It occurs to me — as it undoubtedly has to you — that with Eliot Spitzer now declaring for New York City comptroller and Anthony Weiner already in the race for mayor, any distinction between city hall and a halfway house is just a matter of definition.
Although Spitzer demurs, he clearly has taken instruction from Weiner’s bold campaign. The former congressman, supposedly disgraced for sending pictures of himself in his undies to women he did not know, is suddenly a viable mayoralty candidate. He is helped in this regard by the blah-ness of the rest of the field and the fact that name recognition — no matter what the cause — is better than a stellar reputation and the proclivity to be photographed with your clothes on. Weiner is unlikely to win — but not as unlikely as he was just two or three weeks ago.
You can just see Spitzer gazing out the window from his Fifth Avenue apartment and seeing Weiner everywhere. He must wonder how a man who is a confessed icky-person can be a viable candidate. Compared to what Weiner did, Spitzer is an all-American boy. He merely had sex with a prostitute, paid her well (we don’t know about Social Security and other benefits) and made her famous for the usual Warholian 15-minutes. He had to think, If Anthony could come back, so could I. With that, his hat went into the ring.
As I astutely noted in a recent piece, we have become exceedingly French in our approach to sex. Scandals that once used to end careers now only interrupt them. Mark Sanford, having returned from hiking the Appalachian Trail, was recently elected to Congress from South Carolina. The current senior senator from Louisiana, David Vitter, was reelected even though his name surfaced in connection with a prostitution ring. As for the French, they seem to be going our way. Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s political career crashed after he was accused — but not convicted — of raping a hotel maid. He admitted to a wildly libidinous lifestyle and it seemed to do him no good.
My beef with both Weiner and Spritzer has little to do with sex and a lot to do with judgment. Both men put their futures, their reputations and the mental health of their families in the hands of either perfect strangers or hookers. Their actions were so reckless, so thoroughly insane, that voters would have to be almost as insane to vote for them. Spitzer was the governor of New York. This is the same office occupied by Franklin D. Roosevelt — and often a stepping-stone to the presidency. What the hell was he thinking?
In the meantime, we should all be grateful. We are entering the summer news doldrums. And here, thank you, bounds Eliot Spitzer onto the front page. He joins Anthony Weiner there. This is going to be an interesting summer.