Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 24, 2013

No, Hezbollah Isn’t a “Stabilizing” Force

Although last year’s terrorist attack in Bulgaria against Jewish tourists served to renew the pressure on the European Union to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, the civil war in Syria seemed all along to be a more significant catalyst for EU action. European countries had been pressing the U.S. for more assistance to the Syrian rebels while the U.S. had been pressing European officials to blacklist Hezbollah. Both efforts had some success: the EU blacklisted Hezbollah’s “military wing,” while the Obama administration has signaled it will increase help to the rebels.

Hezbollah has been fighting on the side of Bashar al-Assad, and the West’s desire to see the fall of the house of Assad convinced both the EU and the U.S. to take steps toward that end. But in an essay at Foreign Policy’s website, RAND analyst Julie Taylor makes an unconventional–and, in the end, terribly unconvincing–argument: leave Hezbollah alone, because you won’t like them when they’re angry. Taylor’s case rests on the idea that Hezbollah is showing restraint and maintaining a precarious, mostly nonviolent, state of affairs within Lebanon. Push them too far, and they’ll be tempted to show their strength, Hezbollah-style:

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Although last year’s terrorist attack in Bulgaria against Jewish tourists served to renew the pressure on the European Union to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, the civil war in Syria seemed all along to be a more significant catalyst for EU action. European countries had been pressing the U.S. for more assistance to the Syrian rebels while the U.S. had been pressing European officials to blacklist Hezbollah. Both efforts had some success: the EU blacklisted Hezbollah’s “military wing,” while the Obama administration has signaled it will increase help to the rebels.

Hezbollah has been fighting on the side of Bashar al-Assad, and the West’s desire to see the fall of the house of Assad convinced both the EU and the U.S. to take steps toward that end. But in an essay at Foreign Policy’s website, RAND analyst Julie Taylor makes an unconventional–and, in the end, terribly unconvincing–argument: leave Hezbollah alone, because you won’t like them when they’re angry. Taylor’s case rests on the idea that Hezbollah is showing restraint and maintaining a precarious, mostly nonviolent, state of affairs within Lebanon. Push them too far, and they’ll be tempted to show their strength, Hezbollah-style:

Between the continued bloodshed in Syria and the military takeover in Egypt, it might be easy to overlook recent events in Lebanon. But Middle East watchers need to keep a sharp eye on the current turmoil in Lebanon because spillover from Syria could cause the security situation to flame up quickly into a full-scale sectarian civil war. Several stabilizing factors have kept the situation in Lebanon from escalating out of control, one of these being Hezbollah’s resistance to being drawn into conflict with other Lebanese. However, recent attacks on Hezbollah interests, coupled with the EU’s decision this week to blacklist the organization, are backing Hezbollah into a corner. Feeling its position in Lebanon to be under threat, the organization may change course, and decide to take up the fight against its domestic rivals. 

It should be clear why Taylor’s argument is at a disadvantage right off the bat. Taylor’s line of reasoning is based on speculation of what Hezbollah might do, while the U.S. and EU have based their actions against Hezbollah on what the terror group has already done. It doesn’t make much sense to fret that Hezbollah might get violent when this entire scenario is plausible because of the violence Hezbollah has recently been engaged in.

It’s not like Hezbollah is the victim of a witch hunt in Europe. The group has been implicated in terrorist attacks on the continent, and the EU is simply attempting to take modest steps to defend its soil. Of course, Taylor is specifically concerned with Hezbollah lashing out in Lebanon if pushed out of Europe. But the Europeans can hardly be expected to defenselessly accept and absorb Hezbollah’s murderous pursuits in the hopes that the terror group gets it out of their system by killing Europeans and feels no need to kill (more) Lebanese.

