Three thoughts upon reading the upcoming NYT Mag profile of the former congressman, to whom I can't refer, by law, without using the adjective "disgraced" in the same sentence.

1. As scandals go, this wasn't a huge one, really—what he injured was his marriage, not the public trust or public resources (except for whatever de minimis amount of tweet-flirting/sexting he was doing with government equipment)—and as the article explains, it came from impulses which must be natural to many public figures:

“Part of the challenge of getting to the bottom of it for me,” he said, “is that I viewed it as so frivolous that it didn’t spark a lot of, like, ‘O.K., I started doing it on this day’ or ‘O.K., now I’m crossing a Rubicon.’ For a thoughtful person, it’s remarkable how little thought I really gave to it until it was too late. But I think a lot of it came down to: I was in a world and a profession that had me wanting people’s approval. By definition, when you are a politician, you want people to like you, you want people to respond to what you’re doing, you want to learn what they want to hear so you can say it to them. Twitter and Facebook allowed for me — not only could I go to a town-hall meeting or a senior center or in front of the TV camera, but now I could sit and hear what people were saying all around. Search your name on Google, begat read comments on your Facebook page, begat looking at what people are saying about you on Twitter, to then trying to engage them. ‘Oh, you should like me!’ ‘No, that’s wrong!’ or ‘Thank you very much!’ And it just started to blur into this desire to engage in it all the time. Someone stops me in the airport and says, ‘Wow, you’re amazing.’ Well, O.K., now, at 2 o’clock in the morning, I can come home from playing hockey and I can find someone saying, ‘Oh, that was great’ or ‘You’re an idiot.’ So somewhere in there it got to a place where I was trying to engage people in nothing about being a politician. Or sometimes it would start out about politics and then, ‘You’re a great guy.’ ‘Oh, thanks, you’re great, too.’ ‘I think you’re handsome.’ ‘Oh, that’s great.’ And there just wasn’t much of me who was smart enough, sensitive enough, in touch with my own things, understanding enough about the disrespect and how dishonorable it was to be doing that. It didn’t seem to occupy a real space in my feelings. I think it would be pretty surprising to a lot of people: What was he thinking?” He scrunched up his face and shoulders. “I wasn’t really thinking. What does this mean that I’m doing this? Is this risky behavior? Is this smart behavior? To me, it was just another way to feed this notion that I want to be liked and admired.”
2. What bugs me most about the incident, still, was how he reacted to getting caught—denying his involvement, claiming he had been hacked or pranked, sending well-meaning Kossacks into spinning elaborate theories as to how Weiner couldn't possibly have been guilty, as though we had never before seen a male politician involved in extramarital activity, even after he admitted he couldn't say "with certitude" that it wasn't his genitals in those pictures. The identity of the alleged perpetrator and that of his opponents led many here to use less than their best judgment in assessing the situation, but what's more important is that Weiner had to know he couldn't get away with this, right? Was it arrogance, recklessness, or something else which prompted those days of denials?

So it's not the lack of judgment which led him into these activities which bothers me as much as the lack of judgment which led him to believe there would be no consequences even after he was caught.  Had he admitted his poor judgment on day one, he might never had had to resign.

3. Should he run for mayor, or any public office again? Honestly, I think John Edwards has now set the bar so low in terms of what marital violations the public can conceive of a politician committing that anything less reckless than Edwards' behavior—a wife not dying of cancer, not impregnating someone else—will probably receive a second chance from the public. And in Weiner's case, YMMV on how you assess the gravity of what I'd call his emotional infidelity, insofar as there were no in-person acts, though the number of women apparently involved may adjust your math.

I am not a New Yorker, but here's what I'd want to learn from Weiner over the course of a campaign: What caused the errors in judgment to lead you to think you could lie your way out of it? Have you been humbled enough to do better the next time? And are you running again just so you can say that you've been "redeemed," or are there still meaningful things you want to accomplish in public life?

It's been forever since I've done a poll. The diary feels like it could use one.

Originally posted to Adam B on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:48 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.


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