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The Private Lives of Scandalous Politicians

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So the Twitter pervert Anthony Weiner has been caught with his internet pants round his ankles yet again. There he was, ahead amongst Democrats vying to become New York Mayor, and with the worst timing possible, a young woman reveals that Mr Weiner – or Carlos Danger as he prefers – was sending her dirty pictures and dirty messages less than a year after he resigned from Congress for sending dirty pictures and dirty messages. Oh and for serially lying about it as well.

©2011 - Lisa Benson, Washington Post Writers Group

In an attempt to rescue his political ambitions yet again, his long-suffering wife stood by him at a press conference to declare that she had forgiven him. “Our marriage, like many others,” she said, “has had its ups and its downs. It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony. Anthony's made some horrible mistakes, both before he resigned from Congress and after. But I do very strongly believe that it’s between us and our marriage. I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him.” [1]

Well I’m glad she has been able to forgive him, but what’s this bit about “strongly believing that it's between us and our marriage”? So the electorate is to ignore this round of transgressions because they are private issues between Mr & Mrs Weiner? Nobody else’s business!

Well I’m sorry to break it to Mrs Weiner, but her husband is not a private citizen. He was a Congressman and now he is attempting to become a Mayor. If she wants it to remain a private affair between the two of them, that’s fine. This can be arranged. All she needs to do is to persuade her husband to get out of politics and out of the public eye and never dare to try another come back.

There is something absolutely breathtaking about a man who clearly can’t govern his own zipper, yet still insists that he is capable of governing a major US city. His opinion on this would be fine, that is if it were only himself and his wife who shared it and the rest of us could just stand there howling with laughter at them as they attempt to persuade us that he really is fit for office. But the tragic thing is that the majority of voters pretty much accept Mrs Weiner’s line – that such incidents are private affairs and nothing to do with the public office. This is borne out by the fact that he was the front runner in the Democrat race before the new scandal emerged.

As I write this, Mr Weiner is under pressure to quit the race, and by the time this gets published, maybe he will have done so. Whether he does or not changes nothing. Most of those calling for him to go will be the same people that were happy to see him run in the contest in the first place, despite knowing that his moral character ought to have disqualified him. What moral basis do they have for calling him to quit now? “Oh lying and cheating on your wife is fine – just so long as you don’t do it too many times.” This is disqualification by numbers, not by principle!

In attempting to stay in the race, Mr Weiner clearly believes that if he can ride the initial storm for a week or so, he will still have a chance of winning. Despite this latest setback, he knows that Americans no longer really care about this sort of thing. As he said himself, "…at the end of the day, citizens are more interested in the challenge they face in their lives than in anything that I have done, embarrassing, in my past.” [2] And so he may well calculate that if he can survive a week or so, in which he concentrates on the “real issues” whilst his opponents concentrate on his “private affairs”, very soon the public will get bored with the attacks on him and see that he really is the man who cares most for “the things that really matter”. And he would have good cause for thinking like this.

On 7th May 2013, following the resignation of Tim Scott, Mark Sandford was duly elected as US Representative for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, having won 54% of the vote. [3] Nothing particularly remarkable about this, that is until you begin to delve into the squalid past of the man chosen by South Carolinians to represent them.

So is this the same Mark Sandford who as governor of South Carolina admitted to committing adultery in June 2009 with an Argentinian by the name of María Belén Chapur? Maybe. Is this the same Mark Sandford who admitted having “crossed the lines” with a handful of other women during 20 years of marriage, but not as far as he did with his mistress? Possibly. Is this the same Mark Sandford who claimed that he had not used public funds in connection with his adultery, only to end up reimbursing the state for the full cost of the Argentina leg of this trip? Could be. Is this the same Mark Sandford who refused to resign after these incidents and was eventually censured by the South Carolina House of Representatives on 15th December 2009? Yes, I think it is him. [4]

If the Mark Sandford elected as US Representative for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District does turn out to be the same Mark Sandford involved in all these scandals, what does this tell us about the general state of South Carolinians? Doesn’t all this stuff disqualify him from office? Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, would say it does: “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Exodus 18:21). But the vox populi of South Carolina apparently thinks that Jethro is just a backward, ignorant Midianite who knows nothing about the finer nuances of what it really takes to govern a people.

I would love to hear how those who voted for Mr Sandford justified it to themselves:

“Yep, I’m gonna vote for Sandford. He’s a good old boy. I know he had all that adultery and lying business a few years back, but that’s just his private life.”

“Me, I’ll be voting for Sandford. Hey we’ve just got to keep them Democrats out.”

“Sandford’s the man for me. He’s someone I can put my trust in.”

This is the type of rationale that people must have used when Weiner was out in the lead for the New York race (except that this time the aim is to keep the Republican guy out), and it’s also the same rationale that caused 7,332,667 Italians to go and cast their vote in February this year for Il Popolo della Libertà (The People of Freedom Party) led by Mr Silvio Berlusconi. CH Spurgeon once said of John Bunyan that he was so soaked in the knowledge of the Scriptures that if you pricked him, he would bleed Bibline. Berlusconi is so saturated in scandal and corruption that if you pricked him he would bleed Sleaze. What would induce anyone to go out and vote for a party led by him? What would he have to do for people to think him unfit for office? Become embroiled in fraud and prostitution scandals? No apparently that doesn't quite do it. Must try harder, but until then, he is still the best man to govern over Italy.

The lie that such misdemeanours have no bearing on the man holding public office has crept into people’s thinking over the past few decades as we have forgotten God. There was a time when such scandals would have meant the end of the likes of Anthony Weiner in public office for good. But these days, unrighteousness is no bar of qualification for public office. In fact it rather seems to be seen as a positive attribute.

Which is why I hope that Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner sticks it out and goes on to win the Democrat nomination and eventually the Mayoral race itself. No, I really do. Don’t misunderstand me, I think the guy is a scoundrel and a liar and I couldn’t vote for him even if I were threatened at the point of a gun. Nor could I ever urge anyone else to vote for him.

But I hope he wins and becomes Mayor of New York because he is a good barometer of where we are at. As a people, we buy Mrs Weiner’s line that this scandal is their affair and nothing to trouble the people of New York. Many New Yorkers clearly agreed with this before the latest round of dirt, and no doubt many can be persuaded to continue to believe it even after these latest revelations. I say let them. Let them see if a man can be a dirty, lying scoundrel in private and a fine, righteous, honest fellow in public office. Let them see if they can get a clean thing out of an unclean thing. As Jeremiah once put it, “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jeremiah 5:31).

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