We’ve all struggled with trying to stop behaviors we know aren’t good for us, and I imagine most of us have some embarrassing episodes in our past. So far be it from me to cast the first stone against politicians whose foibles are played out in the glare of public awareness. None of us would want to be a candidate for office, trying to defend ourselves against a surreptitious YouTube video of us telling an off-color joke (or singing karaoke badly). My younger son claims he has photos of me sneaking Reese’s out of his Halloween candy several years in a row, and let’s just say I’m glad that the Internet and cell phone cameras didn’t exist that time my college roommates and I went to Martha’s Vineyard.
However, the subject seems to be different when the bad behavior is sexual, and engaged in by elected leaders. (Which should give you a clue that my Martha’s Vineyard escapade was pretty benign, and didn’t actually involve anyone important or anything worth photographing”¦). Part of it is often the hypocrisy factor (see Gingrich, Newt). And part of it is the “you’re kidding, right?” disbelief at how stupid some people can be (see Danger, Carlos, or all the comments about how Bill Clinton could have had just about any gorgeous liberal starlet or international political figure instead of cheating on Hilary with a frumpy, not particularly brilliant intern). But the larger concern is that these are people who are telling us to trust them, with our laws & our tax money. Therefore, when they engage in clandestine activities, it isn’t just between them and their cheated-upon partner.
So when still MORE revelations came out about Weiner’s continued sexting after he’d insisted he had turned over a new leaf, the general reaction was, “Enough already, just go away.” (I don’t know about anyone else, but that famous original grainy shot of his bulging underwear continues to give me nightmares.) But he’s not alone: Bob Filner now acknowledges that as Mayor of San Diego, he engaged in a plethora of unsavory behavior, from the now infamous “Filner headlock” which he used to express sweet nothings to his employees, to groping constituents and telling his staff they’d work better if they weren’t wearing underpants. However, he keeps insisting that these acts were just evidence of a problem he has, not actual sexual harassment. (Which begs the question, what WOULD he consider sexual harassment? I guess it’s okay as long as he didn’t insist on women giving him lap dances as a condition of keeping their jobs?) And on top of everything else, both Weiner and Filner have extremely bright, attractive wives – sort of like our horror that if Halle Berry’s husband cheated on her, the rest of us are screwed. (But I digress”¦)
Honesty is a big factor, but I have to go back to the “how stupid can you be?” question. (Like how Eliot Spitzer claims to be a brilliant fiscal manager, after shelling out thousands of dollars for overpriced hookers, not to mention the weird thing he had about keeping his socks on.) These are people who seek public attention, so you’d think they’d be a little more careful about their public behavior. But the unsavory details continue to emerge, and the middle-school-level jokes keep popping up (the New York Daily News is having a field day with headlines about Weiner, as one might imagine from the newspaper which once announced “headless body found in topless bar,” which is the first headline I saw when I moved to New York). Even my teenage son has seen the Weiner memes, with every possible variation on “pulling out” or “sticking out” you could imagine.
As a feminist, a registered Democrat and a former New Yorker, of course I hope Spitzer & Weiner withdraw from the race so voters can refocus on the important issues facing the city, and as a Californian, I hope Filner resigns once he realizes that two weeks of rehab may not be sufficient after years of thinking the way to reach out to a constituent is to grab her buttocks. But as a comedian, these guys are the gift that keeps on giving – I thought after last week’s song, the subject would be passÃ©, but I guess they all could still use a little musical advice to “Zip It Up!”