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The Purple Couch

  |   August 12, 2013    8:03 AM ET

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Ashley Alman   |   August 5, 2013    9:54 PM ET

Chelsea Clinton told CNN Monday that she's purposely shifting towards a more public life.

“I had very much led a deliberately private life for a long time, and now I’m attempting to lead a purposely public life," Clinton said when discussing her recent work with the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative.

When asked if this move implied budding political plans, Clinton said, "not now."

"I’m also grateful to live in a city and a state and a country where I really believe in my elected officials, and their ethos and their competencies," she continued. "Someday, if either of those weren’t true, and I thought I could make more of a difference in the public sector, or if I didn’t like how my city or state or country were being run, I’d have to ask and answer that question."

Speculation over Clinton's intent to run for public office has been a topic of conversation for some time. In fact, she gave an almost identical response to the "Today" show when asked about her openness to running for public office in April.

"Right now I'm grateful to live in a city, in a state and a country where I strongly support my mayor, my governor, my president, my senators and my representative," she said. "If at some point that weren't true and I thought I could make a meaningful and measurably greater impact, I'd have to ask and answer that question."

Gag Me With Lawrence Summers

  |   July 30, 2013    2:59 AM ET

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Are Political Sex Scandals Passé? The Weiner Test Case

Robert Weiss   |   July 28, 2013    5:06 PM ET

They're Back!

Yes, that's former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner getting all the attention in the New York City mayoral race. Yes, that's former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer running for New York City comptroller. Yes, that's former U.S. Congressman and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford once again sitting in the House of Representatives. And yes, that's Bill Clinton who's emerged as an emeritus force in the American political landscape.

So who's next? Should we expect to see Gary Hart, John Edwards, Pete Domenici, Herman Cain, Mark Souder, Larry Craig, Mark Foley and/or any of a hundred or so other politicians of note who've been caught with their pants down (both figuratively and literally) suddenly back in the limelight? In other words, has the "permanently ruinous political sex scandal" gone the way of the dodo bird?

Well, yeah, it pretty much has.

The Weiner Wangle

Let's take a look at one politician in particular, Anthony Weiner, since he's the one getting the most ink, tweets, and airplay these days. In case you've forgotten, Weiner is the former U.S. congressman who resigned from office in June 2011 after he was caught sending a series of digital sexts -- some of which were actually taken in the congressional gym's locker room -- to half a dozen (or more) women. According to Weiner, he'd been engaging in this type of behavior for about three years. And now he's admitted that his sexting activities continued even after his resignation from Congress.

In recent days I've spoken with numerous major media outlets about Weiner's latest revelation, and the basic question is always the same: Why did he continue with his inappropriate sexual behavior even after he was caught? The answer is simple: He might be a sex addict. Think about the gambler who tosses away his kid's college fund at a casino, gets confronted by his wife, and then takes out a loan the next day to gamble some more. Why does he do this? He does it because he's addicted to gambling. Think also about the drinker who gets thrown in jail for drunk driving and then, immediately after being released, heads to the liquor store. Why? Because that's what alcoholics do. The story is no different with Anthony Weiner, except his probable addiction is to sex rather than gambling or booze. The simple, sad truth is that even after they've been caught and are facing potentially severe consequences, addicts typically continue with their problematic behavioral patterns because that is how they cope with life. At best, being "found out" will drive someone with a self-destructive addictive disorder into treatment, where the lengthy and somewhat arduous process of eliminating compulsive behaviors can begin.

So is Weiner's recent revelation the death-knell for his political career? We'll have to wait and see. But let's face it, just two years after sneaking away with his tail between his legs, he's returned and become a mayoral frontrunner in our nation's largest city. And he's achieved this status without the support of the city's Democratic power brokers! That, in and of itself, is utterly amazing. Yes, this recent revelation will likely hurt his cause, but it's not likely to bump him from the race.

So how the heck has Weiner accomplished this remarkable comeback? Amazingly, he's used the same social media networks that led to his downfall. For instance, he announced his mayoral candidacy with an online video. In the video he is seen with his wife and new baby, looking more than a little bit domestic, apparently attempting to create the impression that he is "cured" of whatever it was that ailed him and everything is now just fine, perfectly normal, thank you for asking. His underlying message seems to be: My wife trusts me now, so you should too.

