01/28/2008 09:51 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dante's Divine Comedy Meets Bill's Faulty Memory

It must be something in the water. Two men from Hope, Arkansas, and each man bedeviled by one, if not more, of the seven deadly sins.

With Mike Huckabee, it's greed, but voters haven't shown much interest in having Huckabee pay for his sin. The bulk of the stories about his habit of taking gifts while governor of Arkansas surfaced in the national media during the run up to the Iowa caucuses, yet Huckabee won going away. Now hitting the papers is the story of how he signed a contract for $25,000 to write a book about youth violence within days of a school shooting in his home state. Victim's families said that he was exploiting the tragedy. And yet, six months later Huckabee not only won re-election, he carried Jonesboro, the town where the shooting took place.

Surprising? Not at all. For Hope's other favorite son, Bill Clinton, the sin was lust. But with the aroma of Monica Lewinsky's perfume still wafting through the West Wing, Clinton left office with the highest approval ratings of any president since FDR.

Partially, Mike and Bill were given a pass because their sins fell under, "If I were in their shoes I might do the same." Not that you would, but you see the temptation. Amazingly, this is even true for the many women who continue to adore Bill, even as their affection for Hillary was partly borne out of empathy for her because she had to be married to the heel. Clinton's behavior could also be forgiven since it didn't detract from his basic calling card of, "I feel your pain." In fact, maybe he could feel your pain all the more, being so tortured by temptation. Conversely, a guy like John Edwards, he of the sin of pride, makes voters wonder how he can hear the voice of the voiceless if his hair dryer is always on. If Huckabee sticks around, his sticky fingers may yet come back to haunt him.

And now, even for Clinton, forgiveness may be hard to come by. Over the past several weeks, he has fallen prey to a new sin. As Dante put it in The Divine Comedy he has been suffering from, "love of one's own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs." In a word, envy. And when Ted Kennedy - well remembered for his envy of Jimmy Carter's presidency -- endorses your opponent, you know you may have committed one sin too many.

If only Bill had remembered the real secret of how he survived the Lewinsky scandal he might not have gotten himself into this mess. It was not his forbearance. It was the release of Kenneth Starr's report showing Clinton being badgered to recount sexual details and the Republican's delight in it that was his salvation. The public recoiled at the intimate becoming public and punished those who would foist it upon them. What has happened since New Hampshire is that Clinton has been doing the foisting and his antics have become an unseemly public display of private demons. Had the Lewinsky affair left him more chastened, he might be more chaste.

Starting today, Hillary and her brain trust are going to try to get Bill to be good. If they can't, it's victory be damned -- for her in the spring, and possibly Barack Obama in November.