Anthony Weiner just admitted that he’s sent inappropriate pictures of himself to at least a half-dozen women, none of whom he knows personally. When he was caught, he spent a week lying about it. And already we’re hearing a familiar refrain: It’s just his personal life, so what’s the big deal? As Ezra Klein puts it:
Weiner’s photos have no clear bearing on his job performance. If you thought he was a good legislator last month, he’s a good one today.
Really? This incident paints a picture of Weiner as a guy with incredibly bad judgment, who lied shamelessly, and who recklessly put himself in a position where he might very well have been an easy target for blackmail. And we’re supposed to believe this has nothing to do with his fitness to wield power, and that he’s no different than any other politician with similar views?
There’s a reason that political sex scandals keep happening: The work of a politician involves getting as many people as you can to like you, and that naturally attracts the sort of narcissist for whom the love of a wife is not enough. I’m seeing a lot of people saying that sending dirty pictures over the internet isn’t as bad as being caught with a mistress or prostitute the way other politicians have been. While this may be true from the perspective of the politician’s wife, I’m not at all sure it should be from the perspective of the public. At least you can look a mistress in the eye and ask her to keep a secret. Weiner was sending pictures to women he’d never even met (and he’s not even sure they were all of age!). Given how obviously risky this was, the lapse in judgment here is pretty extreme. Indeed, it’s probably safe to assume that a big part of what turned him on about his exhibitionistic behavior was precisely the fact that he was playing with fire.
Weiner may well weather this storm and remain in Congress for many terms to come (unless he becomes a casualty of redistricting), but talk of him becoming mayor of New York City is over. This is as it should be, and anyone who claims otherwise isn’t thinking through the implications of a mayor with a fetish for recklessness.