At the end of the day, what any politician does in his or her private life should not matter in considering his or her qualifications. None of us are without sin, and one would want one trait of any leader to be continued intellectual and spiritual growth from youth through old age. When the news media ignores past peccadilloes, it does the country a great service.
The only time the past matters is when the candidate or elected official was a hypocrite, broke an important law or showed a character trait that makes him or her unqualified to serve. Hypocrisy covers such diverse figures as Senator Larry Craig, a vocal homophobe caught soliciting men in a men’s room, and Elliot Spitzer, who prosecuted others for hiring prostitutes and then indulged in a high-priced hooker. Breaking the law covers Watergate, and should have covered the Iran-Contra arms deal and creating a torture gulag across the globe.
But in the case of Anthony Weiner, the issue is his character.
Hearing and seeing his apologies to his wife and the world on every media outlet over a 12-hour period made me think of my deceased father. He had so many ways of telling my brother and me to learn from our experiences. He had his three mythic men—the wise one learned from the mistakes of others, the average one learned from his own mistakes and the dummy never learned.
Then there was his old saw, “Fool me once, your fault. Fool me twice, my fault.”
Even his favorite joke about the old and young bulls standing on a hillside overlooking a pasture full of cows was about experience, for when the old bull suggested they walk down the hill, it always sounded as if he had tried running in the past.
Weiner did not learn from his mistake. After being publicly chastised and publicly chastising himself for behaving like a high school freshman while humiliating his wife, he did it again.
I’m not saying Weiner is stupid. I’m sure he’s a very bright guy. But the fact that he committed the same social folly (which, by the way, was likely not criminal and really a private matter) after saying it was wrong suggests a compulsive personality under the sway of his emotions. If he had not resigned, if he had said, “It’s my business and I did nothing illegal,” then doing it again would not be as problematic. It would merely be the sign of a juvenile mind and perhaps a partially open marriage—permission to do 21st -century flirting. But he said it was wrong and he took his own job away—and then he engaged in the same behavior again. That’s an obsession and that’s an obsessive personality. That’s someone who can become out of control.
Weiner expects us to take his word for it that he’s over that kind of behavior, that he’s grown up or been therapized. But the events in question are only a few years ago. It’s too soon to tell if he’s over his compulsive online sexual flirting or if he’s merely taking a break. Or maybe he has replaced his sexting with other actions that he or many people find reprehensible. Worst of all—and also perhaps most likely—the obsessive part of his latest scandal may carry over into other parts of his life and negatively affect his judgment and actions as Mayor of New York City.
Weiner should leave the race for Mayor of New York. He has demonstrated that he has a character flaw that leaves him unfit for leading and managing our nation’s largest city.