Weiners and Losers: Pushing the Political Envelope

Photograph by AP Photo

Test pilot Chuck Yeager sits in the cockpit of an unidentified jet aircraft in this undated photo released by the U. S. Air Force in June 1948. Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier October 14, 1947, as he piloted an X-1 rocket plane.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman,
giving all your love to just one man.
You’ll have bad times, and he’ll have good times,
doin’ things that you don’t understand.
But if you love him, you’ll forgive him
even though he’s hard to understand.
And if you love him, oh, be proud of him,
cause after all, he’s just a man.”
      — Tammy Wynette

Anthony Weiner, in demonstrating his determination to remain a candidate for mayor of New York following revelations of yet more “sexting” with various women, says he is seeking a second chance.

His wife has given him “a second chance,” he noted yesterday at a brief, nationally televised news conference, and he said: “I’m asking New Yorkers to give me a second chance.”

Yet this is really a third chance that Weiner is seeking.

He now has publicly acknowledged that the stream of sexually charged messages and photographs he shared with women, which resulted in his resignation from Congress in June of 2011, continued well into the summer of 2012.

When he announced his candidacy for mayor in May, he was asking voters for that second chance — the one that voters have given Mark Sanford of South Carolina, elected again to Congress this year after finishing his term of governor in the disgrace of an extramarital affair with an Argentinian woman initially covered up as a hike on the Appalachian Trail. It’s the chance that Eliot Spitzer, a former governor and attorney general of New York, is seeking in his race for comptroller of New York City following his resignation as governor after his involvement with high-priced prostitutes.

The morning after Weiner’s mea culpa — “I’m responsible” — with wife Huma Abedin by his side, Joe Scarborough, the irrepressible morning cable talk show host and former congressman from Florida, today suggested that Weiner is the Chuck Yeager of sex scandals: Pushing the outer envelope of public acceptance in pressing onward with a political campaign after two very public crash landings.  Yet Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, was pushing the envelope of human achievement when he flew higher and faster than anyone before him. He was the alpha male of a 1940’s and 50’s test-pilot program that provided what Tom Wolfe enshrined as “the right stuff” for America’s astronaut corps.

Weiner is testing something else: The limits of public acceptance of errant behavior and absent morality, the boundaries of just how far a man can go, and how many times, before he becomes unelectable.

The New York Times proclaimed today that Weiner has pierced that envelope: “He has already disqualified himself,” the Times’ editoral page concluded.

The ability of a faithful wife to stand by her man, as so many have in the modern era of personal scandals in politics, may be a testament to the power of love, marriage and concern for the children. Abedin has studied under the master, Hillary Clinton, whom Abedin has served as a White House intern, traveling chief of staff and “body woman” during Clinton’s 2008 campaign for president, at the State Department and in transition to the retired Clinton’s “private” life. Polls show the public has forgiven Clinton’s man, the former president who lied about sex with another White House intern.

The capacity of New York’s voters for forgiveness is another question, and Weiner plans to test to the limits. He entered the race asking for forgiveness, and he rose to the front of the pack in opinion polling. Yet his mid-20’s standing in those polls in a crowded contest for the Democratic nomination is reminiscent  of Jimmy Carter’s victories in the early presidential caucuses and primaries of 1976, when he prevailed over a crowded field with little more than 20 percent support — without any scandal hanging over him.

The comparison ends there, as it ended with Yeager.

In the long run, Carter merely admitted “lusting” in his “heart.”

It remains to be seen whether Weiner can be elected mayor of the nation’s biggest city with social media memes and bumper-stickers that say: “After all, he’s just a man.”



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