Clearly Anthony Weiner has a compulsion. Even after he got caught sexting two years ago, he continued to do it. The question for us, and for New York voters, is: is having a compulsion in and of itself reason to disqualify someone from public office?
In this case, the societal taboo against sending naked photos of yourself to another consenting adult is obviously stupid.
Who cares? Clearly not his wife. So why should we? On the other hand, we are dealing with a case of someone who cannot control his sexual impulses. Well, is that a problem? American society values self-control. But this is a man who doesn’t have it. Should we care?
What if Anthony Weiner had a compulsion that society did not judge as harshly, say, an addiction to chocolate candy? People would probably just think of it as a lovable quirk. So there is a Puritan aspect to this. The fact that it is sex is what makes it of interest in the first place. But then you have to ask yourself: what the hell was he thinking? He knew that to become mayor he would have to play the game, and the game required him to stop doing what he had claimed to regret doing. This is not as if he had issued a defiant statement pledging to continue sexting.
That would have been a statement of bravery and integrity, and it also would have been suicidal.
I myself am strongly inclined to rebel against the media’s righteous indignation over all this. In an editorial today, the New York Times called for Weiner to step down bow out of the race due to his “sexual improprieties.” But there were no sexual improprieties. These are consenting adults. I also am loathe to punish anyone for their sexual expression, no matter how undignified.
Consider the other major mayoral candidate, Christine Quinn. As far as we know, she’s not guilty of any sexual peccadilloes, but she betrayed the public trust and insulted the voters of New York. Several years ago, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted to run for a third term in violation of a fairly recent two-term term limits law that had been passed by the voters, Quinn rammed through and an end-run against the voters and democracy itself.
Quinn had her New York City Council overturn a law that had been put into place by the voters. It was disgusting, and she doesn’t deserve to hold public office after what she did. No matter where you stand on term limits, if the law was to be overturned, it should have been reversed by the voters themselves again.
Yet you don’t see the New York Times calling for Quinn to withdraw.
In the end, it comes down to that old Bill Clinton question from the 1990s: is it wrong to lie to the voters about something that never should have been their business in the first place?