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Sher's Ratios

(From July 30, 2003)

One aspect of Presidential history that has been unaccountably overlooked by scholars is what I am modestly calling the “Sher Ratio” or “SR,” the relationship between the amount of recreational sex a President enjoyed while in office compared to the resulting scandal. In many cases a President’s SR has likely been infinite – he enjoyed lots of unrecorded sex, and the mists of history forever shroud the possibility of scandal. SRs are really only meaningful when it is definitely known that there was sex and thus is a scandal. (I mixed the tenses intentionally; sex is transitory but scandal lives forever). For the President with the highest finite SR, I nominate JFK. He reportedly had lots of sex, and the scandal didn’t surface until many years later. (Decades-delayed scandal counts, though not nearly as much as contemporaneous scandal). That he had lots of sex in the White House does not seem to be in dispute. There are even reports of Jackie finding bras not in her size in the bedroom! For lowest SR, it’s clear that Bill Clinton’s record will never be matched. The SR denominator value, the amount of scandal generated, far exceeds that of any other President in history. Even all these years later it’s still a staple of late-night TV, and I expect to someday see Leno wheeling out to kick off his monologue with a Bill-Monica line. It’s also clear that the Clinton SR numerator value, the amount of sex actually experienced, will likely be the lowest value ever recorded. Based on That Great Feat of Public Service, the Starr Report, we can practically quantify the SR numerator. My recollection was that there were nine “episodes,” but eight of these did not involve “completion.” The ninth did indeed result in “completion” (and a stained blue dress), at which point Bill called the whole thing off. Maybe it’s just me, but I see something remarkable in these statistics. I’m personally a big fan of “completion” as a component of an “episode,” as are most of my fellow humans. Fully clothed sex without “completion” might well represent the lowest possible SR numerator. Even when there was “completion,” the fact that the relationship was immediately called off suggests that there was not a lot of pleasure involved. Thus, Bill-Monica is virtually certain to be unmatched as the smallest Sher Ratio of sex to scandal in all of human history!

Another aspect of political history overlooked by scholars is what I am modestly calling the “Wright Ratio” or “WR.” This is the relationship between the amount of political effect (usually mischief) achieved as a function of bankroll. High values indicate good bang for the buck, low values deserve a razz. For example, there are numerous examples of rich politicians (usually Republicans but sometimes Democrats) spending astounding amounts of money on a run for a Senate seat, often unsuccessfully. (The quest for low WR scores was given a big boost by that Supreme Court decision eliminating limits on a candidate’s spending on his own campaign as a “violation of free speech.” Sure, right!) The name “Huffington” springs to mind for an extremely low WR score. Some might nominate Ross Perot for his quixotic presidential bid, but I would argue that he accomplished much more than merely losing. He brought the deficit/debt issue into the limelight for the first time, an act that Big-C Conservatives certainly viewed as mischief! For high WR scores, with gobs of mischief for limited investment, the recall effort in California is certainly showing lots of potential. We’ll have to check back on that one in October. My nomination for the all-time high WR score is, coincidentally, directly associated with the all-time low SR (Sex to Scandal Ratio) proposed yesterday, the Clinton-Monica encounters. The winner is the bankrolling of the Paula Jones civil suit, which enabled the subpoenas that led to…well, you know the story. Interestingly, this was also enabled by a Supreme Court case, where the Justices determined that, even while the Constitution precludes criminal charges against a sitting President (presumably to avoid the distraction this would cause), civil cases such as the Jones suit would not be distracting. (Cases like this make me think that the Robed Ones missed their true calling as comedy writers!) Will this Everest of WR scores ever be surpassed? It’s hard to imagine, but America is the land of opportunity!


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