Quite at ease with sleaze
As we’ve seen in India, the New York elections show that scandal-scarred politicians always find a way to wheedle their way back. Anirudh Bhattacharyya reports.columns Updated: Jul 13, 2013 00:18 IST
Earlier this week, Toronto was doused in a deluge that made me wonder if the monsoon had arrived at the city’s Pearson airport on a visitor visa. Over 100 mm of rain was recorded, and desi denizens probably received a rude reminder of their roots when the municipality resorted to load-shedding.
However, not all disasters are due to natural causes.
New York City is the sort of place where there’s a marvel on virtually every block. Wandering past the bountiful boutiques of 5th Avenue, you could possibly glimpse the entrance to a staid-looking building midtown till you crane your neck and stare upwards, and further upwards, and realise you’re looking at the Empire State Building. Just about the only place that lacks for the footfall of tourist traffic is the civic center enclave in Lower Manhattan where the local Government conducts its business in dreary buildings.
That could soon change, as City Hall is poised to turn into a spectacle rivaling the Naked Cowboy in Times Square. In November this year, it could well become the stage for the Weiner and Spitzer show. If you figure that for an X-rated performance you would require adult IDs for, you wouldn’t be far off the mark.
Former member of the United States House of Representatives Anthony Weiner is running for Mayor, three years since he resigned from Congress after tweeting photographs of his privates to various young women. Weiner initially denied those allegations as junk, though just not his own. New Yorkers were so disgusted with him going public with his privates that even Bill Clinton refuses to associate with Weiner.
Weiner’s disgrace was preceded by that of Eliot Spitzer, a former Governor of the state of New York, who had resigned after it was discovered that he could also be identified as Client No 9, patron of an upscale escort service known as the Emperor’s Club VIP, where he may have spent nearly $80,000 on high-end prostitutes over a period of several years. Spitzer is vying for the post of New York City’s Comptroller. In an unfortunate choice of words, he told the New York Times that he was “going to be on the street corners.”
In other words, this is headline heaven for the tabloids. As the New York Daily News commented, “City politics has never been so titillating.”
There’s more. Among those who will be Spitzer’s opponents for the comptroller post is Kristin Davis, madam of the ring the former governor ran around with. In a statement, she said, “Eliot Spitzer broke state and federal laws in his use of prostitutes and paid no penalty; I broke the law and paid my debt to society.”
Never mind. In Pakistani web sensation Taher Shah’s immortal lyrics, Weiner and Spitzer see “eye to eye” when it comes to their foray for forgiveness. In an interview to the New York Times Magazine, Weiner whined, “I want to ask people to give me a second chance.” Spitzer echoed that sentiment to the New York Daily News: “I believe in it, and hope I will be given a second chance.” Come again?
This dashing duo is symptomatic of a political culture where partisan voters will forgive just about anything as long as the candidate is politically correct in their estimation. New York has its liberal bias and Weiner and Spitzer are both Democrats.
Similarly, conservative South Carolina recently elected to Congress Mark Sanford, a former Governor of the state. In summer 2009, Sanford disappeared for a week, and had to quit when it was discovered that he had spent that time with his Argentine mistress. Regardless, voters appear to have bought into his second act, sending him to Washington.
As we’ve seen recently in India, scandal-scarred politicians always find a way to wheedle their way back. The drama in New York is likely to prove that the curtains never quite go down on political careers. That’s not the sort of power outage people vote for.
Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years
The views expressed by the author are personal
First Published: Jul 12, 2013 21:17 IST