward to accuse Roy Moore of either sexually assaulting or hitting on them while they were teenagers. Only the most rabid partisan blinded by ideology viewed Moore as anything but creepy. His nine accusers were not a part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. Moore stubbornly denied what the vast majority of us knew was true; he hit on high school girls well into his thirties. If Moore would have instead admitted the error of his ways, as disgusting as they were, he might have convinced enough voters to believe he's sorry and changed. In a tight race that could've made the difference.
Have you ever wondered how Louisiana's history might have changed if our scandal plagued-politicos showed some humility and came clean? What if David Duke, the former KKK wizard, would have renounced his racist past? What if he told voters he had a change of heart and was sorry? It may have been Duke's only shot at beating Edwin W. Edwards. The problem is Duke was, is and has remained an unrepentant racist. Fortunately for all of us he is no longer relevant.
What might have happened if David Vitter had come clean in the last governor's race? Vitter never really did admit he had a history with prostitutes. All he confessed to was sinning. We've all sinned, but not many of us spent money on prostitutes. Vitter's unwillingness to admit what he was caught doing opened the door for his opponent, John Bel Edwards, to use the scandal against him. It was the focus of the Edwards campaign.
Voters are typically sympathetic when politicians are honest and admit fully what they've done. People like it when politicos admit they were wrong. It shows humility. John Bel Edwards would have come across as mean-spirited if he beat up on Vitter over the prostitution scandal had Vitter been open and transparent and sincerely shown remorse over the scandal.
New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell is another perfect example of a politician refusing to admit wrongdoing. On Wednesday, Cantrell addressed her legal issues involving her abuse of her city credit card during a crowded Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
"Hey, I haven't done anything wrong. Definitely not a criminal," Cantrell told the crowd.
Whether Cantrell broke the law has yet to be determined. But if she thinks abusing a taxpayer-funded credit card for thousands of dollars, giving her interest-free loans, is not wrong, then she needs to re-examine her personal ethics. The good news for Cantrell is this probably won't hurt her politically. New Orleans voters tend to be, shall we say, forgiving on such matters.
What could Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni learn from the Roy Moore scandal? Like Moore, Yenni is accused of hitting on a high schooler. Only Moore hit on girls. The object of Yenni's affection was a boy. In red-state Louisiana that will probably be an unforgivable offense for many, especially in conservative Jefferson Parish. Yenni, like Moore, has not fully come clean on his scandal. In October Yenni's approval rating came in at a dismal 29 percent. He'll have a tough time getting re-elected.
Owning our mistakes is a good way to go through life. Most people are forgiving and appreciate sincere remorse. The truth is politicians who refuse to admit what they were already caught doing aren't fooling anyone. They're just further embarrassing themselves and making it more difficult for voters to forgive them.
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com.