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“His redemption is your redemption.”
That is the Daily Beast’s spot-on satirical assessment of Anthony Weiner’s campaign ad for New York City mayor. But it also is the message of both Eliot Spitzer and Mark Sanford, two other adulterers trying to revive their political careers by peddling that their rehabilitation will lead to ours.
Spitzer resigned his post as governor of New York in 2008 after the New York Times revealed he was a client of a high-end prostitution business.
Sanford is the former Republican South Carolina governor who in 2009 went missing for six days while shacking up with girlfriend and now fiancée, Maria Belen Chapur, in Argentina and later held a therapy session disguised as a press conference to come clean. He won a special election in May and now represents the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina.
Mr. Weiner is the former New York City congressman caught tweeting photos of his private parts in 2011. The Democrat says he has 64 ideas to make New York City the “middle class capital of the world.” In his commercial he tells potential voters, “I’m running for mayor because I’ve been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life. I hope I get a second chance to work for you.”
He filmed part of the commercial from his $3.3 million middle class home in the city, proving that if even a loser like him can make it big, so can you.
Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat who announced his run for New York City comptroller Sunday told the New York Times that he envisions a much broader scope for the office that includes monitoring high school graduation rates and overseeing whether government policies are effective. He told the Times that people keep coming up to him on the street and asking him to run and that the once-emasculated position “is ripe for greater and more exciting use of the office’s jurisdiction.” In other words, “Elect me and you will have more power.”
Mr. Sanford has promised something even better, spiritual reprieve. In his victory speech in May he said, “I want to acknowledge a God not just of second chances, but third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth chances.” If he got so many do-overs, think what’s possible for you!
The problem with their thesis is that their decision to run and the outcome of their races has nothing to do with the people and everything to do with each of them. It is as if they conflate relative anonymity with redemption, where once they have suffered through a few years out of politics and the public eye they can emerge from their respective cocoons new men and society with them in a bizarre cosmic two-fer.
But nothing they have said or done speaks to a change of heart, making them more like the Twinkies returning to store shelves next week in new packaging than men chastened and transformed by their experience.
Sanford, for his part, made it seem in his acceptance speech quoted above that people should expect more transgressions down the road. Spitzer showed nothing but his trademark arrogance in revealing that he is going to give himself more power if elected to an office that never had it. And Weiner, by basking in his middle class street cred while living like a Wall Street banker, shows how little he cares for revealing his authentic self, except maybe in future photos.
These men are not alone. Just about anyone guilty of what used to be considered major transgressions – except those deemed racist – need only step out of the public eye for a time before reappearing. It is as if Martha Stewart, for example, never went to prison. But the quickness with which people can move on shows how cheap penitence can now be come by. Otherwise, why even try a comeback, right? Whether Spitzer and Weiner win their elections like Sanford does not mean a new beginning for the rest of us, however. It’s just a return to a familiar lout over one people don’t know.