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Ahlin: How do these schmucks succeed as politicians?

Jane Ahlin

Not sure where I heard it, but somebody said that former congressman/current New York mayoral wannabe Anthony Weiner makes former South Carolina governor/recently elected Congressman Mark Sanford look normal. Talk about damning with faint praise. No matter. They both qualify for a pathetic political fraternity. In the words of LA Daily News columnist Doug McIntyre, too many politicians "have a penis problem -- a political penis problem." (Oh, my ... and I always thought the poor guys were just victims of pants with bad zippers.)

No question Weiner's need to send pictures of his privates to female sexters along with dirty talk under the pseudonym "Carlos Danger" seems super-weird to me. Then again, the notion his actions are bizarre may be generational. If people my age are repulsed, Millennials likely "get" what sexting is all about, although they, too, may find it stomach-turning that a 48-year-old man gets his jollies that way, especially since he didn't quit doing it after the habit forced his resignation from Congress.

Of course, Weiner's scandal isn't the only one to trigger America's "ick" reaction this July. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner seems to have indulged in behavior that could be prosecuted. Yet another politician with membership in the U.S. House of Representatives on his resume, Filner appears to be a serial sexual harasser and not the brightest sexual harasser around -- that is, if it's brighter to target women who might not be believed. The women who have come forward include a retired Navy rear admiral, a dean at San Diego State University, a school psychologist, and his own campaign communications director, among others: in all, eight women. Well ... eight so far.

Note that he has apologized to the women he "offended" but doesn't agree what he did was sexual harassment or that he should resign. Perhaps he's invented his own category for groping, making lewd remarks, and planting sloppy kisses on unsuspecting women. Anyway, after apologizing, he set off for two whole weeks of therapy. He says he'll return to be "the best mayor (he) can be" and "the best person (he) must be." (Pause here to gag?) At what might be the height of chutzpah, his attorney is trying to get his legal expenses paid by the city of San Diego. Why? Filner was not forced to take sexual harassment training after he took office, so it's San Diego's own fault.

Did I mention former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer -- who was forced to resign after his penchant for prostitutes came to light -- now is running for New York City comptroller? The poor guy wants an office -- any office. Next thing you know, Arnold Schwartzenegger will be running for California's Flabby Old Weightlifters' Council. (You just know California has one.)

And then there are the wives. A Paul Noth cartoon shows a couple in their wedding best at the altar, as the minister says, "Will you stand by him through humiliating revelation after humiliating revelation, and then -- once you're sure it couldn't possibly get any worse -- when even more humiliating revelations come to light?"

Lucky for Filner's significant other, she and he hadn't gotten past the engaged stage, so she could just turn tail and run. But for the others, it has to be brutal. Maybe because "The Good Wife" ranks among my favorite TV shows, I pay attention to the wives and their complicated situations, particularly if there are children. Still, fiction is fiction, and I'm loath to speculate why one political wife sends the guy packing (Jenny Sanford, Maria Shriver) and another tries to salvage the marriage (Silda Spitzer, Huma Abenid).

Besides, the question isn't how the wives react or move on. The question is why so many sex-obsessed schmucks succeed in politics. Why are they so sure that "hiking the old Appalachian Trail" is one of the perks of power?

Ahlin is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is a part of Forum News Service. Email her at