The outcry for Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation continued to intensify. The White House and House Democratic leadership referred to the “sex scandal” as a “distraction.” Republicans pointed out that his refusal to leave was “hypocritical” given the number of lawmakers from their side of the aisle who have resigned in disgrace for their own indiscretions.
However, a CNN poll taken only days before Weiner resigned indicated that only about 34 percent of his New York City constituents wanted him to resign. The results of this poll coupled with the fact that no known laws were broken makes one wonder, why then, did an unabashed liberal simply quit and walk away? What, if any, lessons have we gleaned from his personal tragedy?
The first mistake that Weiner made was to lie and attempt to cover up. Suggesting that the picture taken below his waistline that was subsequently tweeted to others was a hack job was disingenuous. To continue to lie was, in the end, unforgivable. Telling the truth is a non-partisan requirement of holding elective office. Unfortunately, it seems that human nature leads most people to deny, deny and deny some more when confronted. For some reason, people are unwilling to take responsibility for their personal choices and deal with the fallout in an open and honest manner.
What would have been the end game for Weiner if he had simply lived up to the truth and defended his personal choices? Would the truth have set him free? Most never think that there will be any fallout and thus have no contingency plans.
What lies ahead for all of us in the wake of his demise?
First of all, I suggest that it’s not only the politicians who are hypocritical but rather it is us. In a 2011 survey of American sex lives, Harris Interactive discovered that:
• 78 percent of all of us admitted to watching adult movies today vs. 40 percent in 1983.
• 21 percent of men and 13 percent of women disclosed they had cheated on their spouse.
• 16 percent of adults have “sexted” someone on their phone with an explicit message or photo as in Weiner’s situation.
• Interestingly, 38 percent of conservatives had posted sex ads while in a relationship vs. only 24 percent of liberals. On the other hand, 24 percent of liberals report having porn on their computers vs. only 15 percent of conservatives.
While society has become increasingly more open about sexuality, we continue to demand behavior on behalf of our elected officials than belies our own. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find leaders today who can live up to their own hype. Witness governors Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA) and Elliot Spitzer (NY) or senators John Edwards (NC) and John Ensign (NV), and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, for many of them it’s not the sex itself that took them out; rather it was either the lies, the cover-ups or other complications associated with anything but the truth.
Given the continued proliferation of the Internet and communications into our daily lives coupled with our culture’s increased openness to sexuality, it makes one ponder whether Weinergate is just the first of many “digital” personal tragedies sure to follow in the wake of social media’s astounding growth.
Possibly, our culture needs to re-examine expectations of its elected officials’ personal lives in the wake of its own. I guess if the old saying that “he who is without guilt may toss the first stone” had been applied in Rep. Weiner’s case, he might have kept his job. If only he hadn’t lied!
• Jon Beydler is a 33-year Valley resident and the former mayor of Fountain Hills who now lives in Chandler.