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Enough of Weinergate

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ANTHONY WEINER ETHICS INVESTIGATION LEWD PHOTOS
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Enough of Weinergate. And all of the bad jokes. Please. Even politicians are entitled to a private life. Besides, considering we're a country at war and the federal government is weeks away from running out of money, there are other more important things to talk (and worry) about.

But you would never know it listening to the news. Weinergate is getting more air time than the president, the upheaval in the Arab world and ARod. Combined. There is so much offense and outrage. What a pig. What a liar. He must resign. His political career is over. Alec Baldwin for mayor!

What an over-reaction.

Rep. Anthony Weiner may be a lousy husband but that doesn't necessarily mean that he's an inferior public servant. While his conduct clearly demonstrates a lack of personal ethics, it was not a violation of the public trust. He did not embezzle taxpayer dollars, rig an election, funnel government contracts to his friends or cheat on his taxes. Yes, he lied about what he did in the beginning. Big surprise. He's a married man sexting with women other than his wife. Everybody take a deep breath.

We don't ask candidates about personal matters, such as how often they floss, their preferred sexual positions or whether they like dogs or cats, during the election. Nor does the oath of office mention anything about Facebook, Twitter or fidelity. So it seems to me a bit incongruous to suggest that (admittedly stupid) minor personal indiscretions would be grounds to get kicked out of office.

But that's not my decision. Whether he retains his Congressional seat is a matter to be decided by his constituents, not by pundits and politicians who live elsewhere. If you don't live in his district, it's really not your concern.

What ought to concern the rest of us is the serious effect that digging around in people's private lives is having on our governance. Who wants to run for office? Any of your friends or associates? You? No, I didn't think so.

Our choices on election day are increasingly distasteful. More and more candidates seem to be (at least) one of the following: not very smart, narrow-minded, out of touch or destructively partisan. Not all of our public servants are like this, of course, but we are clearly not getting the best bang for our buck. Too many good people are choosing to sit on the sidelines rather than be judged by an increasingly unforgiving, nosy (and no doubt hypocritical) public. It's more than a shame. It has put us on a path of national decline, receding prosperity and diminished hope.

To be clear, I would rather our public officials set a positive example. And I'm not suggesting that we utterly ignore personal conduct. Sometimes it is an indication of a serious character flaw that disqualifies someone from holding elected office. For example, belonging to a white supremacist group or swindling people out of their money a la Bernie Madoff.

But sometimes people make mistakes.

Weiner apologized for his actions and I believe he is sincere. Why the lack of forgiveness by so many? Don't we have enough to worry about -- Afghanistan, Iraq, the economy, unemployment, the foreclosure crisis, crumbling infrastructure, the deficit, failing schools, inadequate health insurance?

Let his wife worry about what he does with his penis.