As Anthony Weiner’s latest admission that he has a sexting problem plays out, it can only help female politicians who have hopes of high office. Enough with these guys, voters might be thinking, as reminders of male politicians who have sinned cross their minds and TV screens.
Will a disgusted electorate decide that it’s time for more women in high office, with one woman in particular coming to mind? If that happens, Hillary Rodham Clinton, tops in polls of potential presidential candidates and already garnering endorsements, would seem the most likely to benefit.
But will the collateral damage of this particular scandal bring more harm to the woman who has a close tie to one of its players?
The slide show of bad behavior includes Eliot Spitzer, the Democrat running for New York City comptroller after a prostitution scandal forced him to resign as governor; Sen. David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana and repentant ex-client of an escort service; and Mark Sanford, a Republican elected to Congress after a public indiscretion with his then-mistress, now fiancée, in Argentina.
The list, too long and depressing to fully recount, transcends party and geography. However, the gender similarity is obvious. Whether it’s ego or narcissism or something else, let a psychologist figure it out. But voters can’t help but compare the sexual shenanigans to the serious resolve of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat brokering across-the-aisle agreements on sexual assault in the military, or New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, a Republican governor in a blue state who says she’s too busy to consider a White House run.
It’s difficult to imagine those elected officials or others, such as Maine’s Sen.
Susan Collins (R) or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts, engaging in the off-duty distractions for which so many of their male colleagues seem to find the time and energy.
But in the case of Anthony Weiner, who is probably the only one who still believes he will be the next mayor of New York City, the wife standing by and speaking up for him is Huma Abedin, the longtime close aide to Clinton. That’s Hillary Clinton, who defended and then remained with her husband, President Bill Clinton, during his affair with Monica Lewinsky and subsequent impeachment.
The comparisons are inevitable and not too welcome for a woman who has built a strong reputation as a New York senator and U.S. secretary of state and is now a leading Democratic contender for the White House in 2016, if she chooses to run.
A wronged wife is sympathetic, and Clinton benefited from some of that sentiment when she began her independent political career. But who wants to be known for what was done to her rather than what she has done?
The outsize personality of Bill Clinton was always something she would have had to deal with as a candidate for president. After his polarizing performance campaigning for his wife in South Carolina in the 2008 primaries, I figured Hillary Clinton would send him off on a global mission if she decided to run in 2016.
The last thing she needs is to go back in time when so much of who she was depended on what he did. As loyal as she must be to her former employee, Hillary Clinton must surely be wishing Weiner and Abedin would disappear from the headlines, though it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, N.C., has worked at the New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter: @mcurtisnc3