Thursday, November 23, 2017
Opinion

Ruth: It takes brass for Weiner to press on

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Even the father of all shrinks, Sigmund Freud, would be flummoxed by this.

What would possibly compel a thoroughly disgraced international punch line and compromised politician like Anthony Weiner to re-enter the electoral arena knowing full well he is lugging around more kinky baggage than Oscar Wilde meets Madonna?

One quick answer might be because Weiner believes he can get elected mayor of New York, despite a reputation for being the undisputed leader of the creep party. And he might be right.

Just how bizarre have the Big Apple's politics become? Sure, you have the most recent disclosures. And earlier, Weiner was forced to resign his seat in Congress after being outed as the Full Monty of cyberspace. That shame still didn't prevent him from continuing to indulge in the same X-rated iPhone behavior as he was preparing to run for mayor.

Then there is former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who comes off as a prude compared to Weiner. Spitzer, now running for city comptroller, only had to slink out of office when he was caught up in a prostitution scandal amid disclosures he ponied up as much as $80,000 for romps with trollops.

Largely unnoticed is another candidate in the comptroller's race, Kristin Davis, who claims to be the madam of the call girl ring that arranged Spitzer's trysts. Apparently Davis' background as a pimp isn't considered suitably salacious enough to warrant much attention in New York. At last! Some standards.

The nexus of naughtiness and public life is nothing new. The rustling sheet gallery of politicians behaving badly is long and bipartisan: Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Newt Gingrich, David Vitter, Gary Hart, Mark Sanford, John Ensign, Wilbur Mills, Mark Foley, Gary Condit, Wayne Hays, etc. into infinity.

So it is probably a fair point that a politician's private behavior should not necessarily be a disqualifying factor in deciding whether a philanderer can perform his or her elected duties. We need only look at Franklin Roosevelt, one of the nation's greatest presidents, who also had a long history of marital infidelity.

Running for any office, but especially for the presidency, or governor, or certainly mayor of New York, is an exercise in unrestrained narcissism. Weiner has taken that hubris to a level that would embarrass any self-respecting porn star.

It is one thing for a public official to seek redemption from the voters for succumbing to a temptation of the flesh with another consenting adult. Isn't it quite another stretch of forgiveness for a candidate who succumbed to the temptation of the flash by exposing himself to strangers over the Internet?

Though Weiner wants to change the topic, elections are about measuring a candidate's character, maturity and judgment. Weiner is asking New Yorkers to elect a man who sent lewd pictures of himself into cyberspace, then did it again even after the licentious conduct cost him his congressional seat and his reputation.

So what did Weiner do? He changed his name, using the online nom de poltroon "Carlos Danger." This isn't a mayoral campaign. It's a Firesign Theatre routine gone horribly awry.

What husband would subject his wife to the mortification of his being revealed as a serial online streaker — and then perform a sequel? By all accounts Huma Abedin is bright, attractive, elegant — and painfully patient. She has to be feeling that she married a chap in whose hands an iPad is a weapon of mass degradation.

Perhaps the ultimate question is not if Weiner could be trusted as the mayor of New York, but what parent would trust their daughter to Skype with a candidate who has a compulsion to publicly pursue his inner Michelangelo's David?

There's been some conjecture the Weiner for Mayor campaign is, for all practical purposes, a perverse form of therapy for a once promising public figure who fell so very far from grace, hoisted on his own Twitter feed.

Maybe so. But the hustings are the last place a deeply flawed candidate should expect to find much redemption, especially when female voters are likely to recoil in horror every time Weiner attempts to press some flesh.

And that is why Carlos Danger's campaign for mayor is more likely to be remembered as "the Last Guffaw."

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