Anton Savage: US politician Weiner wouldn't have seen light of day here again after 'sex pic' scandal
Published 01/09/2016 | 09:07
"Irish politicians never resign.”
That nugget gets produced every time any of them gets in trouble, and like nearly every other “only in Ireland” cliche, it’s as false as it is hackneyed.
Just ask Trevor Sargent, John Deasy, Willie O’Dea, Eamon Gilmore, or any of the others who handed in their own walking papers.
If anything sets us apart (at least from our neighbours across the Atlantic) it is not our lack of resignations, but rather our lack of redemption for those who resign.
The second chance in Irish politics is a rare thing.
Few representatives resign and go on to attain offices equal to the one they left (although it would be a foolish person who’d bet against Willie O’Dea getting a Cabinet seat in the future).
In America, forgiveness is easier to come by. Even Richard Nixon, the personification of sleaze, corruption and evil in the 1970s, was partially rehabilitated as a diplomat.
The greatest example of American electoral forgiveness comes in the form of one-time Congressman Anthony Weiner.
The promising young (married) politician resigned when it emerged he tweeted pictures of his privates visible through his shorts.
It was a case of such stunning nominative determinism that tabloid editors wept tears of joy as they considered the possible headlines.
“Hung out to dry”, “Weiner Exposed”, “Weiner Bawls”, “Mounting Pressure on Weiner” – these are just a tiny selection of what they came up with.
The headline highpoint (or lowpoint, depending on your perspective and maturity) came when President Obama criticised him, resulting in the front page headlines “Obama beats Weiner”.
It was a disaster for a man of whom great things were expected and who was part of Democrat royalty – his wedding was presided over by Bill Clinton; his wife Huma Abedin was an advisor to Hilary and she is now one of her top aides.
In the face of all the publicity, you’d have thought Weiner would have just shrivelled up.
Far from it. He thrust himself forward as a candidate for New York mayor.
So confident was he that he invited a film crew on the campaign. Thanks to the documentary “Weiner”, you can watch his campaign flourish ... until the moment it is revealed that he had done it again.
The effect on the polls was predictable.
Yet still he would not lie down. He threw himself into punditry and had managed to carve out a very successful career as a media analyst.
Until this week, when we found out ... he’s done it again!
The forgiving American electorate has probably reached the end of their tether.
But the experience should teach us something; however much you might dislike Irish politicians, when they quit, they stay resigned.
More importantly, they don’t tweet pictures of their junk.