August 2011

August 2011: A Line In The Sand – Philandering Politicians

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. and Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Here’s Courtney’s big question of the month (paraphrased): “Well my argument is… do we really care what they do in their personal life? Does that affect their ability to lead? Probably not. Does that make them ineffective at their job?”

In this case “they” are philandering politicians like Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., the distinguished congressman who sent salacious (and from the accounts that I’ve read, rather unimpressive) photos of himself to women through his Twitter and Facebook accounts. One of them, a former porn star, is on record as saying that Weiner tried several times to engage her in sexual communication.

Courtney, if that stuff doesn’t matter, why did Weiner react like…umm…a politician when the story went public? He lied, denied, pointed the finger of blame, postured for as long as he could until the jig was up, held a press conference, spewed righteous indignation while refusing to resign until he was forced out of office in total disgrace. Only then did he bother to feign contrition, mumbling something about healing the damage that he caused with his wife, who is pregnant with their first child by the way. Can you just feel the love?

Ask yourself this question as we slog through the sordid details of the scandal: If you owned the company, would you hire this person?

Weiner claimed first that the pictures weren’t of him. Then he blamed an imaginary hacker but told the FBI there was no need to investigate that particular federal offense. No need for the distraction in the House was the pious statesman’s rationale, knowing full well that an investigation would prove that there was no hacker and that Weiner was responsible for sending the pictures.

So, what does this tell us about Weiner? He’s a liar. He’s a coward, willing to throw anybody under the bus (even his imaginary friends!) to save his own scrawny butt. He’s arrogant beyond the pale, and contemptuous of the very people who put him in office to think that he’d get away with his ridiculous fairy tale of a cover story. He’s stupid. C’mon, man! Lewd pictures? The Internet? You’re member of

Congress, you idiot!

But it’s worse than that. Weiner used his social media accounts in attempts to lure these women—under the false pretense of “taking part in the national dialogue” or some such thing—into perverted online sexual relationships. Out here in the private sector, we have words for people like that: sexual predator, stalker and incarcerated are three good ones.

Again, Courtney, if you owned the company…wait a minute! I almost forgot! You DO own the company! It’s your country and your government. Do you really not care that guys like Anthony Weiner sit on the board of directors?

You see, Courtney, behavior is a reflection of character, and we can’t leave character at home when we head off to work. It comes with us. It’s that little angel on the right shoulder and that little devil on the left shoulder fighting for our attention. Nobody makes the right choice 100 percent of the time, but when the little devil wins the argument most of the time, it’s a sign of a serious defect in character.

Do character defects affect a politician’s ability to lead? You bet they do. How do you lead when your constituents are jeering, booing, heckling and calling for your resignation as they did at Weiner’s press conference? Do character defects make politicians ineffective at their jobs? You bet they do. How can you do your job when you’re resigning in total disgrace?

Frank, I know you are not suggesting that I lack character or the ability to judge character. (Even though, per last month’s column, I do contribute to the eroding moral compass of the nation.) So, I’m going to give you a pass on that one and instead focus on that fact that your singular “Weiner” example is actually the perfect illustration of your one-track argument.

Anthony Weiner is the best you can come up with? I mean granted, Weiner is media gold. He’s out and about showing off his private parts and his last name just happens to also be the caption for his pictures. Jackpot!

But, in truth, it’s not about Anthony Weiner, Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Mark Sanford. Once again your narrow mind steers you down the wrong path as you suggest that this issue of philandering is 1) limited to politicians and 2) that the only ones doing it are the ones who get caught.

Au contraire mon frère. You may remember my “open your eyes regarding marriage argument” from last month? Well, let me continue to enlighten you. Let’s talk numbers, including the staggering 8.5 million members on ashleymadison.com, a website dedicated to helping married philanderers find a “philanderee.”

While infidelity statistics abound, I’m actually going to go conservative here and quote a 2007 MSNBC.com/iVillage Lust, Love & Loyalty survey, which concluded that, about one in five adults in monogamous relationships, or 22 percent, have cheated on their current partner. And nearly half of people admit to being unfaithful at some point in their lives.

MSNBC also cited research expert Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago who conducted the study “American Sexual Behavior,” a poll of 10,000 people over two decades. The study found that 22 percent of married men and 15 percent of married women have cheated at least once—similar to the results from the MSNBC.com survey.

If these statistics are true, 20 percent of our nation is cheating on their partner. So, for argument’s sake, let’s say that 20 percent of elected officials are cheating on their partners. However, unless they’ve been caught in a media firestorm, we don’t know about it. Is it really their cheating that makes them a bad politician, or is it the media circus that surrounds the “big reveal” that renders them unable to lead?

I vote for the latter. Character is comprised of many things, and everyone defines character differently. If politically a politician stands for and works for everything that you believe in, do you really care what he does in his personal life? What if you find feet to be disgusting and your congressman has a foot fetish? What if he is having an affair (with a women with beautiful feet, mind you), because his wife hasn’t been interested in sex in 10 years? Better yet, what if his wife is cheating too? Or, what if they have an agreement to step outside their marriage? Why do we care? Are you not going to vote for him because his ideals don’t match up to yours in every column? If so, you’d never vote again.

Look around right now. One in every five people you see is statistically a cheater. It could be your mailperson, the little league coach who lives next door, the bagger at your grocery store, your child’s teacher, your best buddy, your boss, the waiter at your favorite restaurant, the minister at your church (oh yeah, I’m going there).
Is your mail still being delivered on time? Is team moral up? Are your freezer items separated from the cans? Is your kid getting A’s? Is your buddy still your favorite drinking partner? Is your boss still tolerable? Is your service still top-notch? Is Sunday’s sermon still inspiring?

All I am saying is let’s not rush to judge.

I’m sure you’ve made some mistakes along the way Frank, but heck, our editor still let’s you write. Right?

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