Shame isn’t just dead. It’s positively spinning in its grave.
Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman who resigned after admitting to “sexting” and sending obscene photos of himself to young women across the country, now has been forced to admit he continued doing it even after the scandal broke and he resigned.
And yet, as of last week, he still expected to be made mayor of New York.
It’s clear he didn’t learn anything in his fall from grace. You have to wonder if voters did either. We’re not optimistic.
Nor is it easy to believe a politician could’ve lowered the character bar more than Bill Clinton did, having stained the Oval Office with an adulterous affair with a young White House intern. But Anthony Weiner may have actually accomplished it.
In other circumstances, such a man would be considered a pervert and, arguably, a sexual predator. In politics, he’s just a work in progress, repeatedly asking for your forgiveness – for past, and presumably, future misdeeds: Weiner said at the time of the first scandal there’d probably be more photos emerge; he just failed to mention that those photos hadn’t been taken or sent yet!
The media are shameless enablers. People magazine and The New York Times Magazine both attempted last year to rehabilitate his image and political life in puff pieces on the irredeemably licentious reprobate. Since he carried on his behavior for much of 2012, he likely did so at the same time his media friends were working to save him.
They can take solace in the fact that he’s treated them no more shabbily than he has his wife.
It’s surreal that he would have had the gall to still seek high office – and that the body politic would brook such effrontery; he was
rising in the polls until last week.
We remember wistfully a bygone era when disgraced politicians would mercifully slink away into relative obscurity.
So does columnist Peggy Noonan. Looking back recently at the early 1960s saga of British secretary of state for war John Profumo – caught in an affair with a woman who was also seeing a possible Soviet spy – Noonan notes that Profumo belatedly did the right thing. Over and over and over.
“He never knew political power again,” Noonan writes of Profumo. “He never asked for it. He did something altogether more confounding.
“He did the hardest thing for a political figure. He really went away. He went to a place that helped the poor, a rundown settlement house called Toynbee Hall in the East End of London. There he did social work – actually the scut work of social work, washing dishes and cleaning toilets. He visited prisons for the criminally insane, helped with housing for the poor and worker education.
“And it wasn’t for show, wasn’t a step on the way to political redemption. He worked at Toynbee for 40 years.”
Ironically, while seeking instant freeze-dried redemption, louses such as Weiner give up any real chance of it.
As Noonan notes, upon Profumo’s death in 2006, the Daily Telegraph of London wrote, “No one in public life ever did more to atone for his sins; no one behaved with more silent dignity as his name was repeatedly dragged through the mud; and few ended their lives as loved and revered by those who knew him.”
He earned that praise and forgiveness not by asking for it, but by working for it. In near-total obscurity.
It can be a wonderfully nurturing and redemptive place, obscurity. If only more would seek it.
Though Noonan wrote her column before Weiner’s latest revelations, she could’ve been writing a cautionary tale expressly for him. As it is, he probably wouldn’t listen. So her message is truly meant for those embroiled in scandals to come:
“You can do what John Profumo did. You can go away. You can do something good. You can help women instead of degrading them, help your culture and your city instead of degrading them.
“You can become a man.”
Should voters reward the aforesaid behavior and brazenness by someday calling such a person “the Honorable” mayor, New York would get precisely what it deserves. And because of the city’s prominence in American politics, it would shame the entire nation.
Anthony Weiner doesn’t appear to be redeemable. Pray the American electorate is.