Nothing New Under The Sun aka The “Weiner” Roast…
Happy Hump Day! So let me get into the subject of today’s post…A United States congressman from Georgia comes home to visit his constituents during World War II. In an effort to encourage those who have loved ones who have gone to war, he visits the home of several of them to thank them personally for their sacrifices. He visits several lonely wives whose husbands have gone to war. One of those wives is particularly beautiful. And although he tried to forget her once he returns to Washington, he cannot. He visits her again when he returns to Georgia, and their affair begins. She gets pregnant.
To protect himself and her, he uses his power to have the husband return to his wife from the war for a two-week period. He instructs the wife to sleep with her husband so that he will think the child is his months later. The congressman’s plan, however, is foiled when the husband refuses to come home due to his dedication to his fellow servicemen who are not given the same respite. Not wanting to call too much public attention to himself, he lets it go and decides to have the soldier killed instead.
Months after the soldier’s death, the congressman marries the beautiful widow, and they prepare to live “happily ever after.” He is convinced that no one knows about his wrongdoing and tries to move on his with career and life. He realizes, however, when their child is stricken with polio and eventually dies that God knows about his sin. He accepts the death of their child as divine retribution for his wrongdoing. He repents of his sin and goes on to do many wonderful things for his constituents.
Although the congressman remained in office and married to his wife, his personal life was often challenging. In interviews later in his life after his sin was eventually revealed to the public, he traces the difficulties in his personal life to the decision he made to sleep with another man’s wife many years earlier…
Is this a true story? Yes & No…No, there was no such Georgia congressman. But this is essentially the story of King David & Bathsheba in the Bible. You can read the story for yourself in 2 Samuel 11.
So what does this have to do with U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner? Well, a lot, actually. In the story of King David & Bathsheba, God made sure that King David was punished for his actions, but he was not removed from the throne for them. I’m starting to wonder should men be removed from their public offices for dalliances in their personal lives. I mean, every week practically, we are hearing about the indiscretions of men in public office. At this rate, we stand to lose much of our brain trust. And the Lord knows, we cannot afford to lose the best minds we have in this economy!
CNN contributor Anne-Marie Slaughter, the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, doesn’t think Weiner should leave his post. In fact, she blogged about it…
They have to be willing to give themselves up to the public – media included – 24 hours a day, while typically earning only a small fraction of what they could earn in the private sector and accepting the continual frustration of operating in a political and bureaucratic system in which it is harder and harder to get anything good done.
They also have to be competitive, driven, extroverted and highly risk-acceptant. Those are often the characteristics of our most successful economic innovators and entrepreneurs; it is not surprising that many of our most effective political figures – typically the rising stars of their parties – have the same traits. These traits, and indeed success itself, also correlates with high testosterone.
That is the backdrop against which I conclude that Anthony Weiner should not resign, but should instead leave the decision regarding whether he can continue to serve in Congress to his constituents.
I in no way condone his behavior with women; it strikes me exactly as a pathology for which he needs treatment.
He has betrayed his wife and family; it is up to them to decide whether to forgive. And he has indeed compromised the public trust invested in him, which is why his constituents should and will have a chance to decide whether his lies mean they no longer trust him enough to have him represent them.
But consider Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer, to take only two of the many, many examples of powerful public men caught in sex scandals (Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, Rudy Giuliani, Gary Hart) or not caught, but revealed later (Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller).
I for one am deeply glad that Bill Clinton did not resign; he was one of the best presidents of my lifetime and left the country in far better shape than he found it. His wife and daughter chose to forgive him and to preserve their family, which is their business, not ours. He also breached the public trust by lying, but in my view not to an extent that it affected his ability to govern successfully.
Republicans evidently make the same calculation about their candidates. It is striking that Newt Gingrich and David Vitter, to take only two recent Republican examples, were not abandoned by their supporters on the basis of sex scandals of equal severity and hypocrisy to those of comparable Democrats.
Absent criminal behavior, which is another category entirely, the issue is whether sexual misconduct undermines a politician’s ability to represent his or her constituents and contribute to the common good. It is certainly legitimate for Weiner’s Congressional colleagues to voice their views that the scandal surrounding his actions is harming the party’s agenda as a whole. But it is equally legitimate for him to insist that in the end his fate should be decided by the good citizens of his district. A government of, by, and for the people should let the people decide.
It is interesting to note that a recent poll of Weiner’s constituents don’t want him to resign….I don’t know why powerful men throughout the ages continue to be so easily thrown off course by sexual temptations, but does their personal philandering nullify their professional prowess? (Interesting sidebar: President Ronald Reagan was the only divorced president…)