And Hezbollah, as Taylor concedes in the article, is not exactly a bystander to violence in the region right now. Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian civil war on behalf of Assad’s forces is widely credited with helping Assad’s forces turn the tide and gain back the momentum by winning crucial battles. Hezbollah is therefore doing its part to keep the war in Syria going and to help Assad believe he doesn’t need to surrender or accept a negotiated exit. It is that violence that is spilling over the border into Lebanon, and it is violence that is fueled by Hezbollah itself.

As Taylor writes:

Lebanese territory is increasingly becoming an extension of the Syrian battle zone: the Syrian army is firing on villages along the border and the FSA is firing rockets into Shiite areas, including Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Beirut. There are inter-communal kidnappings both for profit and revenge for actions occurring in Syria. Assassinations, especially of Hezbollah members and Assad supporters, have become commonplace.

Need it even be said that the EU’s watered-down blacklisting is not to blame for this? Elsewhere, Taylor says that the war could provoke renewed fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. But Israel has already blacklisted Hezbollah, and that certainly didn’t stop the terror group from touching off the Second Lebanon War against Israel in 2006. The plain fact is, Hezbollah commits terrorism because it is a terrorist group. It will always attempt to justify its actions, and Western countries should not fall into the easy trap of pretending Hezbollah won’t find a casus belli if it decides it needs one.

Finally, there is another benefit of the EU’s decision to restrict Hezbollah’s operations in Europe. As Herb Keinon reports in the Jerusalem Post, in order to enforce its blacklisting of Hezbollah, European countries are now receiving the necessary intelligence briefings from Israel. That means countries such as Germany, France, and Spain are now improving their antiterrorism capabilities. Though Britain already worked with Israel in that capacity, any weak link in the EU would threaten the rest of the continent. They are now better prepared to protect their citizens thanks to “backing Hezbollah into a corner,” where they belong.

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The Voice of the Know-Nothing Caucus

Rep. Steve King’s predilection for saying foolish things is well known. The latest shot from the Iowa Republican’s hip was his denunciation of those who might be beneficiaries of a bill that might legalize those illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Rather than accept the fact that most of these youngsters are going to college, working, serving in the armed forces, and generally being a credit to their adopted country, King chose to smear them as predators and threats to society in a Newsmax interview:

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got hands the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King tells Newsmax. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

For this outbreak of hoof-in-mouth disease in which he stereotyped Latinos as drug smugglers, Republicans such as Speaker John Boehner as well as Rep. Raul Labrador, who has joined King in opposing the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill, spanked King. But the outspoken Iowan was unfazed and doubled down on his slander. King’s loose prejudicial talk will become a major headache for Republicans if he is able to rally enough Tea Partiers to help him get the GOP nomination for the Senate next year. Tom Harkin’s retirement creates an open seat in Iowa and it is a winnable race for Republicans if they can avoid nominating a loose cannon like King. But the real problem for the GOP isn’t so much that a loud mouth like King will be next year’s version of Todd Akin as it is the way he is giving voice to a nasty element of the party’s grass roots on immigration that threatens to hijack both the debate on the issue as well as the party.

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Rep. Steve King’s predilection for saying foolish things is well known. The latest shot from the Iowa Republican’s hip was his denunciation of those who might be beneficiaries of a bill that might legalize those illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Rather than accept the fact that most of these youngsters are going to college, working, serving in the armed forces, and generally being a credit to their adopted country, King chose to smear them as predators and threats to society in a Newsmax interview:

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got hands the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King tells Newsmax. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

For this outbreak of hoof-in-mouth disease in which he stereotyped Latinos as drug smugglers, Republicans such as Speaker John Boehner as well as Rep. Raul Labrador, who has joined King in opposing the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill, spanked King. But the outspoken Iowan was unfazed and doubled down on his slander. King’s loose prejudicial talk will become a major headache for Republicans if he is able to rally enough Tea Partiers to help him get the GOP nomination for the Senate next year. Tom Harkin’s retirement creates an open seat in Iowa and it is a winnable race for Republicans if they can avoid nominating a loose cannon like King. But the real problem for the GOP isn’t so much that a loud mouth like King will be next year’s version of Todd Akin as it is the way he is giving voice to a nasty element of the party’s grass roots on immigration that threatens to hijack both the debate on the issue as well as the party.

