BY DANNY DE GRACIA II – Like so many other Americans, I was shocked and deeply dismayed by the announcement of Representative Anthony Weiner that he had circulated lewd photographs of his body on the Internet and attempted to blame hackers for an act that he alone was responsible for. While every person has a right to privacy and the freedom to choose their own lifestyle, I believe that this recent incident and Rep. Weiner’s failure to resign illustrates an outrageous double standard in the way elected officials are excused yet the rest of us are condemned when we fall short.
Is It Really “Just Sex”?
During the Clinton Administration, Americans were introduced to a new political phrase when the President’s affair with an intern was exposed: “It’s just sex.” We were told that the “indiscretion” was a private matter between the President and his First Lady, not a matter to concern the American public and that the best thing was just to move on. In the end, Clinton made a mea culpa and a round of official phone calls and the matter was finished.
Since then, the “It’s just sex” phrase has spared numerous elected officials at all tiers of government. But what happens when a highly decorated military general, police officer or other non-elected public servant is exposed as being a closet homosexual or having engaged in an extramarital affair? While elected officials are allowed to say “It’s just sex” and move on, some of our finest public servants who are not elected are almost always fired from their posts or forced into early retirement when human nature gets the best of them.
In 2008, Navy Rear Admiral and director of the Navy Staff John Stufflebeem was accused of having had an affair over eighteen years earlier and was immediately relieved of his command. In 2005, four-star Army General Kevin Bynes was accused of having an affair with a civilian and was relieved of duty. In an interview with the Washington Post, a fellow officer remarked of Bynes, “We all swear to serve by the highest ideals, and no matter what rank, when you violate them, you are dealt with appropriately. Relief of command is a huge consequence. He’s had an extraordinary career, but at the end of the day, the Army has to hold people accountable for their conduct.”
In 1999, Navy Rear Admiral Paul Semko was accused of lying about having an affair, and he was relieved of command and had an official letter of reprimand inserted into his record. The list goes on and on. Some of the most talented and patriotic individuals America has ever known in both military and civilian life have seen their careers destroyed by acts of indiscretion while meanwhile, elected officials are allowed to say “It’s just sex” and continue with their careers. Contrast that to Anthony Weiner, Newt Gingrich and so many other elected officials whose sexual activities invite no career-ending censure. In fact, America’s political culture almost implicitly encourages elected officials to engage in sexual promiscuity, drunken misconduct and other raucous excesses because it adds to the alluring mysticism of “being elected” and wins instant sympathy from media sycophants, party shills and even voters themselves.
Let’s not even begin to talk about what happens when the taxpayers slip up or engage in activities the elected class doesn’t approve of – we are forthwith slapped with new regulations and new laws just as soon as an executive agency can dream it or a legislator can draft it. The message the American people are given from elected officials is that we need to shut up, do as we are told, know our place and submit to whatever they fancy of us because – to coin another frequently used politician line – “Don’t you know who I am?”
Freedom to Be Human
Human nature is full of warts and shortcomings. We all have our weaknesses, we all have our moments when we slip and fall. If elected officials are going to hold our non-elected public servants and the American people to a high standard, they too should be judged by the measure that they judge others. They need to either give us absolute freedom to be human and make mistakes without being condemned or they need to live by a code of self-discipline, bearing and reproachless service. I for one am tired of seeing our finest public servants canned for being human while our elected officials thrive on political power being the ultimate aphrodisiac.
I am tired of being told by government what food should be on my plate, what kind of vehicle I should drive, what type of jobs my city should or shouldn’t have and what kind of behaviors should be taxed more than others. If Anthony Weiner has the freedom to be human, I too should have the freedom to be human. If an elected official is free to post pictures of his penis, lie about it to authorities and then demand the rest of us move on, then it’s time we the American people be granted freedom to live our lives the way we see fit with no intervention or sanction from Washington, DC.