Jackie Gingrich Cushman:
Donald Trump’s tweet Tuesday of this week puts it all in perspective, “@realDonaldTrump: With Spitzer & Anthony Weiner running for office, New York is pervert central! Pathetic.”
Why are the dually disgraced Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner running for office after engaging in public peccadilloes that would have doubtless persuaded many a lesser man to stay home? Only they know for sure — their reasoning is probably a bit different than their public pronouncements.
They may have been inspired by the recent election of the disgraced former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who won the special election for his state’s 1st Congressional District of South Carolina on May 7 against Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
If Sanford, who resigned while in office, can succeed on the campaign trail in South Carolina after lying to his staff about hiking on the Appalachian Trail, then there is the possibility for redemption and election for anyone.
Former New York Gov. Spitzer’s announcement that he is running for New York City comptroller raised the issue of sexual transgressions and forgiveness in politics once again this week, as did the announcement of former Rep. Anthony Weiner that he is campaigning for the job of New York mayor.
Spitzer, who resigned as governor after being caught in a federal wiretap operation arranging for payment for prostitution services, has had five years since his public humiliation. Weiner, who resigned after a sexting scandal (not just sending sexual photos, but then lying about it), has had but two years out of the public eye.
Spitzer is running for an office that is lower on the responsibility scale than the one that he resigned, as was the case with Sanford. Weiner is doing the opposite. Instead of sitting out longer and setting his goals a notch or two lower, he has raised them.
Weiner, with wife Huma, was featured in a New York Times Magazine article by Jonathan Van Meter on April 10, titled, “Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin’s Post-Scandal Playbook,” which was a well-placed pre-campaign piece. Possibly the publication of this article lulled him into the belief that, if his wife and publicist were willing to forgive him, so would voters.
If so, he must have been shocked this week when The New York Times’ editorial board laid into both him and Spitzer.
“Mr. Spitzer, like Mr. Weiner, is a political animal who clearly finds it hard not to have an audience. That’s understandable, but did they have to bring us all along on their journeys of personal ambition? For these two charter members of the Kardashian Party, notoriety is looking like the quick, easy path to redemption.”
Why do candidates run for office? The rationales are as countless and complex as the candidates themselves. A better question might be: Why aren’t more qualified candidates running for office?
Is the press scrutiny too much? Is the campaign workload too hard (virtually 24/7)? Is the opportunity cost too great (giving up a highly paid job for a potential position with less pay and more stress)? Is the public invasiveness too much for the families? Or is the political field in general held in such low esteem that qualified people don’t want to enter into the fray?
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” Theodore Roosevelt said in Paris in 1910 when talking about citizenship in a republic. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Possibly the question we have to ask ourselves is how do we encourage more timid souls to try their hand in the political arena?