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Rewarding misbehavior

Jul 25, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

In NYC, at least, a sex scandal doesn't seem to matter much anymore

A curious development is emerging in light of the never-ending string of misbehaving politicians and public officials in out country.

Suddenly it seems as if it no longer matters. We published a story in Sunday's condition in which national reporters analyzed the apparent political popularity of two New Yorkers, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner as they seek to rise from sex-scandal disgrace and return to elected office.

The thrust -- if you'll forgive the word -- of the story and others like it is that the U.S. is becoming more like Europe, where the sexual peccadilloes of politicians apparently are overlooked routinely by voters, and, in fact, sometimes appear to be rewarded.

In the case of the unfortunately named Anthony Weiner, he is running for mayor of New York City only about a year after he resigned his congressional seat when it became known that he had photographed his crotch and shown the pictures to women who were not his wife through, naturally, the Internet.

He quickly moved to the front of most mayoral polls this year, mixing a dose of contrition with his acknowledged political and policy making abilities.

Then, this week, it was revealed - another word needing forgiveness - that he had a game e-mail, posted, tweeted and/or texted lewd pictures of his private parts to other women - all since he had resigned from Congress after the first mess.

Still, he remains a favorite among polled voters as the New York mayor's election approaches. News analysts cite this as a demonstration that American voters are becoming more relaxed about this type of misbehavior.

"Keep the personal life separate from the political life," say the apologists. "If they can do the first part, then the second part doesn't matter."

But is this really how we feel? Does it really not matter that the man running for mayor of our nation's largest city has now twice been exposed - oops, another word - as someone who drops his pants repeatedly in front of a camera and then uses the Internet to distribute those pictures to women who are not his wife? Thanks for sharing, Mr. Weiner.

Doesn't matter even a little bit? Doesn't it show something about the person's judgment that ought to concern voters, particularly if, once disgraced, he repeats the behavior?

We find it hard to believe that this conduct will be forgiven to the point and the extent that the perpetrator would be handed the keys to the mayor's office. It would be the equivalent of "letting the terrorists win," wouldn't it?

To state the obvious, this wouldn't play in Wyoming.

Then again, Wyoming isn't New York City.

And, to state the obvious again, that is a good thing.

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