Conservatives may agree to disagree on the virtues of various immigration reform proposals, but the dilemma for Republicans isn’t so much the question of who is right about the details of the gang of eight’s bill, or any possible alternatives that are probably going to be killed in the House by recalcitrant conservatives. The problem is that the driving force behind this debate isn’t whether it will help or hurt the economy or whether it will uphold the rule of law or undermine it. The unfortunate truth is that as much as the adults in the House GOP would like to shush King, his stupid remarks are a fair representation of what many of those baying about “amnesty” and calling conservatives like Marco Rubio and others who support reform “traitors” are thinking.

Lest you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, Ramesh Ponnuru, who writes in National Review against immigration reform, agrees with my conclusion when he conceded in response to something I wrote that, “much of the opposition to the legislation is cultural rather than economic.” Ponnuru disagrees with my belief that “cultural concerns about immigration are necessarily disreputable or suspect” since he believes America’s social cohesion is undermined by having too many immigrants. But such arguments seem to be primarily about putting an intellectual gloss on hostility to newcomers that is a prejudice that is as old as the republic. 

There are legitimate worries about whether liberal policies have undermined the natural assimilation process that every generation of immigrants has undergone. But when Ponnuru speculates that polls that show hostility to immigrants are based on the “cultural” concerns he is championing, what he is doing is exposing the ugly underside of a movement that has more in common with 19th century Know Nothings than modern conservatism.

What those who try to defend this point of view fail to understand or acknowledge is that their belief that this generation of immigrants is somehow different from every previous wave of newcomers to this nation is far from original. The same arguments about the unsavory impact on American society that will result from importing a large number of low-skilled immigrant workers were made in the 19th century about the Irish, Germans, Italians, and Jews. Like today’s Hispanic migrants, those immigrants didn’t speak English, tended to isolate themselves in their own communities and didn’t have much in common with the WASPs that had preceded them on American shores. They also filled a need for low-skilled labor.

The Know Nothings and their successors didn’t believe in the power of American society to assimilate new arrivals. Neither do those who oppose immigration today. While contemporary conditions are different, that basic truth is not. Immigrants always change America, but there is no reason to believe that the impact of this influx will be any less salubrious than the tide of Eastern and Southern Europeans that previous generations of nativists so feared.

That brings us back to King. Though he is less cagey about his articulation of this cultural opposition to the bill than many other opponents, his insults probably are a better representation of the core beliefs of the anti-immigrant crowd than the more presentable views of Ponnuru.

What Speaker Boehner and other responsible Republican leaders must understand is that by allowing King and other knee-jerk anti-reform members to intimidate the GOP caucus into spiking any chance for reform, he is letting the House be governed by the basest instincts in our political firmament. The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol and National Review’s Rich Lowry wrote earlier this month that, unlike the case in 2006, opposition to the gang of eight’s bill had been “responsible” rather than being based in hostility to immigrants. King’s outburst is just the latest evidence to show that the “cultural” basis for opposing the legislation (as opposed to the reasoned approach taken by Kristol and Lowry) that is drenched in prejudice is the real driving force behind this debate.

The biggest long-term problem for Republicans isn’t the alienation of Hispanic voters. It’s that letting people like King call the tune in the House will turn off moderates and conservatives that don’t wish to be associated with bigots and their fellow-travelers. No amount of “missing white voters” or other possible solutions to the GOP’s dilemma can overcome that sort of image.

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The President’s Economic Speech

White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer billed the president’s speech today at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, as a big deal. As he said on the White House website, “I just finished reading the draft of a speech the President plans to deliver on Wednesday, and I want to explain why it’s one worth checking out.”

