In these heady times of political titillation, perhaps sexting a college student (and then lying about it) isn't that egregious any more. It could even play, with the right spin, as a self-deprecating joke on Letterman.
With so much truth-dodging floating around these days, what's a little lying between politicians? Clearly former congressman Anthony Weiner is counting on a Hollywood-style do-over. On Monday, he threw his hat (and a $5-million campaign fund) into a run for New York's mayor.
He no doubt based part of his decision on the recent victory of Mark Sanford, who won back his old seat in Congress this month – just three years after becoming a talk-show punch line after being discovered in an extramarital affair. But it wasn't the affair that made it fodder for Leno and gang – it was that Sanford claimed to be hiking in the Appalachians, when he was canoodling with his mistress in Argentina. Once again: a big, fat lie. But apparently, it's all okay – after all, the two are engaged, so happy ending all around. In the end, the voters of South Carolina were a forgiving lot.
Perhaps Weiner will also get lucky, though the polls, as the Guardian points out, suggest that's a long shot, as things stand today. Weiner has about 15 per cent of the vote. It probably helps that caught by his failings, he accepted responsibility and resigned. And his mistake didn't involve any actual money – say, $90,000, for instance.
Voters have a lot of information being tossed at them these days, and, understandably it's hard to keep all the half-truths and blatant lies straight. And that's assuming voters actually get any explanation: Other than his brother's third-party defence today, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has yet to offer even a written statement on the allegations that he was caught on camera smoking crack.
Still, everyone's a sucker for a resurrection story. "Look, I made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down," Weiner says in his new campaign video, with his supportive wife as co-star. "But I've also learned some tough lessons."
Perhaps voters will yet teach him another lesson. Maybe they will forgive because he fessed up. But, when it comes to politicians, time-outs for bad behaviour appear to be getting shorter all the time – if a timeout happens at all. We might worry about it – if it wasn't so darn entertaining.