Conservatives often gripe that Democrats are better at getting away with ethical and moral transgressions. For all I know, this may be true on aggregate -- I haven't tried the math, although President Clinton's famous case provides anecdotal support.
But one counterexample springs immediately to mind: that of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., whose phone number was found among the client list of the D.C. madam. Within hours, Vitter was out with a statement:
This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there — with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way.
Assuming that Vitter's conservative, Christian base of support is stereotyped as judgmental, his survival is a clear illustration that contrition works.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., has chosen a very different method for handling what should have been a mini-scandal but is now drowning out the conversation about Medicare. He has offered highly implausible explanations, made jokes about his own alleged exhibitionism, and is now at the point where he is hanging up on reporters.
Don't be surprised if Weiner goes the way of former Reps. Eric Massa and Christopher Lee, two of his New York colleagues with similar and unfortunate habits.