Saturday, June 11, 2011

With a Name Like Weiner, A Scandal Was Inevitable

The past two weeks have been hell for a certain Congressman from New York City. A photograph of some guy's bulging underwear was "Tweeted" to a college student in Washington state. The photo was linked to Congressman Anthony Weiner, who at first claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked. Yet, he did not want to call the police to investigate the hacking of his Twitter account. Even his old buddy Jon Stewart was skeptical of Weiner's explanation. On The Daily Show, Stewart felt guilty about making cheap jokes because of their friendship. A big reason why this scandal has erupted in the nation's attention is because of the unfortunate name. In terms of media obsession with the scandal, the photos of Weiner's "wiener" has received more attention than recent sex scandals by Congressman Chris Lee (the guy who had sent a shirtless photo of himself to a lady whose Craigslist ad he had responded to), Arnold Schwarzenegger (who revealed that he had a child with a housekeeper that he had an affair with about a decade ago), and the potential candidate for President of France being arrested for raping a hotel maid in New York. With a name like Weiner, how can you not make jokes? Its just too easy and too fun, even though real lives are affected by this.

Namely, Congressman Weiner's wife, who recently learned that she's pregnant with their first child. The couple have only been married for a year. His wife works for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who knows what its like to be humiliated in public by a husband's salacious sex scandal. In Weiner's case, its less a "sex scandal" than a "sext" scandal. Despite being busy at work being a passionate defender of liberal causes, the Congressman carried on like an unmarried bachelor who hasn't evolved past puberty. He apparently sext'd several women. Not just provocative photographs, but x-rated comments. When his first denial failed to answer questions that kept building, he gave a press conference admitting that he had sent the photos to the ladies. He refuses to resign, though. Instead, he's taking a hiatus to check into a clinic to deal with his self-destructive ways.

Several liberal friends on Facebook are defending him and think he should not resign. Once again, I find myself at odds with people who share my political philosophy. Many of these liberals have no problem demanding Republican politicians to resign when one is caught in a sex scandal (Mark Foley, Mark Sanford, Larry Craig, John Ensign, David Vitter, Chris Lee to name a few), but when its a liberal politician they like, then they get a pass. I disagree. Serving in Congress or the Governor's office is an honour and a privilege, not a right. Because an elected official's job is writing laws or executing them, the standards for integrity and honesty should be much higher than for the general public. Liberals might like to argue that a Congressman sexting followers on his Twitter account doesn't affect his job, but they miss the point. This gets to the heart of an integrity issue. He undermined his own credibility when he lied to save himself and his wife from embarrassment. Who would trust him now? Afterall, if his wife can't trust him, why should anyone else?

True, Weiner may not have been the kind of politician who preached morality and family values in his bid to get elected, but that still does not excuse his behaviour. Yes, hypocrisy is worse and is one of the reasons why Republican politicians in a sex scandal generally gets more attention. I once told a friend that there are three things that a famous person cannot do if they don't want the media scrutiny: sex, hypocrisy, or shady financial dealings. The media loves a sex scandal because they are the most voyeuristic of all scandals. Such scandals makes rubber necks of us all. The financial scandals of Wall Street or the environmental catastrophes of the BP Oil Spill or the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant have a short shelf life. The details are far too complex, so the media and the public quickly grows bored with them. But sex sells and will always get our attention. Weiner is not the first nor will he be the last politician to run the gauntlet. I'm still waiting for Congressman John Boehner or even Congressman Aaron Schock to be embroiled in a scandal at some point. In the meantime, Weiner is just the latest to get roasted.

One thing I don't understand is that someone like Weiner probably got teased all his life for his last name, which should have burned into his consciousness that his behaviour was bound to be discovered in the Age of easy access to private information. There is a view I've read in psychology books that a person who engages in such high-risk behaviour is subconsciously hoping to get caught. The potential to be discovered adds to the thrill of undertaking an illicit act. I suppose that in therapy, Weiner is going to learn all about his subconscious manipulations.

As for his liberal supporters, I wish they would realize that it is ultimately damaging to the movement and the political party for someone like Weiner to remain in office. Two other New York members of their state's delegation to Congress had resigned for their own reckless behaviours (Chris Lee, which I mentioned above; and Congressman Massa, who loved to "tickle" male staff members and found himself subject to a sexual harassment lawsuit). Regardless of party affiliation, regardless of how great his passionate support for liberal causes, he must resign for the good of his district and for the country. To argue that he should not resign because you like his political stances means you're an ideologue, because be honest: if Weiner was a conservative Republican, you would be demanding his resignation. For the sake of consistency, I'm calling for his resignation.

A good example of what happens when a wounded politician stays in office can be found in Portland's Mayor. Three weeks after being sworn in as Mayor, a local newspaper broke the news that Sam Adams had lied during his campaign about a relationship with an underage boy. There were calls for him to resign, but ultimately, he decided to stay in office and two efforts to get enough signatures for a recall election had failed. Despite not having to face a humiliating recall election, the scandal's salacious details have made the Mayor toxic. No politician wants to be photographed with him. His ambitious agenda that he ran for office on have sputtered. He's basically an invisible Mayor, which is in contrast to his reputation as a very visible City Commissioner prior to his current position. When President Obama came to Portland last year to campaign for the Democratic candidate for governor, both Senators and the two Congressmen who represent Portland were all on stage with the President. Missing was our very own Mayor. He wasn't even invited to the event. That's what loss of credibility does to a politician. Its school yard social life at work: no one wants to be seen with you. So, what good is it to be isolated and ignored? You can't get things done and no one wants to be around it ultimately hurts the people in his district. For that very reason, he needs to resign so that the residents of his district can elect a member of Congress that can get things done (without the stigma).

Seen above is a photo of the couple. Hearing about the extra-curricular activities of a very busy Congressman makes me wonder why he even bothered to get married in the first place. When I interned in Washington, D.C. a decade ago, I was amazed how many gorgeous young ladies were working on Capitol Hill. Seriously! That place has the highest ratio of beautiful women, with many of them single and looking. I was stunned when I heard many not interested in dating a fellow intern or staff member. A bachelor Congressman would have no problem snagging dates. If anyone doubts this, just look at the elfish Congressman Dennis Kucinich. He snagged a younger, taller, and quite attractive lady. How was that possible? If Kucinich can get a lady, than any Congressman can!

Weiner probably does have notches on his bedpost, since he was a bachelor until last year. One lady managed to capture his heart and take him off the market. Yet the marriage still did not inspire him to give up his sexting habit. He still wanted to live like a bachelor, free of consideration of anyone else's feelings. His behaviour is a perfect example of why some guys should not get married. If one still wants the complete freedom of being a bachelor, then marriage is not the best thing for you. If he was still single, this would not be as big a deal. It makes me sick that there are men like this who can get as many women as he wants (the allure of being in power is an attractive aphrodesiac for a lot of women) but he respects none of them. I'm a loyal guy and only want one lady to devote the rest of my life to. I don't see myself as the cheating kind because I value relationships and quality. Women who are attracted to powerful men probably shouldn't feel hurt when it turns out that their man isn't faithful. It seems to come with the territory.

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