They all say the same thing when they’re caught, which is the same thing we wonder when we hear the news: “What was I thinking?” Apparently, they weren’t thinking; they were acting on strong primitive urges that bypass the brain entirely and go directly to more remote parts of the body. If those impulses did pass through the brain, someone like Weiner would think, “I’m married to a talented and beautiful woman. We have a child together. My career has never been more promising; I could actually be mayor of New York City. This is the moment for me to go for the brass ring because the stars in my life are all aligned.”
But he didn’t think at all. Instead he took photos of his nether parts and sent them to young women. He wrote suggestive messages to strangers. He behaved like a skeeve while impersonating a man of integrity.
I’m not smart enough to understand why this happens to men in power so frequently. I suppose we could ask Eliot Spitzer, or Bill Clinton or Gary Hart or Dominique Strauss Kahn or John Edwards, Mark Sanford, John Ensign or Silvio Berlusconi — but they probably don’t know either. Perhaps when people do your bidding all day, you begin to think the rules don’t apply, and that you can take what you want. But why would men who have the self-control and discipline to run for office suddenly behave like rabbits on the make?
And why is it almost exclusively men who rise to political power only to self-destruct? Why didn’t we hear such stories about Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir or Indira Gandhi? Admittedly, they weren’t babes, but Weiner is no matinee idol, either.
To add to the mystery, the men who fall victim to their own sexual excesses and improprieties (the most egregious being Bill Clinton) most often don’t have the decency to just crawl away. Clinton, for example, has basically rebuilt his life and his reputation. Eliot Spitzer didn’t choose low-profile rehabilitation; he’s back on the ballot. And so many others just toughed it out, stuck some Band-Aids on the marriage and forgave themselves far too easily for bringing shame to their wives and children and disgrace to the public office they held.
We seem to have a problem here, particular to men in politics.
I would like to say that the time is now for Anthony Weiner to step off the public stage and return to private life. But the time isn’t now; it was then — two years ago, when his aberrant behavior first became news.
Copyright © 2013 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.