Well into the campaign for the upcoming New York City elections, and not one word has been said about the issues at stake. Instead we are all horrified and obsessed -- and alas, quite understandably -- with the Weiner-gate 2.0. The media circus created by the salacious revelations about mayoral candidate Weiner's renewed use of social media for sexual satisfaction with women he did not know (that Maureen Dowd dealt with quite definitively in her masterpiece of a column has also, quite unfairly, threatened to engulf Eliot Spitzer's campaign for no reason other than his past dalliances with call girls, which cost him his position as Governor of New York. Since the new Weiner scandal broke, Spitzer's campaign events for his self-funded candidacy for City Comptroller have been overshadowed by rumors about his wife, Selda, divorcing him and refusing to campaign for him, in sharp contrast to the "dream-wife" behavior of Huma Abedin -- that frankly to me, is a bit unsettling.
However, over-supply always causes a fall in demand.
Therefore many New Yorkers and Americans in general are starting to exhibit indifference to salacious stories involving pols, and seem to be coming around to the European view: that a pol's private life is not the public's business, as long as this private life is not illegal and does not negatively affect the work he has been elected to do.
This is most often the case, yet because by definition politicians are an illuminated "as perfect as can be" blown-up image of ourselves whom we choose to define our fates, we do not only need to trust them with our lives, we also need to like them, to be able to understand them so we too may harbor the hope of being understood and taken care of. It is in this sense and this sense alone, that the private misdoings of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer bear any significance on whether they are candidates deserving of our vote.
"Count the bodies" as Tom Hanks would reiterate in Lucky Guy, the Broadway play Nora Ephron wrote about the fabled reporter Mike McAlary, a flawed yet deeply human and intensely likable person. Well the same goes with scandals. While strong women, such as Hillary Clinton and apparently Silda Spitzer too, who after decades of being "only a wife" has returned to her job as a high-powered attorney as well as maintaining her extensive charity work, can and do survive their husband's actions and go on to excel in matters where they are the defining central force, the weaker parties become carnage. This is true in the case of Monica Lewinsky as well as the "Weiner women" who have come forward.
Serves them right, one may think, and in truth these women were never likable, nor did they ever really come across as "normal," to put it nicely. But they were also tremendously young, while the men in question were older, charismatic males imbued with the greatest aphrodisiac of all: power. It is easy to sweep a 21-year-old girl down a dark, grimy road in the culture we live in: hypocritically appearing to be fixated on the fairy-tale of "true love, forever, never do we part" marriage, while surveys have shown, and shows like Gossip Girl have highlighted that sexual practices are common-place and usually detached from any emotion among early teens in high-end schools as much as those in under-privileged areas.
Juxtaposed to this are the high-class escorts Spitzer frequented. Ashley Dupre, one of the more notorious ones, was indicative: Until then a prostitute, she survived the showdown quite well, making a few bucks on the scandal, getting the chance to showcase her -- non-existent -- singing talent, and now a stay-at-home mother.
Now this dalliance may not have been Spitzer's finest moment (even though this is exactly the basic premise of the all-time American favorite Pretty Woman that Richard Gere and Julia Roberts so memorably portrayed!), but the world abounds with men treating women who are not prostitutes, as if they are a kind of unpaid variety of the oldest profession. Men like Anthony Weiner, who professes not to remember how many women he had online dalliances with, let alone their names, and who forever sullied the reputation of some very young girls in a way that is perversely far more obscene than if they actually had sex.
That is why I believe New York voters will shun Weiner for mayor, while endorsing Spitzer for the far more modest role he is aspiring to. Most of us have in our lives been swept away, hurt, redeemed, recreated by love, passion and its vital component, sex. We are vulnerable to these because we are alive. This is why we can relate to Eliot Spitzer even as we hope -- and trust -- he will apply all this passion of his to the sexiest of professions: politics and the power for good it brings.
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