Weinergate! Another Perspective

In Politics on June 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Anthony Weiner is just one more distraction from the real problems we face as a nation. It may or may not be appropriate to put him through public humiliation for his “failure of character,” but before we go too far in committing to a course of action, lets consider what we might want as the desired outcome of this never-ending stream of human foibles.

Consider the following:

  • Thomas Jefferson (President 1801-1809) allegedly had an affair with his slave, Sally Hemings
  •  Grover Cleveland (President 1885-1889, 1893-1897) alleged to have fathered illegitimate child
  • Warren Harding (President 1921-1923) alleged affair with Carrie Phillips and Nan Britton
  • Franklin Roosevelt (President 1933-1945) alleged affair with Lucy Mercer—The man who guided us through the Great Depression and World War II
  • Dwight D Eisenhower (President 1953-1961) tried to end clandestine warfare, i.e., the “Cold War,” sought to establish honesty and morality in his administration; alleged affair with Kay Summersby (his chauffeur)
  • John F Kennedy (President 1961-1963) tried to dismantle the CIA and end organized crime; Created the space race; alleged affairs with Marilyn Monroe and Judith Exner
  • Lyndon B Johnson (President 1963-1969) pushed most of JFK’s program through Congress; unidentified affair alleged
  • George Bush Senior (President 1989-1993) alleged with Jennifer Fitzgerald
  • Bill Clinton (President 1993-2001) restored healthy economy; alleged affair with Monica Lewinsky

Each of these former presidents has something in common with Mr. Weiner: Had we drummed even one of them out of Government for behaving badly, history would have been quite different, not to mention the setting of, or reinforcement of, a precedent that moves us one step closer to the loss of certain “inalienable rights.” Despite what we may think is a flaw in his character, he seems to have some impressive company.

It appears that Mr Weiner has broken no laws (this may change, but presumably a change would result in less of a circus and more of a judicial process); He doesn’t appear to have lied about his experience, qualifications, or performance; in fact his constituents seem to hold him in high regard. (It is true he did lie about his predicament for 10 days, but how many of us would not try to lie our way out of the biggest mistake we ever made in our lives?

As for the nebulous connection between character and morality, this country was established as a nation of laws. Morality is an opinion, often based on religious beliefs and  sometimes codified in the law (wherein lies the confusion). In an ideal world, Mr Weiner would have to commit a felony before it became anybody’s business outside his immediate family. It seems that voters are, in general, more aware of this fact than are their elected representatives. The magic word is still jobs, not weiners.

  1. Yes, yes, yes. Well pointing out that abuse goes in both directions. And it is often subtly manipulative. It is my view that “victims” conspire in their abuse far more often than is recognized.

    And yes, I too agree that if someone has not broken the law, most of the time his/her behavior should not be dragged into the public domain for judgement. But I would not make this too absolute. Some times some lawful behaviors by public figures may reflect an inability to do the job and/or are potentially destructive of the common weal. Getting drunk at meetings involving important negotiations, or getting into compromising situations with the spouse of other politically influential people possibly of another country are two possible examples.

    It does seem to me we are on the same page on this entire issue.

    Thank you for the dialogue.


  2. Tad – I agree with your view completely. Whatever ones views of appropriate sexual conduct, history does not suggest that sexual activity is a good predictor of political effectiveness.

    What does surprise me is that otherwise extremely politically savvy and effective people can be so naive. They must know that that if their behavior should become public that the outcry from a significant number of voters will be fierce and threaten their political effectiveness, if not their political lives. It certainly crippled Clinton. And finished Gary Hartt.

    Though there have been extra-marital alliances which I believe have been immensely productive. And I think sometimes wives know that.

    For myself, what men do owe women is not to humiliate or abuse them. That for me is the bottom line. Not who gets into bed with whom. But there are enough people whose bottom line is the traditional one of marital fidelity that American politicians with any hopes of long-term success cannot hope to be treated the way the French treat the sex lives of their politicians.

    Weiner, on the other hand, can perhaps best be assessed, as you suggest, as simply stupid. I don’t know how many women might be turned on by his behavior. I know I certainly would never be one of them.


    • Your comments are well taken, but I seem to have left something out. In the last paragraph, I stated that I was “not trying to defend any of these actions,” but I should also have said, “Neither do I attempt to condemn these actions.”

      My point was largely that unless he has broken the law, we should chalk his behavior up to poor judgement and get on with the business of saving our nation. Sometimes ignoring foolish acts is the right thing to do (which you have already pointed out in a previous post).

      And, yes … I also believe “what men … owe women is not to humiliate or abuse them,” but this cuts both ways. Men should not be humiliated or abused over foolish acts in which women have willingly participated. We all make mistakes, and acting like we don’t does nothing to improve the situation.

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