Sunday, June 12, 2011

Men Behaving Badly — Duh!

Welcome back to Powerful Men Behaving Badly: The Weiner Edition. Sadly there's a lot of competition, but this episode may be the stupidest and most pathetic of all.

In fact, this type of behavior has become so common, that there was reportedly a collective rolling of the eyes and a distinct sense of, "Here we go again" among the women of the House of Representatives last week when Rep. Anthony D. Weiner confessed his, "terrible mistakes" and declared himself, "deeply sorry for the pain" he had caused in sexual escapades so adolescent as to almost seem laughable.

Which begs the question: If women controlled Congress and the House of Representatives and were also the majority CEO’s at major U.S. companies, would we see the same sexual exploits and illicit behavior that has landed numerous male power-figures in recent — and very public — hot water?

That provocative question was addressed today on ABC’s This Week, with Christiane Amanpour, which featured Cecilia Attias, Torie Clarke, and Claire Shipman in the news show’s “Roundtable” segment.

According to the panelists, and others who have been asked the same question, the answer is a resounding, “No!”

"I'm telling you," said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., "every time one of these sex scandals goes, we just look at each other, like, 'What is it with these guys? Don't they think they're going to get caught?'”

The panelists all raised an intriguing point: Female politicians rarely get caught up in sex scandals. Women in elective office have not, for instance, blubbered about Argentine soul mates like former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford; been captured on federal wiretaps arranging to meet high-priced call girls like former New York Mayor Eliot Spitzer; resigned in disgrace after their parents paid $96,000 to a paramour's spouse like former Nevada Senator John Ensign; or, as in the case of Weiner, blasted lewd self-portraits into cyberspace.

It would be easy to file this under "men behaving badly," to dismiss it as a testosterone-induced, hard-wired connection between sex and power (powerful men attract women, powerful women repel men). And some might conclude busy working women don't have time to cheat. ("While I'm at home changing diapers, I just couldn't conceive of it," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., once said.)

While all of these explanations have genuine merit according to researchers, there may also be something else at work: The panelists and others point to additional research that has found a substantial gender gap in the way women and men approach running for office, and behaving once they are there.

Women have different reasons for running, are more reluctant to do so and, because there are so few of them in politics, are acutely aware of the scrutiny they draw — all of which seems to lead to differences in the way they handle their jobs once elected.

"The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody," said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. "Women run because there is some public issue that they care about, some change they want to make, some issue that is a priority for them, and men tend to run for office because they see this as a career path."

This Week’s Roundtable agreed, saying that most women CEO’s are similarly motivated. They want the company to succeed, rather than being competitive for competitiveness sake, or seeking self-aggrandizement.

Once elected, women feel pressure to work harder, said Kathryn Pearson, an expert on Congress at the University of Minnesota. "I have no hard evidence that women are less likely to engage in risky or somewhat stupid behavior," Pearson said, adding women hold office with an extra level of seriousness.

Panel members cited research that found country’s that seek to balance gender positions in political and business arenas tend to be more successful, and have few or even no public sex scandals.

Let me be clear: The panel was in no way denigrating males. Panelists were merely underscoring credible research that tends to support the conclusion that high levels of testosterone in men mixed with occupations that pair a sense of power and entitlement may create an atmosphere for some men to act out in very risky sexual behaviors. A perfect storm, if you will, that often lays waste to their careers and their families.

The panel’s discussion was prompted by Democratic Weiner’s announcement today that he was taking a leave from his public duties and entering a “treatment” facility, purportedly for sexual issues. This unexpected action followed a week of worsening revelations that the married politico participated in graphic “sexting” with at least six women spanning three years.

Ironically, Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin, is in Abu Dhabi as an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who endured her own world-wide humiliation when then President Bill Clinton cheated in the White House with an intern, and was impeached as a result. Abedin, who has been married to Weiner for a scant 11 months, has admitted that she is pregnant with their first child.

Today’s announcement also came on the heels of his admission that one of the women was a 17-year-old from Delaware. That was apparently the last straw for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. Yesterday, she issued the following statement: Weiner "has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents and the recognition that he needs help. I urge Congressman Weiner to seek that help without the pressures of being a member of Congress."Aides said later that Pelosi had been aware of Weiner's plan to enter treatment when she issued her statement.

Pelosi was the latest Democrat, along with numerous Republicans, who have urged Weiner to resign in a growing chorus that insiders have said left the Congressman shaken, but nonetheless resolved to remain in power.

“Powerful men behaving badly” has become a media and late-night comedy mainstay — only their faces have changed. The vast majority of all of these men have initially denied doing the deed, then admitted that they did the deed(s), then apologized — often tearfully — to their wives, fans, constituents, etc.

Most of their long-suffering wives have stood by them, albeit with some notable exceptions: The wives of Superstar Golfer Tiger Woods; former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy; Sampson; and former Sen. John Edwards all divorced their straying spouses. Maria Schriver, wife of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has left her philandering spouse, who has also fathered a child outside of his marriage. It remains to be seen if she will seek a divorce.

In fact, this week also brought Edwards’ indictment on charges of misappropriation of campaign funds, accusing him of using $100,000 to cover-up his affair with a woman who eventually bore his daughter so that he could continue his bid for the presidency.

Some of these male misbehavers have somehow managed to rehabilitate their public careers. Bill Clinton is now widely admired as a senior statesman.

Interestingly, the panel said they believe that no woman who committed the sexual dalliances that any of the above mentioned males had committed, especially Clinton as president, would ever be forgiven by the public.

Weiner's 9th Congressional District spans parts of Brooklyn and Queens. A civic group and other residents of the district plan to rally Sunday afternoon to demand Weiner's resignation.

A quiet departure would enable Democrats to get back on message and not be disrupted by an embarrassment that only months ago led to the resignation of a Republican congressman whose seat turned over to Democrats in a special election last month.

Weiner's spokeswoman, Risa Heller, said in a statement that the congressman departed Saturday morning "to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person. In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well."

The statement did not say where or what type of treatment he was seeking. In order to take a leave of absence, a usually routine matter, the request must be sent to the House floor. This is usually a perfunctory, moot exercise, with no one objecting, but it is conceivable that his leave could face objection and not be granted. If so, a vote could ensue on the merits or demerits of granting leave, putting Congress in uncharted territory.

Weiner's decision to seek treatment followed his acknowledgment that he had exchanged online messages with the 17-year-old girl in Delaware. Weiner and the girl's family attorney said nothing improper had passed between the two of them, and that the state police have closed an investigation.

The pathetically striking thing about the Weiner episode is that it is so juvenile: A grown married man taking pictures of himself in his boxers and sending them on Twitter; a grown married man allegedly messaging a different Facebook female friend about the "ridiculous bulge in my shorts now. wanna see?"

Weiner's explanation was also excruciatingly stupid and familiar: "I don't know what I was thinking."

— The Curator

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