This morning I opened my email to be greeted by - wait, make that accosted by - a Spirit Airline fare promotion leading with this headline,
The Weiner Rises Again!
Honestly? Honestly? I was already predisposed against Spirit Airline, but maybe they know something about their target market that I do not.
Then I got to my Facebook news feed, where, incredibly, a group of gloaters were engaged in a "mash-up" conversation somehow equating Trayvon Martin and Anthony Weiner. Seriously, folks?
Well, I have limited time. I have decided that my dissertation will be finished by July 31st. But I cannot resist having a short say.
1. Even though Anthony Weiner is a New York Democrat, sexual indiscretion is neither another New York joke nor a party issue. When it comes to politics, however, it is primarily a male issue. I would love someone to explain to me why men who spend every waking hour plotting their public ambitions, men who have been onlookers while other men deeply hurt those who love them, while other men lose the respect of family members and the public and often forfeit the fruits of their life's labor, how those same onlookers can suddenly become so addled by the prospect of a sexual dalliance as to entirely lose it and dive right in. Regardless of all they have to lose.
Sheryl Stolberg recently penned an article for the New York Times, "When it Comes to Scandals, Girls Won't Be Boys." I don't have time for a full discussion of the gender gap, but a couple of provocative quotes from Stolberg's article come from Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, “The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody,” and from Dee Dee Meyers, former press secretary for President Clinton, who noted “There are certain men that the more visible they get, the more bulletproof they feel."
2. To all those who say, "this is a private matter," I firmly say, No. This is a public matter. This is an issue of ethics - appropriate behavior in public office - if not a moral issue. I am sick of our supposed role models from the presidency on down ignoring their ethical duty to represent the best of what it means to be a public servant. Charles Barkley once protested that he didn't want to be a role model. Well, too bad. It goes with the job. Is this behavior we hope that our sons will perpetrate upon their wives? Did we elect you to spend your time in office conferring with damage control consultants, or did we elect you to govern?
3. We - the voters - let these guys back into office. Mark Sanford, who left office after being caught leaving the state to travel overseas with his mistress, was just placed back into Congressional office by the good people of South Carolina.
Here is my opinion: either we set a meaningful standard and then hold these guys to it, or we stop pretending we care. I remember an emotional conversation with my then teen-age daughter Lisa following Bill Clinton's Monica Lewinsky scandal. I - feeling far too close to wearing the shoes of 22 year old Monica's outraged mother - argued that the president was an immoral person who let the nation down and should be not be forgiven under any circumstances. Ever. The ever practical Lisa, who really didn't see herself as a future Monica, made the far more important point: the media was wasting precious time on sexual peccadilloes, when there were truly important matters to be discussed. By buying into this infotainment, we've turned the news into "The Real Philanderers of Washington, D.C."
I don't really have an answer, folks. We the public apparently enjoy being distracted and entertained by politico sexcapades, and so we look the other way. Maybe I'm just going to redouble my efforts to get women elected.