Rather interestingly, very few people seem willing to challenge him on this. He has stated that after his 2011 resignation, he spent three days at the Gabbard Center, an outpatient psychiatric evaluation facility specializing in the assessment of high-end professionals in crisis. The center's website lists "sexual disorders" as being among the major diagnostic groups it assesses. Nevertheless, he adamantly denies having an addictive or compulsive sexual disorder, despite the fact that his highly problematic sexual behavior continued for many months after first being discovered. Regardless of the diagnosis Weiner may or may not have received at Gabbard, a three-day evaluation hardly qualifies as "treatment" for a three-years-plus repetitive pattern of sexual misbehavior. An evaluation simply identifies the issues that need to be worked on and suggests a pathway for change -- no more, no less.

Sadly, Weiner's post-scandal behavior mirrors that of many of the powerful men (and women) we treat in sexual disorders programs. Nearly always these clients are neck-deep in denial about their actions. They create any number of rationalizations to justify their behaviors (in their own mind). Sure, they agree that anybody else engaging in the exact same behaviors would be crazy to do it, but somehow they see themselves as unique, different and entitled. And this sort of misguided thinking often continues even after they've been caught and scandalized, as they stubbornly tell themselves and others any number of lies to justify what they've done (and very often are continuing to do). In the biz, that's what we call DENIAL.

This misguided denial is what we all saw from Anthony Weiner two years ago, and it's what we are continuing to see today. "I'm a new man," he says, but somehow this doesn't ring true. In my professional experience, men and women whose sexual behavior leads them to crash and burn as badly as Weiner did nearly always need intensive residential treatment followed by long-term outpatient recovery, and that needs to occur in an addiction (rather than an analytic or family therapy) setting. This is especially true if the behavior that derailed the person continues after the initial crisis! At the very least, Anthony Weiner should have a solid understanding of the demons he is battling and the recommended path toward recovery. In this regard, he seems to have no clue. Instead, he has called his sexual acting out "a blind spot" that is "in the past."

Seen It, Bored Now

It appears that the American public has become desensitized to the political sex scandal. The more it happens, the less that people seem to care. In many ways this is part and parcel of the digital onslaught. Nowadays cable news stations, websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook, and the like provide an endless barrage of news -- much of it salacious in nature. People seem to require a constant array of "new and different," meaning that our collective memory and our ability to hold a grudge are greatly reduced. Once we were elephants, remembering everything, but nowadays we're gnats and fruit flies. The only reason any of these scandals has a shelf-life longer than a few days or weeks is that the media must sometimes wait for the next indignity to occur. Without something new to report, content-starved media mavens tend to rehash the old stuff in ever-more-titillating ways, even if the public no longer cares. Such is the case with this summer's "Weiner Roast."

There also seems to be a growing realization, with so many people living such large chunks of their lives in the online (hence, public) universe, that the only reason most of us are not in the news like Weiner, Spitzer, Sanford, Clinton and the like is that we're not as famous as they are. In other words, we're beginning to understand that almost everyone engages in regrettable behavior at least occasionally, so judge not lest ye be judged. Or whatever. Basically, if we have jobs and health insurance and the schools are open and taxes aren't too high, we seem to be relatively willing to overlook whatever it is our elected officials are doing between the sheets.

So can politicians do whatever they damn well please and get away with it these days? Probably not. Infidelity seems to no longer be a big deal, even with prostitutes. An abuse of power, however, such as Nevada Sen. John Ensign's affair with an aide, still draws quite a bit of public ire, as does dallying with someone who is underage or a member of the same sex (especially if the politician's power base is conservative).

That said, it seems like almost anyone can make a credible comeback these days. The formula seems to be: acknowledge your mistake (but not that you might have an ongoing problem), insist that your issues are in the past, get your wife or minister to corroborate this, and then take advantage of the name recognition you earned in the midst of your ignominy. And this recipe really does work! In fact, one study of post-Watergate congressional scandals found that nearly three-quarters of the disgraced politicians who decided to run for office again survived their primary, and of those who made it to the general election, 81 percent won.

So here we are. Sanford is back in office, Clinton is a respected elder statesman, and both Weiner and Spitzer have pulled a Stella and gotten their New York groove back. Essentially, it appears that we no longer care all that much about the sexual peccadilloes of our elected representatives. To be honest, I think it's pretty cool that America has gotten a lot more forgiving lately, but can we really trust these guys with our political well-being? Only time will tell.

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development with Elements Behavioral Health. He has served as a media specialist for CNN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Today Show, among many others. He is author of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, and co-author with Dr. Jennifer Schneider of both Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn, and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age and the upcoming 2013 release, Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Technology and the Internet on Sex, Intimacy and Relationships.

KEN THOMAS   |   July 8, 2013    8:11 AM ET

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to strike the right balance between staying out of the daily political maelstrom and setting herself up for a possible second presidential run. But her fans and foes are making that difficult.

