In the wake of the current scandal involving Rep Anthony Weiner (D-NY), and the most recent similar incident involving Rep Christopher Lee (R-NY), it seems time to address an issue that pervades the political arena in a number of different contexts, but is an issue that is often a death sentence for anyone aspiring to enter politics. To what extent is it appropriate for the media and public to dissect and invade the personal and private lives of public figures? With the incredible resources afforded by the Internet and available to the media and the public in general, who in their right mind would enter the very public life of a politician and put themselves under the microscope of countless numbers of organizations, bloggers, think-tanks, opponents and just everyday people prying into the minutia of one's pre and post political life?
Political indiscretions are nothing new to politics. Thomas Jefferson was proven to have fathered at least one child with his slave, Sally Hemings. A number of presidents were also rumored to have strayed outside their marriages including Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy and who can forget Bill Clinton? Beyond the presidency, representatives and senators alike were not exempt from extra-marital excursions of varying degrees.
There is an entirely different class of indiscretion that can only be called "arrogant stupidity," which is akin to the conduct of Representatives Weiner and Lee. A number of politicians have just not thought out the possible consequences of the dissecting and magnification of their arrogant stupidity and how that might project itself into their very public lives. The question then becomes, given the fact that politicians are human, that they make human mistakes, is it fair that we put them under such an intense microscope and take them to task for every indiscretion that occurs? The result of this over magnification might well be that good and productive individuals will forgo a life in politics rather than subject themselves to the scrutiny that will undoubtedly follow such a decision.
Do we want a system which, because of the intense scrutiny that will come to bear on anyone entering the political arena, cause good forceful people with the mind-set and moxie to take on a job like this, choose not to run for office rather than open up the skeletons that are in their closets to public scrutiny? By all accounts, Representatives Weiner and Lee were good politicians and good for the constituents who elected them to office, but because they were also human and let their arrogant stupidity get the better of them, they will be removed from their positions of serving those who elected them. Lets face it, Representative Weiner will resign from office. Do we want only politicians and people leading this country who are irreproachable, who have lived such an atypical life, that they have no skeletons in their closets, or do we want politicians who are more human and better able to relate to the needs of the people who elected them? Jimmy Carter is an example of a politician who was considered to be without any sign of personal baggage in his life or during his presidency, save his brother Billy; however, he is also considered one of the least effective presidents that has been elected and in large part many thought it was because of his refusal to take a path that might lead to controversy. In contrast, Bill Clinton, well known for his personal indiscretion, is considered to have been a very effective president due in large part to his refusal to give in to party politics at critical times when we needed the president to stand on his own two feet and not be a lemming to party politics.
It seems in today's world, there is an unrealistic and elevated level of scrutiny that is going to leave good, strong political figures sitting outside the political arena rather than risking putting themselves and their families up to the microscope of often inane over-emphasised analysis that will come with a political office. Anthony Weiner made an incredibly arrogant and stupid mistake that was personal to he and his family that likely has no bearing on his ability to represent his constituents. In doing so the intense scrutiny that will accompany that decision will destroy his political career. Representative Weiner was considered the front runner to be the next Mayor of New York City. Are the people of New York better off today with representatives Weiner and Lee basically political ghosts? It seems reasonable to lower the expectations of politicians and overlook some personal indescretions that do not affect their ability to perform the job at hand, and we should allow the people who elected the individual to decide their fate in the next election, rather than to allow the media and political pundits to make that decision for the electorate.