The Weiner Scandal: Toward the De-Puritanicalization of Politics in America
In what, in my view, amounted to an unfortunate turn of events this past Thursday, seven-term Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York finally caved-in to improbable pressure from the Democratic House Leadership and President Obama seeking his ouster and anxious to summarily extinguish the scandal he engendered about two weeks ago when copies of the lewd photos he privately shared with a few female associates online were publicized.
In his resignation speech, delivered at the same Brooklyn senior citizens center where he announced his candidacy for New York City Council nearly 20 years prior, Weiner declared that he was regretful that the mandate graciously extended him by the citizens of his district “to fight for the middle class and those struggling to make it” had been dashed.
"Unfortunately,” Weiner reflectively conceded, “the distraction that I have created has made that impossible, so today I am announcing my resignation from Congress."
For a flicker, through the twists and turns, I thought, hoped and fervidly prayed that this day would never come; that Weiner would somehow muster the fortitude to weather the storm and hang on to his seat; particularly given that polls showed that his constituents, by a wide margin, wished for him to do just that.
But the unrelenting and ever-menacing drumbeat for resignation had admittedly gotten garish and insuperable. Like many before him(Spitzer, Foley, Kirkpatrick, Vitter, Ensign, etc.), Weiner had succumbed to the machinations of the self-anointed American Chastity Complex(ACC)---a coalition of politicians, religious fundamentalists, media personalities and few other self-righteous free-lancing do-gooders who deem it their prerogative to define the outer boundaries of morality in public service.
In a week that witnessed the ratcheting of the crises in Libya, Yemen and Syria to heights that ordinarily ought to coagulate the blood of even the callous among us even as the US economy quivered with ominous tepidity amidst the most abject and particularly wretched job creation stats in months, it is stupendously regrettable that what captivated the fascination of the influential in the Washington power corridor and dominated the airwaves across the land were the self-admitted contraventions of a lowly congressman from New York.
When Weiner unexpectedly and puzzlingly delivered the first press conference which he had hoped would simply afford him an opportunity to finally dolefully come clean about those naked pictures floating in cyberspace that he previously repeatedly denied coming from him, he couldn’t have been more mistaken.
As these things often go, Weiner ended up basically treating the country to a sordid but fascinating expose of a life in the shadows of the one we had all come to cherish; one that was very public, ‘pure,’ even revered.
There is little question that Weiner was hitherto perceived as a rising star with deep roots and powerful connections within the Democratic establishment in Washington; an outspoken, chivalrous and charming foot soldier whom many hoped would lend an eloquent voice to the Democratic cause in 2012.
After a brief stint with the New York City Council where, barely 27 in 1992, he became the youngest person ever to serve in that capacity, Weiner ascended the House in 1998 and quickly garnered a well-worn reputation as a feisty debater and indefatigable defender of liberal ideals.
Instead, the Weiner that took the podium that faithful evening about one half week ago turned out to be an ordinary, mottled, subdued and somewhat creepy guy who led a double life. Over many years and even while married, he admittedly entered into liaisons with multiple women whom intriguingly, he purportedly never met but was still willing to send explicit, titillating, randy texts, e-mail messages and nude pictures!
The ACC simply could not pass up an opportunity to impugn Weiner’s qualification for service and, most ignobly and surreptitiously, fan the embers that ultimately engineered his demise.
But this raises some serious questions about our democracy. Who should politicians be beholden to: their constituents or the ACC? Why was Weiner forced out by the political establishment in Washington even as more than 56% of his constituents declared full confidence in him?
When are the citizens of this country going to dispense with the ACC’s pretentious, puritanical nonsense? Who really cares if or who is sexting whom, paying for sex or sleeping around? Much as these transgressions may be distasteful, even repugnant, do they truly circumvent or seriously detract from anyone’s ability to serve the greater good?
Not only is this unbelievably distracting, it is notoriously hypocritical and nauseating! Perhaps, if we tried to borrow a leaf from some of our friends in Europe in finding a reasoned or more normalized way to react to these fatal errors in personal judgment, we would truly attract far superior candidates for public service who in the current dispensation, elect to stay on the sidelines than be raked through the coals by the ACC and potentially risk losing everything they'd worked hard for all their lives.