US – Anthony Weiner Controversy – Remember Gary Hart? He Turned Out Not To Have A Lot To Offer America – So Maybe Anthony Weiner Can Too – And He Doesn’t Have To Be An Elected Official To Do It, As Hart Showed – 25 July 2013

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/24/opinion/mr-weiner-and-the-elusive-truth.html?_r=0

Okay, here we go with this stuff again. It seems to be the topic that will never go away, no matter how hard I try to make it do so.

Exactly what is it about Anthony Weiner’s personal life that is any of our business? I still don’t get it. If you don’t think he’ll make a good mayor of New York City, and you happen to be a voter in New York City mayoral elections, then don’t vote for him. But this holier-than-thou display of moralistic opinions doesn’t become anyone.

One almost gets the impression that now there is nothing the guy can do which anyone will find acceptable or borne of a genuine desire to promote the public interest.

I’m old enough to remember when all the gossip was about Gary Hart. Hart, like Weiner, was married (still is, actually, to the same woman). He was making time with a party girl named Donna Rice. Hart clearly didn’t know how to deal with the press following him around trying to dig up dirt, and actually at one point challenged the press to see if they _could_ find out anything about him and some-woman-not-his-wife. Not too much later they did. (Weiner, like Hart, bluffed the press about what they had dug up about him, rather than admitting or saying it wasn’t anyone’s business…though he never went as far as _daring_ the press to dig up something.)

I didn’t have a high opinion of Hart before the Donna Rice thing, but actively felt sorry for him afterwards – it was not a given in the late 1980s that newspaper and television reporters would follow people to dig up details about their personal lives. It was generally understood that reporters were to focus on politics if they were covering a political leader, not what happens in their bedrooms. Imagine that! I know, weird, right?!

Gary Hart’s support evaporated after the Donna Rice thing hit the media – I had always thought he was a kind of a vapid candidate and that support should have evaporated a long time before that – but it only went and went for good when people got word about the party girl. That collective hand-washing Americans did of Hart was the starting gun for all the privacy invasion we now take to be normal in the practice of reporters.

The ironic thing is that the Gary Hart who never became president turned out to have a lot more substance than the one that I never felt deserved my vote, and that Americans rejected more or less solely because of his mating habits.

Rejected from elective office, he turned to consultant work in national security (as he had quite a CV on that subject, having been on the relevant committees as a Senator). Hart’s consulting firm had actually produced, for the Commission on National Security, a draft policy for changes to national security policy which ended up only being adopted after September 11, 2001. Hart properly received the credit for the hard work he had done to produce this report, which actually seemed pretty prophetic in its predictions for increasing threats of terrorist attacks on the territory of the US.

Outside of that, Hart also wrote four novels – the public wasn’t as ready for Gary Hart the novelist – though he did also get novels published under his own name – but the public bought more of his books as written under the pseudonym of John Blackthorn. (The “Blackthorn” novels are, not surprisingly, “political thrillers”.)

So Gary Hart, the cad who slept with Donna Rice, has both served his country as a national security consultant to the government and succeeded as a writer of fiction. Didn’t he know he was supposed to flagellate himself forever for his violations of the public’s standards of morality? Didn’t he know he was supposed to never have anything to do with government again, because the people judged him unworthy? Didn’t he know no one would ever care about anything he ever said, so there was no point becoming a writer?

No, he didn’t. That’s why he did all that stuff.

So what do I want to tell Anthony Weiner? I think you can probably guess from what I’ve written above.

First, the press should not be pursuing this matter. It should not matter a whit to political reporters what Anthony Weiner is doing in his private life. It should matter what he is doing politically. It may be that Weiner is “creepy” in his personal life, but if you feel that way, you should not sleep with him. Outside of that, I don’t extend to anyone who is not Weiner’s wife any right to an opinion on the matter. It’s none of your business. On top of that, any of you who wait hour-by-hour for the latest gossip about Weiner and his chat rooms but claim to be horrified by the NSA reading cell phone metadata – let’s just not even start to have a conversation, shall we? You’ve obviously forgotten what real violations of privacy look like.

Second, I do agree that Weiner should drop out of the mayor’s race, but only because I think he now cannot win the election, and he should recognise a duty to clear the field for a progressive candidate that can win, not because there is some kind of justice to America’s stone-the-adulterer mood. It is not contradictory to ask Weiner to stand down and yet speak out against this kind of snooping, prying moralism that has nothing to do with a proper evaluation of whether or not someone has what it takes to be a city’s mayor.

Third, Hart’s example shows that not getting elected to a political office does not mean that life is now over. For starters, Weiner’s _wife_ is electable – she’d make an even better candidate, and no doubt with Weiner as an advisor, she would have access to the talents as a public servant Weiner has already shown he does have. That wouldn’t be a bad gig. Even outside of that specific possibility, there are numerous ways a person with abilities and years of government experience can be of service that don’t involve elective office.

Rather than join America in playing “Cast out the creepy guy”, I’d like to encourage Weiner to seek out those other opportunites. The US would be a better place if it found a way for Anthony Weiner to contribute to public life – and stayed out of his private life.

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