By Kevin Meyer
It's been just over two years since Anthony Weiner's first admission to behaving badly, leading to his resignation from Congress. At the time I was amazed at how many folks tried to rationalize his behavior, prompting me to write a post on The Character of a Weiner. I basically argued that character is character and comes from a single brain, so trying to rationalize acceptance of poor character in one area while hoping for good character in another is ridiculous.
Character is not divisible. Thought patterns in the brain are not
divisible. You cannot say a person has a high level of character in one
area and forgive a lack of character in another. You cannot say a
person can make great decisions in one aspect of life and be a complete
idiot in another. It's the same brain. The differences are made
consciously, and the fact that there are differences points directly at a
lack of character. That's especially true when it wasn't one lapse of
judgement but many. And we probably don't know everything yet.
Today's latest admission by Anthony Weiner, aka Carlos Danger, is a confirmation of my point. That was two years ago, and here we are. And once again we have some nuts that somehow believe that this is "simply about someone's personal sex life" and are completely oblivious to the bigger picture – such as Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory. Thankfully The New York Times already has a different opinion.
I've become pretty disgusted with politics and politicians, to the extent that this year I've purposely tried to ignore most of it to avoid wasting time and energy on something I can't truly affect. To a lurching libertarian like myself, a financial conservative but a social liberal, both major parties are equally pathetic. Democrats basically trying to eliminate personal responsibility and put everyone on the government dole, and the hypocrisy of Republicans yammering about smaller, less intrusive government – except when it comes to our love lives, bedrooms, and wombs. Kennedy and Reagan wouldn't recognize their parties.
But when leadership and the critical character component of leadership become an issue, then you've touched a part of me that I care about deeply, and I can't resist proferring an opinion.
You see, Ms. Clark-Flory, this isn't about sex. This is about character. A critical aspect of leadership. Perhaps THE most critical.
Like all of us I'm not perfect. I've wronged people and made the occasional poor choice – thankfully not to the extent of Mr. Danger. But when I moved into a leadership position I received the trust of others and I very consciously began to hold myself to a higher standard. I felt that trust and responsibility, deeply, from when I had just one direct report to when I had a thousand. My decisions and actions influenced and affected lives and livelihoods.
Funny thing, I soon realized that even as an individual contributor, even in my personal life, I effectively had leadership responsibilities of a different form and should hold myself to higher standards at all times.
Similarly I judge the leadership ability of others, and whether I choose to be lead by them, by their character. And actions reveal character.
Character matters, Mr. Danger, because people have put their trust in you.
Character matters, Mr. Danger, because you can influence others.
Character matters, Mr. Danger, because you wield power – be it financial or authority or words.
Anthony Weiner, you were elected to be a leader. When you resigned you remained in a leadership position because to some less enlightened folks you were still influential. You convinced yourself that you could still hold a formal, elected leadership position – even while continuing to display a shocking lack of character.
Unfortunately you will always be Carlos Danger. And Mr. Danger does not have the character required for leadership.