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Anthony Weiner—The Creepy Factor

Anthony Weiner is on the rise. He’s only four points behind in the race for mayor, and New Yorkers are showing their love to the disgraced congressman. At a Laurelton Memorial Day Parade in Queens, spectators shouted words of support and vied to get a picture with him. One devotee yelled from her porch, “Welcome back! We need you!”

Do we?

Some say yes, arguing that if Governor Mark Sanford can get reelected to his old House seat, why not Weiner to the mayor’s office. But can we even equate the two?

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post says no. While the comparisons between Sanford and Weiner are inevitable, “the differences are more significant than the similarities.” Here’s a summary of her points:

  1. Sanford has a long history with his voters, having had his name on the general election ballot five times, three of them for the same office. Weiner is running for an office he has never held, and he’s seeking support from voters he has never represented.

  2. The scandals took “different arcs.” Once Sanford’s affair with Maria Belen Chapur was exposed, he owned up to it (and eventually married her). “Weiner continued to deny that the crotch photos sent through his Twitter account were in fact of his own crotch.”
  3. After the scandals broke, Sanford remained in office, enjoying a 55 percent approval rating when he left, while Weiner was forced to resign.
  4. The two offices are different. Sanford, a staunch conservative, ran in a Republican district, but when people vote for local office, they look beyond partisanship to find someone who offers concrete solutions to their immediate problems. “Weiner made his reputation not with his legislative achievements, but by doing partisan battle on cable news channels.”
  5. The circumstances in which the two decided to run are very different. Sanford responded to the unique opportunity of a special election, which meant a short campaign and weak rivals. Weiner faces a long campaign with few allies and a field of seasoned opponents.

While all these points are good and valid, it seems that Tumulty is missing one point—the nature of the scandals themselves.

Here’s the difference: Sanford committed adultery—a violation of the marriage contract, complete with cover-ups, lies, and manipulations. While this is bad, it is something we can all relate to. We’ve either had an affair ourselves, had a parent who cheated, known a friend who committed adultery, or had a spouse who left us for someone else.h-MARK-SANFORD-348x516.jpg

We know what adultery looks like. That doesn’t mean we approve of it. We don’t. But we know the twists and turns of it, its complexity, its cruelty, its rationalities, its pain. We both hate it and understand it. It’s a tale as old as David and Bathsheba, a sad, infuriating story that plays out on the stage of everyday life.

Texting lewd photos to young women (which was also a violation of the marriage contract) does not. Does this make what Weiner did fundamentally “worse”? No. But it does make it less relatable—which matters in elections.

All of us can, on some level, understand what happened with Sanford. When we see him on the television screen, we react by shaking our heads with disappointment, maybe even anger. With Weiner, we cringe. Most of us simply can’t relate to Weiner taking naked pictures of himself and sending them to young women he had never even met. It reeks of perversion. The undertones are predatory, addictive, and narcissistic. In a word, creepy.

Some have accused conservatives of being inconsistent in their support for Sanford and their condemnation of Weiner, but that’s because they’re equating the scandals. People reelected Sanford not just because he admitted his sin—as Weiner eventually did as well—but because they aren’t creeped out by what he did. They are angry, shocked, and many are responding from their own painful experiences with adultery and divorce. But with Weiner, it’s a whole different animal.

We tolerate sin and fallenness in our leaders. If they learn from it, they can even be stronger. We look at them and say, by the grace of God there go I. But that’s harder to do that when we enter the world of the perverse, the lewd, the predatory, and the creepy. 

While many of us can admit that we could easily, given the right (or should I say wrong) circumstances, stumble down the same trail as Sanford, most of don’t see ourselves, as mature adults, falling for the temptation of taking a photo of our genitalia and sending it to strangers.

Like it or not, in reality, normal sin trumps creepy every time. We can forgive that which we understand, but when it comes to aberrant behavior we don’t understand, forgiveness isn’t even the issue. Being eerily uncomfortable is. When we understand something, we can face it, deal with it, come to terms with it. But when we don’t, we just want to get away from it. And we certainly don’t trust it.

  1. Mollie Hemingway

    Wait, so sending lewd pics to teenagers is considered creepy now? Thanks for letting me know!

    As for Weiner, he seems as good as any of the more “normal” candidates out there. He certainly can’t be worse than Bloomberg.

  2. Colin B Lane

    Sorry, New Yorkers, but you have to decide on your own whether a clinically narcissistic lying pervert is the guy you want as your mayor. That question has nothing to do with South Carolina.

  3. Colin B Lane
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: As for Weiner, he seems as good as any of the more “normal” candidates out there. He certainly can’t be worse than Bloomberg.

    Yes, he can.

  4. Pseudodionysius

    “Weiner rises from the ashes: New York hot dog vendors wary.”

  5. Todd

    The Sanford story is a love story.  There is no comparison.  And I am not angry at him. I have no idea what was going on in his household. 

  6. DrewInWisconsin

    After all the nonsense from Nanny Bloomberg, New Yorkers are excited about the prospect of replacing him with . . . Anthony Weiner?

    Is there no one else available?

  7. MBF

    Anthony Weiner: the Pee Wee Herman of politics.

  8. Colin B Lane
    Colin B Lane

    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: As for Weiner, he seems as good as any of the more “normal” candidates out there. He certainly can’t be worse than Bloomberg.

    Yes, he can.

    Yes, he can (part 2).

