Strip away your overtly partisan ideology and uncontrollable inherent biases. Empty your head of what you know and what you think you know.
Candidate A’s dereliction of duty included disappearing from office with no contact to his staff or constituents for six days, see-through lies about hiking the Appalachian Trail, the gigantic hypocrisy of supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage as “one man and one woman” while being married to one woman and covertly dating another, and, of course, being charged by the state’s Ethics Commission with 37 violations, including spending taxpayer money on business-class flights.
Candidate B’s transgressions included engaging women in social media-based conversations behind his wife’s back, see-through lies about being hacked, and … well, what else? … masturbating too much (while alternating between the DM screen and staring at his naked body in the mirror)?
Is one better? Is one worse? That’s entirely up to you. It all depends on what you think about Democrats versus Republicans, what constitutes fidelity and hypocrisy, how much you value physical contact vis-a-vis cheating, and whether you believe in comeuppance for raging egomaniacs. But one thing is clear: Comparing Mark Sanford to Anthony Weiner is like comparing apples and some fruit that tweets crotch pics when it’s bored. It’s just lazy.
Both Sanford and Weiner are attempting political comebacks. Sanford won election to the United States Congress on Tuesday night, and South Carolinians showed that they are unafraid to sublimate their social beliefs for their political ones. Weiner will likely seek the New York City mayoral iron throne in the fall. Democrats are gleefully hailing Sanford’s win, all too happy to point out the steaming pile of horse dung that is the phrase “Family Values Republicans.” Republicans are anxiously looking forward to Weiner’s run so they can break out the Book of Puns over Weiner’s lack of morality.
But that’s where the similarities end. That’s it. Both men made mistakes involving women and infidelity, but their “scandals” are entirely different. Sure, lumping them together makes a good headline, and it provides the legacy media and partisan tweeters an opportunity for perfect balance and fairness to the proceedings. It also does a tremendous disservice to what each man did, and what we should take away from each man’s supposed crimes of passion.
Mark Sanford has much more in common with Bill Clinton, David Vitter, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer and David Petraeus. Anthony Weiner’s story is more like that of Chris Lee, the shirtless Craigslist congressman. But because of the “comeback” angle, because of the obsessive need for balance, we’re stuck referring to these men and what they did in the same breath.
They are not the same. The real takeaway, for me, from the Sanford scandal is not what he did for true love, or how he handled it, but that he *still* judges others’ relationships while seemingly learning nothing about why it’s best to stay out of people’s bedrooms. The real takeaway, for me, from the Weiner scandal is that we need a frank conversation in this country about what constitutes cheating and the new tools that enable real-time pornography.
But these are not conversations we will have. Instead we’re stuck with a politico-media complex that lazily wants to string everything together so it can talk about COMEBACKS! in the blandest way possible. Cool story, bro.
Of course, in the aftermath of Sanford’s victory, the media’s all in:
“I wouldn’t presume to give any other politician advice,” Sanford told CNN’s John Berman on Wednesday morning. “I just know that we had a rather robust conversation down here in the first congressional district.”
Anthony Weiner loses 1 possible consultant. I just asked Mark Sanford if he had advice for Weiner…he wouldn’t give any.@startingptcnn
— John Berman (@JohnBerman) May 8, 2013
And while the tweets are funny, they achieve the same goal:
Somewhere in a New York apartment, Anthony Weiner turns off the TV, swivels in his leather chair, and smiles
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) May 8, 2013
There you have it, Mark Sanford lives to see another day. Anthony Weiner should sleep well tonight…
— Abby Huntsman (@HuntsmanAbby) May 8, 2013
RT @steveking_: If they get Sanford back, we get Weiner. Only fair.
— Brian Fung (@b_fung) May 8, 2013
Slade Sohmer is editor-in-chief of HyperVocal and co-host of SiriusXM’s Politics Powered By Twitter. Listen every day, 2-3 pm ET on POTUS 124.