That saying about clouds and silver linings? Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner’s latest pornographic flap proves it’s not just a platitude. The former NYC congressman and current horse in the City’s mayoral race, has managed to handily stir up dormant, fading memories of another scoundrel, former President Bill Clinton. Really, we should be thankful for that, at least.
Is a tawdry Clinton retrospective pertinent nowadays? Well, it sho’ is if — as everyone with a political pulse recognizes — BC is counting on settling back into the White House in January 2017 — this time as President Hillary Clinton’s “first dude”. In that station, he’d no doubt operate as part of an unofficial co-presidency. (Recall Hillary’s crack about a “two-for-one, blue-plate special” during hubby’s own prez run in 1991. )
For reasons creepily un-missable, Weiner’s disgrace and wife Huma’s remarkable defense of him have whipped up comparisons with Bill and Hill’s humiliation and strategic response nearly twenty years ago. Weiner has been — err — exposed compulsively sexting snapshots of his namesake to young women. Clinton, of course, launched his own presidential campaign pestered by credible adultery rumors and, eventually, was snagged practically flagrante delicto in the Oval Office doggishly using a female subordinate, a quarter-century his junior, as his personal, flesh-and-blood blow-up doll.
Like the Arkansas Lothario, in the glare of the unwelcome spotlight Weiner has apologized — repeatedly at last count — for his repeated sex-nanigans. However, also as with scandal-recovery-role-model Clinton, Weiner volunteers little evidence of authentically repentant, lifestyle-transforming sincerity. Sorrow over being caught doing the dirty deeds? Certainly — but not much beyond that. Both floated a handful of mea culpas — guarded, minimalist, carefully orchestrated — followed energetically by pleas to put it all behind and allow them to go on with business-as-usual.
Extending forgiveness to contrite screw-ups does not require absolving them of all consequences of their foolishness — period. Does a convicted, but vocally tearful, burglar get a reflexive pass on jail time? Should Cleveland kidnapper/rapist Ariel Castro walk? He did, mind you, ask his victims’ forgiveness.– though promptly amending his request with an insistent “I am not a monster. I’m sick.”
Founder John Adams affirmed, “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have … an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to … knowledge … of the characters and conduct of their rulers.”
His cousin Sam concurred: ” The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.”
When government officials perpetrate shocking moral breaches, a red-faced “oops” followed by pleas for a mulligan don’t necessarily tidy it all up into a let’s-not-dwell-on-the-past package. For “public men”? A lot more ought to be expected before any workable trust is restored.
“Being in leadership,” as Ron Cantor avers, “is not something owed to [anyone].”
The Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan references the disgraced John Profumo. In 1963, the British Secretary of State for War resigned on the heels of an explosive sex-and-spies contretemps. Dramatically abandoning centerstage, he retired to a lifetime of, literally, serving the poor; and passed away in 2006 — much of his personal reputation repaired.
Erstwhile Richard Nixon “hatchet man” Chuck Colson provides another prominent figure’s praiseworthy how-to for the proper way to do it — not just regret over dishonorable behavior, but accompanying restitution. He uninhibitedly owned his culpability and underwent a riveting conversion to faith in Jesus Christ — underscored by a changed life. That life came to be invested into ministering to others (particularly prisoners and their families). Colson died in 2012, one of the 21st century’s sublimest , high-profile illustrations of a once bad man become irreproachably good.