Well, it didn’t amount to much. To be sure, it is the first of a series of speeches (he’ll be giving another one later today in Missouri) that will deal with the economy, but it contained no new proposals and lot of the same old the-rich-aren’t-paying-their-fair-share rhetoric.

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White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer billed the president’s speech today at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, as a big deal. As he said on the White House website, “I just finished reading the draft of a speech the President plans to deliver on Wednesday, and I want to explain why it’s one worth checking out.”

Well, it didn’t amount to much. To be sure, it is the first of a series of speeches (he’ll be giving another one later today in Missouri) that will deal with the economy, but it contained no new proposals and lot of the same old the-rich-aren’t-paying-their-fair-share rhetoric.

As always, it’s everyone’s fault but his. “We’ve seen a sizable group of Republican lawmakers suggest they wouldn’t vote to pay the very bills that Congress rang up–a fiasco that harmed a fragile recovery in 2011, and one we can’t afford to repeat.  Then, rather than reduce our deficits with a scalpel–by cutting programs we don’t need, fixing ones we do, and making government more efficient–this same group has insisted on leaving in place a meat cleaver called the sequester that has cost jobs, harmed growth, hurt our military, and gutted investments in American education and scientific and medical research that we need to make this country a magnet for good jobs.”

The sequester, of course, was an idea that came out of the White House and it was the White House that refused to turn it into a “scalpel,” expecting public pressure to force the Republicans’ hands. That proved a political miscalculation.

The next few speeches might have more substance and perhaps—dare we hope?—some new ideas. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

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Bloomberg’s Potentially Deadly Legacy

Yesterday a local newspaper reported:

Part of the city’s problem-plagued 911 system failed so many times yesterday that [Fire Department] dispatchers were forced to revert to using pen and paper to jot down calls, while patrol cops were enlisted to take victims to hospitals.

Problems were so rife that by afternoon, cops were told to call their department’s own Emergency Service Unit for help, sources said. Otherwise, they were to transport victims to hospitals in their radio cars.

Sounds like an item from a disaster, a terrorist attack or perhaps, sadly, Detroit. That system-wide shutdown of emergency services took place in New York City just this week, the New York Post reported. The issues with the 9-1-1 system and emergency responsiveness have been heavily reported by the Post in the last several weeks, especially after an incident during last week’s heat wave involving a mayoral candidate and several members of the media. With cameras rolling, an intern at an event for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn collapsed in the heat. After waiting for over thirty minutes for an ambulance to arrive, Quinn decided to call in the big guns: not Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but instead Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

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Yesterday a local newspaper reported:

Part of the city’s problem-plagued 911 system failed so many times yesterday that [Fire Department] dispatchers were forced to revert to using pen and paper to jot down calls, while patrol cops were enlisted to take victims to hospitals.

Problems were so rife that by afternoon, cops were told to call their department’s own Emergency Service Unit for help, sources said. Otherwise, they were to transport victims to hospitals in their radio cars.

Sounds like an item from a disaster, a terrorist attack or perhaps, sadly, Detroit. That system-wide shutdown of emergency services took place in New York City just this week, the New York Post reported. The issues with the 9-1-1 system and emergency responsiveness have been heavily reported by the Post in the last several weeks, especially after an incident during last week’s heat wave involving a mayoral candidate and several members of the media. With cameras rolling, an intern at an event for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn collapsed in the heat. After waiting for over thirty minutes for an ambulance to arrive, Quinn decided to call in the big guns: not Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but instead Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Quinn’s staff made a second call while waiting, to a Jewish volunteer ambulance service called Hatzolah. Despite receiving the call after 9-1-1 dispatchers and despite 96-degree temperatures on the fast day of Tisha B’Av (Hatzolah’s Orthodox volunteers had been fasting, without food or water, since 8 p.m. the night before), Hatzolah arrived first, treating and whisking the intern away before the city’s ambulance arrived. The FDNY blamed the delay on a shortage of ambulances, a spike in call volume, and the low priority given to the intern, who had been reported as conscious and responsive by the individual who placed the initial 9-1-1 call. An anonymous individual affiliated with the ambulance corps, the EMS, had another story:

A move to modernize city ambulance records has become a technical nightmare for city EMTs, who told The Post the system is leading to delays and slower response times.