  9. KC Mulville

    Shhhh … oh please let him run for mayor,

    oh please let him run for mayor …

    even if he wins, we can’t lose.

  10. Fricosis Guy

    The inventor of the NY System was prescient, if not a good speller.

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  11. Group Captain Mandrake
    DrewInWisconsin: Is there no one else available? · 31 minutes ago

    Put it this way.  When I look at the current slate and add Weiner, it’s the same as adding zero to zero.  The answer is still zero.

    My view on politicians who have committed morally reprehensible acts is that they should consider taking a leaf from John Profumo and the direction his life took after he resigned from office.

  12. Don Tillman
    Denise McAllister: At a Laurelton Memorial Day Parade in Queens, spectators shouted words of support and vied to get a picture with him. One devotee yelled from her porch, “Welcome back! We need you!”

    My guess would be: plant.

    This sounds all the world like the crowd was well-seeded with strategically placed cheerleaders.

  13. thelonious
    Todd: The Sanford story is a love story.  There is no comparison.  And I am not angry at him. I have no idea what was going on in his household.  · 55 minutes ago

    Cheating on your wife and marrying the woman you’re having an adulterous affair with is a love story?   Both men were creeps.  Both are also capable of redemption, but I really don’t see a moral difference between the two men.

  14. Owl of Minerva

    Just read this article before reading your piece. Good to read together.

  15. Joe

    I think your analysis is right, Denise, but I wish it wasn’t. Weiner’s actions shouldn’t be considered worse because of people’s normative hang-ups. Cheating’s cheating, whether as a classic philanderer or a techno savvy (or not) geek.

    Also, I hope we can someday retire the word “creep” as a personal identifier. It’s the biggest insult you can give to a man. It implies that, even if he’s outwardly normal, there’s something inside him that’s twisted and perverse. You can overcome hot-headedness and aggression, but you can’t overcome creepiness.

    For one, it only applies to men; even if a woman was to do the exact thing, she wouldn’t be called a creep. Two, it’s mostly used by women. A guy could be outside my window staring in with a bloody chainsaw in the middle of the night, and I would just assume he’s doing some logging when it’s cool out and nicked himself. Three, it usually, though not always, applies to ugly dudes. Take any romantic comedy, swap out the lead hunk with Danny DeVito, and prince charming would denigrate to a “creep” pretty quickly.

  16. Roberto

    Well thank goodness the “arc” is different, then I suppose everything is fine.

    Now if the nature of the scandal revolved around a consideration such as, “It depends on what the meaning of the words ‘is’ is.” of course then we would have to think again.

    Nope, nothing absurd in this robust defense of Sanford.

  17. dittoheadadt

    “Texting lewd photos to young women (which was also a violation of the marriage contract) does not. Does this make what Weiner did fundamentally “worse”? No. But it does make it less relatable—which matters in elections.”

    Not to Democrats, it doesn’t.  If it did, Bill Clinton would be a pariah.  He’s a serial sexual predator, a known liar (impeached, SCOTUS-boycotted, disbarred), and yet he’s a HERO to nearly the entirety of the Left and Democrats.

    He humiliated, disrespected, and violated in the worst ways his wife.  She, ever the opportunist, didn’t leave him…and yet SHE’S a hero as well to nearly the entirety of the Left and Democrats and “feminists.”

    The Left has no core values, no foundational principles, no moral compass.  Their only raison d’etre is the acquisition and expansion of power.  So Weiner’s transgressions are immaterial to them.

    Inasmuch as NYC is essentially a Democrat enclave, Weiner has no baggage.

  18. The King Prawn

    As well as he’s doing, perhaps New Yorkers can relate. Now that’s a scary/sad thought.

  19. dittoheadadt
    thelonious

    Todd: The Sanford story is a love story.  There is no comparison.  And I am not angry at him. I have no idea what was going on in his household.

    Cheating on your wife and marrying the woman you’re having an adulterous affair with is a love story?   Both men were creeps.  Both are also capable of redemption, but I really don’t see a moral difference between the two men.

    Both men were cads; only Weiner was a creep.

    Sanford fell out of love with his wife (it happens).  He fell in love with another woman (it happens).  He adulterated with the other woman (it happens, but it shouldn’t).  He married the other woman (it doesn’t always happen, but it should).  Good for them.  So yes, it IS a “love story.”  It’s also a sad story, and more.

    Morality is not all-or-nothing.  It’s got degrees.  I see a moral difference between the two men.  Not that Sanford is pure, but he’s a helluva lot less unpure (less the “creep”) than the junk-texting, lewd and perverse Weiner.

  20. Roberto
    dittoheadadt

    Both men were cads; only Weiner was a creep.

    Sanford fell out of love with his wife (it happens).  He fell in love with another woman (it happens).  He adulterated with the other woman (it happens, but it shouldn’t).  He married the other woman (it doesn’t always happen, but it should).  Good for them.  So yes, it IS a “love story.”  It’s also a sad story, and more.

    Morality is not all-or-nothing.  It’s got degrees.  I see a moral difference between the two men.  Not that Sanford is pure, but he’s a helluva lot less unpure (less the “creep”) than the junk-texting, lewd and perverse Weiner. · 1 minute ago

    If abandoning your wife is a love story then yes indeed in this case the morality does appear to be “nothing”.

    Interesting that of the two Weiner “the creep” is the one still on his first marriage.