A Politician’s Mistake: Should We Forgive and Forget?

Hey, let’s talk about some politicians.

I am a relatively young adult woman, though I have my days where I feel a million years old. One of the quickest ways to feel young, I have noticed, is to talk politics. There are hundreds of political scandals older than me (and probably you guys, too) so it is hard to decide if we are progressing or regressing when it comes to certain aspects of the political game. It feels like it has been a really long time since the last presidential sex scandal – like, I cannot even imagine something like that going down in President Obama‘s administration (no offense, President Clinton) – but really, the mid-’90s wasn’t all that long ago when we think about all of the presidential issues we have ever faced.

And of course, politics isn’t just talkin’ presidents. Political scandals encompass all the big titles: governors, senators, runner-ups and the like. What I have noticed is that we seem to have a faster rebound in forgiving the (usually) men that make huge mistakes while in office, or while holding a title with prestige. Do you think 50 years ago we would have allowed a man with a mistake like Mark Sanford’s back into office?

In case you don’t remember, Sanford was the former Governor of South Carolina until the media caught onto the affair he was having with a woman he called his “soulmate.” He admitted to having numerous inappropriate relationships with women that were not his wife, though his main mistress was the one that caused him to go into hiding, ignoring phone calls from his staff as well as his family. Sanford eventually resigned from his position, though in May of this year, Sanford was sworn back in to the House of Representatives.

Back in the day, an extramarital affair could kill someone’s career. Sanford was praised for his honesty and humility throughout the situation instead.

This week, Anthony Weiner, also formerly a member of the US House of Representatives, announced his intent to run for mayor of New York City. I want to assume we all remember Weiner at least from the combination of his unfortunate last name paired with his “sexting” scandal in which he tweeted lewd pictures to multiple women. Though Weiner initially blamed the incident on his Twitter account being hacked, he later admitted that he had control over his account and his actions, and Weiner resigned.

Yesterday, Weiner spoke while announcing his candidacy, stating: “I’ve made some big mistakes and I know I’ve let a lot of people down. But I’ve also learned some tough lessons.”

Many news sources are claiming that Weiner does not have the same appeal as Sanford and will not have much luck in his run, however the interesting aspect of the whole situation is the fact that Weiner is even attempting another political run after his previous, er…mishap. Have our values as a society changed, or do these incidents just seem more common because we are all much more tuned-in what with the access to everyone’s personal lives at all times via social networking and the internet and our fast paced environment? Do we forgive and forget easier because of the way we run now?

Personally, I believe political scandal is not more present today than it was ever before, I think privacy terms have changed. We expect people in the public eye to give us a particular amount of attention, which almost always involves their personal lives. I do not necessarily think it is wrong to demand certain details about men and women we are electing into office–because we certainly expect to trust authority and our leaders–so in that case, I believe it is okay to forgive an affair or a ridiculous amount of penis pictures. These things aren’t new to politics (well, tweeting penis pictures kind of is). Just because these situations are not as hush hush as they once were does not mean everyone should be punished harsher.

Forgive and forget, except for in extreme cases. Embezzlement and abuse are unforgivable to me. Cheating on your spouse I can get over.

Featured image via nymag, Sanford image via huffingtonpost