Nearly six months after departing the State Department, Clinton finds herself in the middle of an early effort by both parties to prepare for her return to politics even as she keeps to a schedule of highly paid private speeches, work on her book and her family's global foundation.

IAN DEITCH and DIAA HADID   |   June 17, 2013    5:26 PM ET

JERUSALEM — Former President Bill Clinton urged Israel to make peace with Palestinians in order to survive as a Jewish and democratic state at a conference Monday evening, adding his voice to a chorus of prominent pro-Israel figures warning of the urgency of peacemaking for the country's own survival.

Clinton spoke hours after an Israeli Cabinet minister declared that the Palestinians would not establish a state in territory Israel controls.

One American Who Isn't For Sale

  |   June 11, 2013    5:23 AM ET

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Ne'er the Twain?

  |   June 10, 2013    9:55 AM ET

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Joanna Zelman   |   May 17, 2013    3:44 PM ET

"We are in a race against time," former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Wednesday night, in an interview with actor Harrison Ford.

"We still live in a state of denial," Clinton suggested, regarding the future impacts of climate change. "We see it, we experience it, but we have a great deal of difficulty in summoning the political will ... to address it."

Ford interviewed Clinton on challenges ranging from climate change to poaching as part of Conservation International's annual New York Gala Dinner.

Clinton focused specifically on small Pacific Island nations whose existences, she said, "are truly at stake."

At the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands last August, she announced aid for programs focused on sustainable economic development and climate change adaptation.

Many island nations are already being forced to adapt to the effects of a changing environment. Earlier this year, Kiribati President Anote Tong told The Huffington Post that unprecedented coastal erosion is forcing some of his island nation communities to relocate, and declared that the United States should "not be so scared to talk about climate change."

Recent research confirmed that virtually all scientists agree that humans are contributing to climate change through actions such as the burning of fossil fuels.

On Wednesday, Clinton also spoke out against wildlife poaching. "We have a wildlife trafficking, poaching, murdering crisis," she said.

Beyond endangered species concerns, "Think about ungoverned space that is dominated by criminal and terrorist elements," Clinton warned, "murdering park ranchers and local people who try to prevent them from killing large numbers of animals, and think about what that means to our own security."


Clinton cited an incident earlier this month in the Central African Republic, where armed poachers killed at least 26 elephants at a protected sanctuary.

The country has been plagued by violence recently, and rebels ousted the president earlier this year.

Clinton pushed for conservation groups to help nations protect wildlife and their habitats, while also encouraging tougher ivory penalties in the U.S.

Luke Johnson   |   April 25, 2013   12:21 PM ET

Former President Bill Clinton, speaking at the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication on Thursday, said that he had considered asking his successor to paint a picture of him, but joked that he backed off after he saw the hacked self-portraits of Bush nude in the bathroom.

"I probably shouldn't say this, but I'm going to anyway," Clinton said at the ceremony on Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. "Your mother showed me some of your landscapes and animal paintings and I thought they were great, really great, and I seriously considered calling you and asking you to do a portrait of me -- until I saw the results of your sister's hacked emails. Those bathroom sketches were wonderful, but at my age I think I should keep my suit."

The Smoking Gun released Bush's pictures of himself in the shower and the bathtub in February. Art experts contacted by The Huffington Post said uniformly that they were perplexed by the paintings.

The former president's wife, Laura Bush, said Thursday on NPR that there would be no paintings at the Bush center until he gets "better."

JIM SALTER   |   April 6, 2013    9:06 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- Former President Bill Clinton and a panel of successful entrepreneurs had a simple message Friday for college students gathered in St. Louis: Dream big, have a social conscience and commit to your goals.

The former president brought his Clinton Global Initiative to Washington University. More than 1,000 university students from 75 countries and all 50 states are gathered for a weekend of sessions seeking practical and innovative solutions to the world's problems.

How Can the Opposition Make Sure Hillary Does Not Win in 2016...

  |   April 4, 2013    6:30 PM ET

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HILLEL ITALIE   |   April 4, 2013    8:07 AM ET

NEW YORK — So what does it all mean?

Hillary Rodham Clinton has a deal for a memoir and policy book about her years in the Obama administration, Simon & Schuster told The Associated Press. The book has yet to be titled and is tentatively scheduled for June 2014, in time for the summer reading season and for the midterm elections, when a promotional tour could easily blend with Democratic efforts work to recapture the House.

It Wasn't David Stockman Who Wrecked the Economy

  |   April 2, 2013    3:48 AM ET

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