So, as it turns out, Anthony Weiner didn’t emerge from his sexting scandal “a changed man.” But here’s my question: who cares?
As I’ve talked about before, I’m not in favor of cheating in any form. If you agree to enter into a sexually and emotionally monogamous relationship, I think you’re a bit silly, but it was your own fault. When you inevitably feel a sexual and/or emotional attraction to someone other than your monogamous partner, you should own up to it and respond accordingly: either leave the relationship you’re in, renegotiate the terms of the relationship to accommodate your non-monogamous nature, or turn away from your newfound attraction and stay with your partner. Personally, I think the first and last options don’t really address the issue, just postpone it. Whether you choose the old relationship or the new one, there will come a time when the situation will repeat itself: you will find yourself once again attracted to someone who isn’t your chosen partner, and you’ll just be stuck in this endless cycle of serially monogamous misery. You can kick the can down the road all your life, but it would make a lot more sense to just face up to the fact that monogamy doesn’t actually work for most humans. But let’s bracket that discussion for now. The point is, as I see it, cheating on your partner is almost as absurd as being monogamous in the first place. Why did you bother imposing these silly, arbitrary, and unrealistic rules on yourself if you were going to break them anyway?
But none of that matters. Because the private lives of our political leaders have essentially no bearing on how well they govern. Think of President Kennedy. JFK cheated on his wife Jacqueline constantly, sleeping with hundreds if not thousands of barely-legal interns while he was President. Jackie was well aware of all this, and didn’t really care, which was eminently fair of her, since she herself had an affair with actor Richard Burton and even some good old-fashioned hate sex with JFK’s old flame Marilyn Monroe in the Lincoln Bedroom. (She later famously had an extended affair with her husband’s brother, though they were both married at the time, and not to each other.) This makes for salacious reading material, which is why the media goes crazy over “sex scandals;” it’s a chance to get the average bloke interested in political news. But here’s the thing: all those flings had no effect on Kennedy’s ability to govern. The guy basically averted nuclear armageddon during the Cuban Missile Crisis, despite the fact that the “red telephone” system wasn’t even in place yet. (In fact, it was this crisis that prompted the creation of the White House-Kremlin hotline.) He created the Peace Corps. He established the first nuclear test ban treaty. He scrapped Eisenhower’s anti-Keynesian economic policy, and set off an economic boom that lasted a decade and has been unmatched ever since. I’d say that’s a job well done. And all the while, he was screwing interns in the Oval Office—as many as ten a week, according to Jackie.
We shouldn’t waste our time judging, or even discovering, the private lives of politicians. They have a right to privacy, just like us, and if we don’t want the politicians to violate our privacy (with, for example, warrantless wiretapping and NSA spying), then we should respect theirs. Even though it’s dishonest, I don’t care when they lie to the public about their affairs to protect their family’s privacy. Their marital problems are their business, not ours. In fact, this may not even be a marital problem so much as a marital abnormality. Given that Anthony Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin has stuck with him and actively supported his run for mayor through both waves of the “scandal” over his dick picks, for all we know, she doesn’t actually mind his internet flirting. It’s worth noting, of course, that although this gets labeled a “sex scandal,” Weiner doesn’t seem to have ever had any physical contact with any of the women involved. Photos were exchanged, sexy messages were typed, even some phone “sex” was had, but Weiner never actually slept with anyone but his wife during their marriage (as far as we know). Maybe there is an agreement between Weiner and his wife that some things are okay, but others wouldn’t be. Who knows? But the important thing is this: What Weiner does in his private life, and what Abedin thinks about it, doesn’t matter. What matters is his policy. He’s not running for “husband of the year,” or “most tactful sexter,” he’s running for mayor of New York City.
We don’t judge our sexual partners by whether or not they’d make good politicians. We shouldn’t judge our politicians by whether or not they’d make good partners.