Political redemption in the Big Apple: It's up to you, New York(Read article summary)
Ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer joins ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner in apology tours asking New York voters for another shot at public trust, after sex scandals knocked them out of office.
How much forgiveness-asking can one cityâ€™s voting populace endure? Should New York be renamed Redemptionville?
Not just yet.
Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former Democratic congressman turned Big Apple mayoral candidate, is now thematically joined in his unceasing apology tour by disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), who launched a petition drive this week to be city comptroller (the top financial officer).
Just two years after a sexting scandal forced him to resign his House seat, Mr. Weiner is hoping heâ€™s logged enough time in the wilderness to re-earn his wifeâ€™s favor, make personal peace with his foibles, and, well, deserve the cityâ€™s top job. Mr. Spitzer, the one-time anti-Wall Street crusader felled by his dalliances with a prostitute, has spent the past five years gabbing on an ill-fated CNN talk show and writing op-eds. He seems to believe that heâ€™s paid his penance and that New York needs his services, as well.
If Spitzer collects enough signaturesÂ by Thursday, he and Weiner will be on the primary ballot in September.
The talking heads are hashing out the differences between the two men, as if the distance between their deeds â€“ Weiner used bad judgment but didnâ€™t do anything illegal, Spitzer crossed the line,Â they suggest â€“ provides insight about their fitness again to hold elected office. Why isnâ€™t the chattering class instead evaluating if either man has spent his limited time on the periphery of the limelight doing any kind of work that reflects real character restoration or sincere public service?
Well, because it seems that the mere casting of ballots in their favor would be sign enough of both. Political rebirth as evidence of a new lease on life. If the public says youâ€™re OK, youâ€™re OK. In America today, it would appear that many of us donâ€™t much care whether our public officials have the deepest character, the sturdiest morals. Only that they win â€“ or that they know how to negotiate their apologies deftly enough to communicate that theyâ€™re still winners.
Most recently, Weiner and Spitzer have former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) to thank for that. Cheating on his wife, lying about his whereabouts while doing said cheating, and embarking on an international tryst instead of running the state were not disqualifiers for voters there; they sent him to Congress in a special election this spring. Once, Sanford had national aspirations: How long before his name is added to the long list of Republicans likely to seek the partyâ€™s 2016 presidential nomination?
So, too, should the two New Yorkers tip their hats to former President Bill Clinton (survivor of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and related impeachment proceedings) and Sen. David Vitter, the Louisiana Republican whose telephone number was found in a D.C. madamâ€™s book and who later apologized for a â€śserious sin.â€ť
Should his wife make another White House bid, Mr. Clinton could be a future first spouse. Their marriage endures, and, through his familyâ€™s foundation, he is an international philanthropic superstar. And Senator Vitter never stepped down: He was elected to a second term in 2010.
New York is just the current epicenter of the reality television world takeover of American politics. Weiner and Spitzer are not rewriting history. Theyâ€™re just providing a rare ballot twofer. And the tabloids are jubilant! Spitzerâ€™s announcement this week brought headline writers a new raison d'ĂŞtre.
The cover of the New York Daily News barked, "What the El!"
The New York Post: "Here we ho again!"
The Daily News chimed in with, "Lust For Power.â€ť
While Weiner has seen his star rise anew â€“ recent polls suggest he has catapulted to the front of the pack of Democratic mayoral hopefuls â€“ New York residents seem divided about Spitzer.
"Too soon,'' Julia Mair, a documentary scriptwriter, told USA Today, as she walked past the media horde gathered Monday near Spitzer. "All these guys, they lie and they lie and they lie, and then they think we should trust them and give them another chance. Why should we think they're going to do anything different?''
Spitzer, for his part, is taking the forgiveness banner and running with it â€“ from network to cable, street corner to street corner.
â€śThere is forgiveness in the public, whether that forgiveness will extend to any individual is always a separate and independent question,â€ť Spitzer said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." â€śAnd I will have to make a case very different than any other person has made. I expect I will make it every day between now and the election, and I look forward to making it.â€ť
On MSNBCâ€™s "Morning Joe," Spitzer took the forgiveness-seeking one step further, stepping into rare â€“ real? â€“ emotional territory when asked personally how heâ€™s different from who he was five or six years ago.
â€śA lot of pain, a lot of pain,â€ť he said, his eyes filling with tears, his chin beginning to tremble. â€śYou go through that pain, you change.â€ť
Ultimately, though, the voters will decide. "I'm sorry" will get Weiner and Spitzer only so far. And maybe in addition to assessing their merits, their qualifications for the offices they seek, and their character, New Yorkers will be faced with another soul-searching question: Does forgiveness allow for ticket splitting?