With the resignation of Congressman Anthony Weiner, the only Americans who will have to continue hearing any inappropriate jokes or comments made about ‘weiners’ are parents of fifth-graders who just finished studying anatomy in science class — like me.
Thursday afternoon, the New York Congressman we’ve all been obsessed with for the last few weeks finally succumbed to the inevitable and announced he would give up his seat in Congress, the place he hoped would propel him to higher political office.
His news conference was pretty straightforward, in which he simply stated:
“I want to express my gratitude to my family, to my mother and father who have instilled in me the values that have carried me this far, to my brother Jason, and of course to my wife Huma, who has stood by me through this entire difficult period and to whom I owe so very much.”
Not sure what values would prompt someone to send those crotch shot photos and naked-but-for-a-gym-towel pics around the internet, but I digress.
As I was thinking about when one’s behavior merits saying goodbye to a long political career, I wondered what’s more scandalous — a purported sex addiction, making up a story about hiking the old Appalachian Trail in the name of true love, or breaking the law by hiring prostitutes when you’re wearing an outfit more commonly seen on infants.
Again, I’m not defending Weiner for his apparent lust for Tweeting photos of his semi-naked self and “family jewels” to unsuspecting followers. And I can’t even imagine the heart-breakingly difficult scene that must have happened when Weiner”s wife, Huma Abedin, got home from her trip abroad with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But as we try to move past what Congressman Weiner did and why the media are so obsessed with any and all things sexual, rather than asking why Weiner’s personal life had been targeted in the first place (remember he was the leading voice calling for an investigation into Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and some pretty big potential conflicts of interest), I think the the broader question is what’s happening to how politicians view real leadership and the responsibilities that come with elective office? Do some people take it for granted to such an extent that they believe that no matter what they do, they will be above public shame or consequences?
It sure seems like it.
I also pondered a few days ago, why we hear of relatively few women involved in scandals like those of Anthony Weiner, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (extra-marital affair) or current U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) (a client of a prostitution service), because women who win elective office work harder to get there and know that if they mess up, it will just make it exponentially harder for other women in the future? Or is it because women don’t have time for this conduct — if we’re going to goof off, you’ll more likely find us sipping on a Diet Coke searching for an old episode of Project Runway or managing the soccer team’s car pool arrangements. Or is it that political women view social media in a way that political men don’t, reserving it for sharing and community building rather than frat boy antics that even Bluto from the movie Animal House wouldn’t have engaged in.
The only thing I know for sure after three full weeks of cable news focusing on Anthony Weiner instead of all the issues that actually impact American families is this — at least I know I can turn on the television without having to make sure my 11-year-old daughter isn’t within earshot and I don’t have to think about weiners again until the Fourth of July cookout.