Habemus Papam.  That’s what the Vatican says when it elects a new Pope.  It also should be what delegates scream at the Republican convention when the party’s presidential candidate is chosen, because not even papal candidates’ personal lives are subjected to the kind of scrutiny reserved for GOP hopefuls.  The puritan blade-sharpening has officially begun this week with an Austin Chronicle newspaper advertisement targeting primary front-runner Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“Have you ever had sex with Rick Perry?” asks the ad, placed by the Ron Paul-backing “Committee Against Sexual Hypocrisy”—a “group” consisting of a single guy by the name of Robert Morrow.  Morrow encourages the public to call or e-mail him so he can “help you publicize” your experience if you are a “stripper, an escort, or just a ‘young hottie.’ ”

The American and world economies are circling the drain and already some are suiting up to play “Indiana Jones on the Trail of the Family Jewels.”  Before the expedition moves any further along—and you can be sure that it will—I’d like to provide some handy guidelines for political sex-life vetting.

First, can we acknowledge that a person can refrain from screwing anyone other than his wife and still have absolutely no problem screwing the country?  These two things aren’t necessarily morally equivalent.  The person who arguably screwed the country hardest and longest in recent times was an FBI agent named Robert Hanssen.  A member of Opus Dei and faithfully married to a religion teacher, Hanssen was convicted of cheating on America for 22 years by selling secrets to the Russians.  It’s unlikely that any presidential candidate could match Hanssen’s commitment to his wife or religious devotion, but equally unlikely that any of them could do nearly as much damage to the country.

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