Oh, it was distasteful. And kind of creepy. And really, just far too much information about a member than any of us wants or needs to know. But is former congressman Anthony Weiner's ill-fated graphic tweet of himself in his underpants a reason he can't run for mayor of New York?
Weiner's thinking about a run, according to a New York Times Magazine story. And his very cooperation on the piece, and the Oprah-esque tone of his monologue (which was most of the piece) shows how seriously he's thinking about it, since reaction to the story will provide him with a good barometer of whether voters have forgiven him. But who, really, was the victim here?
The women who tweeted back and forth with Weiner knew who he was, knew he was married, and sent some pretty flirty messages back in response to his. They are not victims, and the maelstrom at the time, the suggestion that somehow these women's delicate feminine sensibilities and sexual innocence were violated by Weiner, was ridiculous.
Women do not automatically become victims just because they engage in sex or sexually-charged communication. Yes, it's reasonable to expect better judgment from a member of Congress, but the communication here was mutual.
Weiner did need to apologize to his party's leaders for lying to them about the tweets. Weiner denied it was him, putting his colleagues and friends in the position of defending him against a witch-hunt that turned out to be on target after all. That was the reason Weiner had to resign – not because of his explicit tweets, but because he put his party in an untenable position with his lies.
He's already apologized to his wife, and according to the Times story, she has forgiven him. That's admirable and displays a genuine commitment to a marriage, but it's none of the business of the rest of us. It's their marriage.
If Weiner has issues with the voters of New York City, it's not the enduring picture of an elected official in his underwear, it's his hard-charging and sometimes grating demeanor. It earned him some enemies on the Hill, and made him a less sympathetic figure when he was caught with his pants down and his underwear barely on.
He's also brazenly ambitious – arguably a prerequisite for running for office, but in Weiner's case, something of a negative. The tweet itself reinforces that display of narcissism.
It's like former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's tale. It's not that he had an affair with his South American "soulmate" and left his wife. That happens. It's that he had the monumentally self-centered idea to ask his former wife to be his campaign manager in his current quest for a House seat. Hurting his wife is a terrible thing, made worse for her by the public nature of it all. Expecting her to come on board with his campaign means he really thinks it's all about him.
Weiner's a smart guy, with a sharp wit. But he also must convince voters, if he runs, that it's not all about him. Voters can handle all sorts of things – and not just issues of character or judgment, but policy disagreements. It's unreasonable to expect a political leader to share one's views on everything. But constituents want to believe that the person they are electing has their best interests at heart, that the motive to run is rooted in doing good for the city and not doing well for oneself. That's a much bigger issue for Weiner than a bunch of racy tweets.