Sheriff Paul Babeu isn’t going to be a member of Congress. Not now, not ever.Babeu

This may seem obvious to you in the wake of the revelations of the past week or so, but I write it because it seems to have escaped at least a handful of folks. Like Babeu and the people running his flat-lining political campaign.

My certainty that Babeu won’t win election to Congress has little to do with his being dragged from the closet, and not much at all to do with the allegation that Babeu supposedly threatened his ex-boyfriend, Jose Orozco, with deportation if Orozco went public with their relationship. Frankly, at this point I question Orozco and the New Times’ tale as much as I question Babeu’s judgement, which is saying something.

This demise isn’t about gayness and it isn’t about the Republican mindset. Instead, the end of Sheriff Paul becoming Representative Paul is actually a lesson in political storytelling.

Namely, your story always needs to feel authentic … or you’re dead.

Let me explain.

Over the past two years, Paul Babeu authored for himself a tale perfectly scripted for an Arizona Republican: A cop who operated with full respect for the law, a man determined to defend the border from a few million illegal comers. He portrayed himself as an Arpaio minus the baggage and bluster. And, even without expressly saying it aloud, Babeu managed to cultivate an image of honesty, courage and sound law enforcement judgement — at least in the eyes of the Republicans likely to vote for him in the 2012 election.

That story went to hell the minute pictures of Babeu in his Jockey shorts hit the Internet.

At his mea culpa press conference last week, Babeu tried to “build a danged fence” between his public life and private life, missing the point of the past 10 years of gotcha journalism, blogging and TMZ-style reporting. Nothing’s off limits in the 21st century, especially if you’re a politician fond of phrases like “transparency” and “leadership.” The days of the media covering for pols like Jack Kennedy have long since died

The tale of Babeu, the leader, and Babeu, the law enforcement icon, crumbled the minute a new, more interesting version of Babeu saw the light of day: Babeu, the libertine, working as cop by day and trolling the Web for sex by night.

Could Babeu have survived the revelation that he was gay? Perhaps, but only had he morphed the story on his own terms, a bit at a time, each moment underscored by dignity and grace and a heaping dose of courage. But there’s no way his political career will survive the bait and switch he’s pulled on his party’s voters.

The moral to the Babeu story? That story is everything in politics. Destroy yours at your own peril.

Oh yeah … and don’t post pictures of yourself in your Jockey shorts if you expect to have a career on Capitol Hill.