“Shame on us…”
Those were Governor Cuomo’s words when asked about the possibility of Anthony Weiner being elected Mayor of New York City. I completely agree with Mr. Cuomo because it will be a sad reflection on how low our standards have dropped (even when it comes to a politician) more than it will say about Weiner’s shamelessness to run in the first place.
Many argue that in instances of personal indiscretions it should be left to the spouse to determine the fate of the transgressor, and not for constituents to judge or condemn. Some people further argue that having extra-marital sex has little to do with one’s abilities to govern. I say BULLSHIT because ultimately one’s behaviour and actions determine one’s character and integrity. Just because you put on a business suit does not mean you become a different person. Let’s start with a fact that cheating on your spouse is a conscious decision one makes. It is not something that happens unconsciously when one consumes a lot of alcohol or uncontrollably because a woman is repeatedly throwing herself at a man. Think about it this way: if the same man who cheats on his wife were offered an opportunity to sleep with the most desirable woman in the world, but told that he had to jump off the top of the Empire State Building right after – would he still do it; even if he was inebriated? Men cheat because they believe they can get away with it. Most of the time they are drunk on power and feel invincible and believe that if they get caught they will grovel, beg and get their wives and constituents to forgive, and these days most of them do. Everyone has opportunities to cheat and everyone can make a mistake, but men who have a pattern of cheating do so knowing full well they are doing wrong and still go ahead with it. What it boils down to once you clear away all the psychobabble excuses about personal issues, childhood experiences and personality types, is quite simply the difference between men with ethics, morals and depth of character, and those without.
In Mr. Weiner’s case, it is true that he did not sleep with anyone and there was no physical relationship. He was caught sexting and tweeting lewd messages and naked photos of himself to college girls and porn stars. At the time the allegations surfaced he had been married less than a year and his wife was three months pregnant. Frankly, for the most part his actions were in line with that of just about every other male politician today, who is drunk on power, self-obsessed and blind to the rules of social decorum that the rest of us mortals abide by. Without a doubt his behaviour was inexcusable. In my book, it shows poor judgement and a complete lack of character. But even if we were to forgive his lewd tweets for a minute, the fundamental issue remains that when the story first broke, he went on a media blitz denying everything. He had the gall to actually look us all in the eye and claim that his account was hacked, that he had been pranked and was the victim in this whole affair. He lied to us.
See Weiner’s interview with Nightline:
Mr. Weiner decided that saving his job was more important than being honest with the people who elected him. Furthermore, he only came clean when it became abundantly clear that the blogger, who originally broke the story, had far more incriminating photographic evidence; including statements from women who had been Mr. Weiner’s victims. Mr. Weiner waited till he had absolutely no other way out, cornered by the media and under pressure from his party leadership. It would be one thing if his first instinct had had been to come clean; to admit the facts, apologise and be ready to face the full consequences of his actions. While I would still have expected him to resign, at least he would have won my respect for the fact that he faced the fire for his own foolhardiness. But his only instinct was to lie; to obfuscate the truth and deny all responsibility for his actions. This goes directly to the character and integrity of the man, and he is clearly lacking both.
Fundamentally, this is what it boils down to for me; it is not about whether his extra-marital affairs can be separated from good governance as a public servant or if one has any bearing on the other but that when trouble comes, how does one react? Do you lie and save yourself or face the fire and suffer the consequences for your actions, no matter how harsh or career-ending they may be. That is what defines the true character of a person. On this front Mr. Weiner failed miserably. So the bottom line, for me, is not if he broke any laws or if his wife forgave him, but the simple fact that he lied to protect himself. We put our trust and faith in Mr. Weiner to make important decisions about our daily lives and future and he broke that trust. He not only demonstrated extremely poor judgment but also showed weakness of character and therefore he is no longer fit to represent us again. This is the message we need to send to Mr. Weiner this September. If we do then we will put all politicians on notice; letting them know that we are going to hold them to a higher standard. And perhaps, over time we will we be able to attract people of stronger character and greater integrity.