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Sunday, July 14, 2013

NY Daily News: Behind The Rise of Sex-Scandal-Scarred Politicians Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner

From Editor Betsy Combier: The New York Daily News writes that "we", the general public, are "more tolerant of personal indiscretions, notably sexual" (see the editorial re-posted here) yet the same newspaper makes innocent teachers into sexual perverts and admonishes arbitrators who do not fire them without evidence. Which is it, folks?

Eliot Spitzer

I found the Editorial in the NY Daily News on Sunday, July 14, 2013, interesting, because reporters over there (see Ben Chapman's postsas an example - I love Stanley Feldman, and believe he is 100% innocent of any charges allegedly "committed"), were given the responsibility to make innocent teachers into sexual perverts in order to get them fired. I think the media needs to have a monitor to curb the political targeting we see all the time, in the news, our schools, and in the courts so that opinions of powerful, wealthy politicians don't have the right of way over rational, fact-based news and decisions.

Betsy Combier

Behind the rise of sex-scandal-tarred politicians Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner
It was an amalgam of forces that allowed the postscandal returns of Spitzer, Weiner and South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, who survived a deceit-filled extramarital affair as governor and was just elected to Congress.

SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2013, 4:29 AM

Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner are two very lucky dogs.

If you doubt we view scandal differently these days, it was just 50 years ago that New Yorkers and pundits were outraged when Gov. Nelson Rockefeller tied the knot with a divorced woman, Margaretta (Happy) Murphy, who was also giving up custody of her four kids.

Nelson and Happy Rockefeller 

Then, in an epic battle for the Republican Party’s soul, he ran for the 1964 presidential nomination against ultraconservative Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. He lost partly because Happy gave birth to a child three days before the critical California primary, inspiring further moral condemnation. His lead vanished and he lost the primary and campaign.

Marilyn Monroe with Robert and Jack Kennedy

Meanwhile, we now all know that President John F. Kennedy was regularly having sex in the White House with a 19-year-old intern and other women. His philandering got a pass because, well, the media operated differently back then.

Now, an amalgam of forces allows the post-scandal returns of Spitzer, Weiner and South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, the avatar of the newly resuscitated, who survived a deceit-filled extramarital affair as governor and was just elected to Congress. Ditto David Vitter of Louisiana, who managed to keep his Senate seat despite a prostitution scandal.

Weiner sends out pictures of himself


We’re more tolerant of personal indiscretions, notably sexual. We increasingly differentiate personal and professional conduct. And a less-protective press revels in the mishaps of public officials, whose foibles are further tolerated precisely because we hold them in such low esteem to begin with.

We thus cheer them on, even vote for them, at the same time we hold our noses and their professional class in close to utter contempt.

“We’ve gone from being shocked to being entertained,” says Jeffrey Seglin, an ethics and public policy expert at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. “It’s now all kind of a circus.”

For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, it was quite different. There weren’t public opinion polls or much coverage of personal scandals, notes Betty Koed, associate historian of the U.S. Senate. Many constituents had little contact with their representatives and little information about their private lives.

There were exceptions that go back as far as the 1800 presidential election. As historian Bernard Weisberger has detailed, scandalmongering Scottish newspaper editor James Callender sought to discredit the winner, Thomas Jefferson, by breaking the tale of his relationship with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves.

(And who can forget the even earlier, positively operatic sex scandal involving Alexander Hamilton, then secretary of the treasury, and Maria Reynolds, who had an affair with him, then blackmailed him.)

These days, Koed said, very little about politicians’ lives remains private. And that all changed in fundamental ways with former Sen. Gary Hart and Bill Clinton.

In 1987, Hart was caught having an extramarital affair while running for the Democratic presidential nomination. A photo of him and model Donna Rice on the Monkey Business yacht in Bimini prompted him to drop out a week later.

During the 1992 Democratic primary, candidate Clinton confronted allegations of model-actress Gennifer Flowers that she was one of his multiple affairs back in Arkansas.

Gennifer Flowers claimed she had a 12-year-long sexual relationship with former President Bill Clinton.

But amid a distinctly new sort of media feeding frenzy, he survived and won the nomination and presidency.

Key to his survival was discerning public willingness to separate personal failings from issues in which they were interested, says Frank Greer, a prominent political and media consultant whose quickie focus groups concluded that New Hampshire voters, especially critical independents, were more interested in jobs and health care than Flowers.
“I told him that people were more interested in their futures than your past,” Greer recalls. “If he stuck it out and made the race about something other than his improprieties, he could win.”

Flowers, of course, was a hint of a bigger mess to come. As President, the House impeached Clinton for lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice, in part arising from his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, a White House employee. But he rode that out, too, surviving a Senate trial and now enjoys a late-life revival as a popular globe-trotting statesman.

“Clinton was a turning point,” says historian Richard Norton Smith, who is completing the first major biography of Nelson Rockefeller.

“Clinton is the prime example,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. “The public is more aware of human frailties; more accustomed to leaders who get into trouble, and has shown a capacity, even a willingness, to forgive and forget.”

So when it comes to Spitzer and Weiner, Kohut said, there will be a greater inclination to at least weigh their frequenting a prostitute and sexting weird, personal photos against the merits of their past performance.
It’s all part of a changing ethical and moral landscape that’s been confronted by Irving Rein, who teaches communications studies at Northwestern University and has written important works on persuasion and influence in popular culture.

A younger generation, especially, is more “ho-hum” and less inclined to be judgmental about many behaviors. He saw that when using “The Social Network,” the film about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, as a teaching tool.

