By Nick Keppler
2:20 PM EDT, July 30, 2013
When Anthony Weiner continued to flaunt his dong across the Internet after a sexting scandal cost him everything, he didn't just betray his long-suffering wife (again). He also laid a blow to all of us sex-positive people who rushed to his defense when he first got caught with his pants down.
Dan Savage had been hoping that the former congressman would storm into the New York City mayor's office "to put it out there that you can have a dirty picture get out there and surface and your life isn't over." I agreed that Weiner's sultry Internet correspondences were pertinent only to himself, his wife and the women of Twitter. He was a crusading progressive who had a perfect pro-choice record, sponsored a bill to expand Medicare to everyone and shamed the do-nothing Congress into providing healthcare to 9/11 first responders. He did his job well and shouldn't have lost it over a sexual indiscretion that didn't even involve sex.
Weiner did not listen to us. He didn't defend himself. Instead, he groveled. He gave a typical spiel about his "terrible mistakes," called his Internet habits "deeply, deeply hurtful" and resigned. Even as he ran for mayor, his tone was contrite, asking for a "second chance" whenever Schlonggate came up.
Last week, it was revealed Weiner had once again been sending penis selfies to an Internet masturbation buddy, leading to the most cringe-inducing press conference ever. Tense and vacant-eyed, he ran through the same routine he had two years ago: "What I did was wrong,"... "This behavior is behind me,"... "I hope [New Yorkers] are still willing to give me a second chance." (Wouldn't this be a third?) His wife was there, ostensibly to show she'd forgiven him and so should voters, but seemed as weathered and humiliated as he did. We'd all glimpsed his penis before, but now we were truly seeing Anthony Weiner naked.
There's no longer any defending him. This sweaty-palmed individual doesn't have the honesty, restraint or self-respect to be mayor of anything.
His fall from grace and then fall of possible acceptability shows once again the hollowness of the political apology, a rhetorical gimmick marked by an appeal that the apologizer is human, a plea for a "second chance" and a promise to take full responsibility but not so much to swear off public office. We've seen plenty of good ones in Connecticut, where every political career leads up to a major scandal as assuredly as every Star Wars movie leads up to a light saber dual.
There was Ernie Newton, the Bridgeport state senator and self-appointed "Moses of [his] people," who was convicted on a host of corruption charges. After four years in the clink, he ran for his old seat on a platform of giving Ernie Newton a second chance. (His best reasoning: "Jesus had 12 disciples. They was always breaking the commandments, but Jesus always forgave them.") In the course of that race, he was arrested again, this time for allegedly falsifying election documents to get more public financing.
And there was Gov. John Rowland. In 2003, evidence mounted in spite of his denials that state contractors and political patrons had paid to fix up his Litchfield cottage. Finally he confessed and declared, "I regret doing this and I am sorry I did it," but not sorry enough to resign then. That he did six months later when impeachment became unavoidable. Rowland did a stint in prison and then hit the "motivational speaker" circuit, explaining he had been felled by the "arrogance of power" and a "sense of entitlement." He still felt entitled to a $100,000-a-year "economic development" job through a Waterbury mayor who was once his crony, and entitled to dodge, through a technicality, Freedom of Information Act laws that allow reporters to track the schedules of public officials. (Though his salary came from a taxpayer-funded city grant, Rowland worked for the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce.) He also felt entitled to sell his influence to a candidate in a Republican congressional primary through a "consulting" gig at her husband's company.
Connecticut knows it better than any state: If the all-consuming theme of your return to public service is the rehabilitation of you, you just might be the same reckless egomaniac who caused your own downfall in the first place.
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