People whose judgment is called into question by Anthony Weiner’s sexting:
• Anthony Weiner.
• Anyone who participates in sexting with Anthony Weiner.
People whose judgment is not called into question by Anthony Weiner’s sexting:
• Huma Abedin.
• Hillary Clinton.
“It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment,” Donald Trump said Monday.
No. A guy texting photos of his crotch as his 4-year-old son sleeps next to him is an example of the crotch-texting guy’s bad judgment. It’s not an example of his wife’s boss’ bad judgment.
What about that wife, though? She’s leaving now, but she stayed before! He did this twice and she stayed! Surely, we can judge her.
I’d rather not.
First, it’s impossible to know the daily negotiations and dynamics and emotions in another person’s marriage. Sure, they’re public figures. Sure, there’s a documentary about them. But do we know them? We don’t. Do we know what they privately agreed upon? What sort of verbal contract they struck? What sort of promises and hopes they expressed? We don’t.
Second, judging the spouse of every lawmaker brought down by a sex scandal would be incredibly time-consuming.
Take Nebraska state Sen. Bill Kintner, who’s deciding whether to resign this week after exchanging sexually explicit messages with a woman and pleasuring himself via Skype using his state-issued laptop. (Kintner went to the police after the woman attempted to extort money from him.) His wife is staying to pray with him about the scandal, according to Kintner.
Or Jud McMillin, an Indiana state representative and staunch backer of the Defense of Marriage Act who resigned last fall after a sexually explicit video was sent from his phone to people on his contacts list. His wife stayed.
Or Eliot Spitzer, who resigned as New York governor after taking part in a prostitution ring. His wife, Silda, stayed for close to six years before quietly filing for divorce.
I could go on, but you see my point. There are a lot of wronged spouses out there.
Why do they stay? I truly don’t know, but I will say this: There are 100 different ways to betray your partner, and infidelity is just one. Deciding (and honoring) your own personal threshold for holding on to a relationship is powerful. Deciding someone else’s? Petty.
We can claim that Abedin and Clinton and every other spouse who sticks through a sex scandal exacerbate the problem. They’re enablers. They’re weak — or worse, they’re calculating.
But in so doing, we’re the ones deflecting the blame.
Weiner has, time and again, exhibited horrendously bad judgment. For his own sake and, more important, for his son’s, I hope he learns some healthy boundaries.
Meanwhile, I hope the rest of us can lay off his soon-to-be-ex-wife. And her boss.
Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. She’s at firstname.lastname@example.org.