He lectured on how troubling it was that Zuckerberg exploited friends and enemies to get his company going. His students felt he overreacted. That's what folks in high-tech do, they told him.

Rein scratches his head — then notices how European TV ratings are soaring for the ongoing Tour de France bike race, whose image was destroyed by drug-driven scandals that prompted Lance Armstrong to be stripped of his seven Tour titles.
Or so we might have assumed.
“I don’t want to become a relativist, but the marketplace makes decisions about what is valid and not valid,” said Rein.

With Weiner and Spitzer, the New York marketplace, which has experienced both for a long time, may see their pasts as somehow virtuous and outweighing their indiscretions.

But all of us still clearly draw lines. “There’s simultaneously much less tolerance than before for corruption and malfeasance in office, both petty and grand,” says John Mark Hansen, a University of Chicago political scientist, currently steeped in books on Louisiana corruption and Chicago machine politics.

Dennis Culloton, a Chicago media and political consultant, discerns New Yorkers relishing tales of a rise, a fall and a return from the dead. It is, after all, a quintessential American narrative.

But he also knows painfully well that there’s more sympathy when the fall involves sex.

He was spokesman for then-Illinois Gov. George Ryan, recently released after six years in federal prison for corruption in office. There will be no second act for the Republican — since his downfall is traced to a car crash in which six children of a minister and his wife died, revealing a scheme in which unqualified truckers got state licenses via bribes.
It’s way different for Spitzer and Weiner, especially in an age in which kids put their sexual orientation — and sometimes their sexual exploits — on Facebook.

“Some New Yorkers will root for them because it was just about sex,” said Culloton. “Their views are that no one was really hurt, nobody picked their pocket, and the two of them have already been humbled.”

And, yet, there may ultimately be another element at play: derision of anyone and everyone who serves in public office. That has lowered the overall bar, making it easy even for baggage-carrying former officials to jump over it.

“It’s more than just a more tolerant attitude toward indiscretions” or just being inundated with scandal on TV and the Internet and becoming desensitized, says Sherry Jeffe, a political analyst who is a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s school of policy, planning and development.

But the standards by which we judge politicians are just not very high anymore. Look at the abysmal, low-teens approval ratings of Congress.

Then, factor in how little attention so many people actually pay to politics and government. A self-reverential, naval-gazing media incessantly dissects cable news food fights and Sunday morning Washington chat fests but the audiences are small, with most Americans disassociated from the process and dismissive of its practitioners.

It cuts across gender lines, too, as noted Friday by a prominent New York businesswoman, taken aback that “women are not rising up against Spitzer and Weiner as one would assume.”

At the moment, in fact, Weiner is leading the once-presumed front-runner, Christine Quinn, among women — whom you would think would be especially offended by his behavior.

“Politicians just don’t mean much to us anymore,” said Jeffe.
She should know. Disgraced politicians and generals seem to gravitate to her campus.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is now housed at the Schwarzenegger Center for State and Global Policy, while former General and CIA Director David Petraeus just joined the faculty as a Judge Widney Professor, “a title reserved for eminent individuals from the arts, sciences, professions, business and community and national leadership,” according to the university.

If Spitzer and Weiner don’t win, there is apparently always the classroom.

Manhattan madam Kristin Davis says Spitzer was scared of meeting hooker at building his father built
Posted: 12:33 AM, July 14, 2013

Kristin Davis

Eliot Spitzer feared his daddy would find out about his hooker habit, according to his rival in the city comptroller’s race.

Kristin Davis, the famed “Manhattan Madam,” told The Post she first met then-Attorney General Spitzer in 2005 when he became a customer of her prostitution business, then called Dream Girls.

Davis said she got an urgent call from her booker:

“Look, there’s a client here, a $1,300 appointment, and the girl’s running late. He refuses to wait outside. You’re going to have to let him in or lose the call.”

Davis hustled to her apartment in the 57-story Corinthian on East 38th Street, which doubled as a brothel.

“He told me he was an attorney,” Davis said. “He told me the reason he didn’t want to wait outside was because his father had developed the building. The staff knew him.”

Bernard Spitzer, a real-estate titan and philanthropist, erected the building in 1988.

Davis, who managed the hedge fund Bisys before switching to the oldest profession, took the occasion to dish about her alleged dealings with the disgraced ex-governor, who resigned in 2008 when the feds caught him frequenting a prostitution ring, the Emperor’s Club VIP.

Davis maintains she supplied him with prostitutes on a weekly basis for five years. He paid cash and used such aliases as “ES,” “James” and “Bill Gray,” she said. Officials reportedly also found records linking him to Davis’ service

While Spitzer was polite in that first encounter, Davis said, she later blackballed him as a client twice when he racked up complaints from her girls.

“He was aggressive, trying to force them to do things,” she said. “They felt he was too rough. He was trying to pull your head toward him to make you do things uncovered. You’d say, ‘No, I have to put a condom on,’ only he’s not listening to you. He’s just steamrolling over you.”

Ashley Dupre

But Davis said Spitzer had a soft side. One of his regulars, gorgeous brunette Irma Nici, once told him she was having her cat treated for cancer. The next time they trysted, Spitzer pulled out an extra $500.

“Here, this is to take care of your cat,” Davis said he told Nici.

In response to Davis’ tales, Spitzer spokeswoman Lisa Linden said, “Eliot has long said these assertions are untrue. He’s running for comptroller on his record and on the issues that matter most to New Yorkers.”

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