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July 24, 2013 11:54 AM The Weiner Circus

By Ed Kilgore

I guess it would be irresponsible of me to fail to take notice of the firestorm that appears to be consuming the mayoral campaign if not the entire career of Anthony Weiner.

But all I have to add is a basic question: What sort of standard are we supposed to apply to a politician caught in incorrigibly bad behavior that is not directly relevant to the job he or she (though it pretty much always is a “he,” isn’t it?) is performing or aspires to perform? The Berlusconi standard of a brazen assertion that private excesses are an inevitable byproduct of the appetites of Great Men? The William Jefferson Clinton standard whereby it’s not the “crime” but the coverup that matters? The David Vitter standard that revolves around the apparent sincerity of a recantation and the willingness of political allies to offer hypocritical absolution?

I just don’t know. It goes without saying that Weiner was consciously (viz. the now-infamous twitter-handle “Carlos Danger”) playing with fire in re-engaging in the most media-heavy political environment other than Washington Itself while continuing to mess around with strangers on the internet. It also goes without saying that the kind of ego that often goes with political ambition and even public accomplishment isn’t “normal” in any conventional sense. Is Weiner a “sex addict” or just an egomaniac? And either way, could New York voters ever disassociate Weiner from the disturbing images he’s foisted upon them for a second time now?

In asking Weiner to fold his campaign and then go off somewhere and deal with his problems in private, the New York Times editorial board probably best captured the prevailing public sentiment of fatigue with the man and his issues. But if Weiner does become a footnote in political history and nobody’s laughing at jokes about him anymore, we won’t necessarily have learned much more about the line between public and private behavior or how to judge people who combine great strengths and weaknesses, and great virtues and vices, in the same messy human condition.

If you have anything you’d like to say about the Weiner circus, please feel free to do so in the comment thread.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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