07/25/2013 02:35 pm ET Updated Sep 24, 2013

Bad and Good Questions About Weiner, Spitzer, and Sex


1: Sex addles the brain. No, not of politicians. Of political commentators and reporters. When writing about Weiner and Spitzer, pundits and reporters are asking all the wrong questions and none of the right ones.

2: Two lists --

  • FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Bill Clinton
  • Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush II, Obama

The first, of course, are presidents whose infidelity is a matter of record. The second is a list of those whom we presume to have been faithful to their spouses. Now, which list looks better to you?

The fact of the matter is that sexual judgment has nothing to do with the judgment they showed as president. None. Zip. Zero.

In this politicians are no different from artists, business people, scientists, and everyone else on earth.

3: I don't know the rules of your marriage, and you don't know the rules of mine. Marriage is the quintessence of what we mean by private affairs. They are not public. Why do Huma Abedin and Silda Wall Spitzer tolerate their husbands? Because they do. Maybe some day they won't. That's another thing about marriages -- the rules can change. Or they might not change. People can be wildly inconsistent when it comes to marital rules -- the same woman who divorces her husband for infidelity can admire a man who understands his wife's affair, especially if the husband were surreptitious and the wife honest. It's none of our business. For just a moment, take politics and public life out of the equation: have you never looked at someone else's marriage and thought, "I don't get this?" If you haven't, you are probably very young and know very few married people. Asking why a spouse tolerates behavior may be human, but it has nothing to do with someone's fitness for office (see presidential lists above).

4: Is a politician availing themselves of a privilege that they deny to others? This is a big and relevant question. There was nothing wrong in tap-tap Larry Craig wanting to pick up a man in an airport men's room; what was wrong was that he voted to deny rights to gay men who might want to do the same. In this instance, Spitzer has a problem that Weiner does not -- when he was New York's Attorney General, his office prosecuted sex workers and could have gone after clients like himself. There's more than a whiff of lèse-majesté here, not an attitude one would want in a democratic leader.

5: Is it sexual harassment? This is a big question. In the case of Weiner and Spitzer, the answer is no. Simple as that. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has a very different problem. But Filner's problem concerns imposing himself on unwilling others. Same thing with Vito Lopez. And why Shelly Silver's cover-ups deserve condemnation. In these cases, infidelity and the mode of sexual expression have nothing to do with anything - it's a matter of abuse of power.

6: How would you feel if the sexes were reversed? Or if it were a married gay man sexting? Sooner or later, a female politician is going to have an affair revealed. Does that disqualify her from office? I can promise you that within the next twenty years, someone will credibly run for office who is sex-blogging or sexting her breasts today. Do we really want this to be a disqualification?

7: The last is the question we may need to overcome. Here's the thing -- women look at a licentious man and think, "Is my husband like that?" Men look at a licentious women and think the same, adding fear of parentage to the mix. This is why we once didn't want divorced politicians -- not because we were a nation of Catholics but because it raised fear in the heart. What may be most interesting is that we've gone from fearing abandonment to looking at Weiner and Spitzer and saying, "People are just too complicated sexually; it has nothing to do with the job."