The new tablet-computer-based system for recording ambulance calls has been hampered because the devices often freeze up and can’t send information when a Wi-Fi signal is unavailable, sources said.

“It’s a very weak wireless system, but the city got what they paid for,” groused one technician. “They were too cheap to pay for a stronger system.”

Instead of recording vital information about each “aided” case on paper, EMS technicians are required to enter data on the tablet. A wireless router is attached to the EMS truck and provides the Wi-Fi signal.

But when a signal can’t be found, or is weak, the ambulance crews struggle to submit the data, which is mandatory before heading off for new emergency calls.

The system, a $2 billion boondoggle, was well known for its limitations before its implementation in May. In March the Post was given a confidential report on those limitations:

Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial $2 billion effort to modernize the 911 system — billed as a cure-all for every emergency-communications ill — was labeled a boondoggle by the city’s own experts two years ago, The Post has learned.

The project “does not have a defined business case” for spending $2 billion on a new 911 system, Gartner Consulting told City Hall in a March 2011 report marked “draft — confidential.”

The consultant’s 45-page report, reviewed by The Post, explained the city was wasting its money by plowing ahead without resolving key problems. It slams the high-tech system for management failures and computer glitches, and clobbers key communications officials for refusing to cooperate and, instead, battling over turf.

The consultants report also found:

* Repeated failures of the emergency-response software were reported but were not fixed.

* The NYPD refused to merge its system for dispatching units with that of the FDNY and the EMS — although that was a key reason for creating the new system. And the departments would not work together to create a unified management structure for the new system.

With Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaving office in January after an election to replace him in November, a lot of attention has been paid to the transgressions of certain candidates eyeing his job. Being mayor of New York City isn’t a job for the weakhearted, as anyone who watched former Mayor Giuliani in the days and weeks following September 11, 2001 can attest. His replacement, Bloomberg, has the utter failure of a relaunch of the 9-1-1 system on his record, and any deaths or injuries that result are the sole responsibility of the man who, despite countless warnings from consultants that he himself hired, insisted on launching a program that the city couldn’t afford and that didn’t fit its needs.

The amount of times that the system has shut down since its launch in May when there were no major events precipitating the failures should strike fear into hearts of New Yorkers who are not unaccustomed to being the site of disasters both natural and man-made in the last decade and a half. With the mayoral election fast approaching, New Yorkers should be holding candidates’ feet to the fire on the condition of the emergency services and their ability to respond to personal emergencies as well as major catastrophes. This is an issue that affects each and every New York City resident, and if Bloomberg’s failure is allowed to stand as it is, he or his replacement will soon have to answer for an incident far more embarrassing and potentially disastrous than an overheated intern passed out in the midday Brooklyn sun. 

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Can the Free Market Save Detroit?

When Detroit’s bankruptcy was announced last week, the analysis from the left followed a peculiar trend: the more time passed, the less informed their commentary became. That’s because the government-centric causes of the city’s financial collapse were obvious, and had been in motion for decades. When bankruptcy was finally declared, everyone already knew the unfunded pension and benefit liabilities the city held were unsustainable and unrealistic, and most simply acknowledged that reality had finally caught up with the city.

But if you wanted to absolve the liberal approach to governance of blame for Detroit’s woes, you had to get pretty creative. Challenge accepted, responded some Democrats. So by the end of the weekend Paul Krugman had come up with a particularly unconcerned dissection of Detroit’s crisis. The crowd at MSNBC first tried blaming Republicans for … well it wasn’t exactly clear. Then Michael Eric Dyson proposed the city had been bankrupted by racism, because the city contains a large number of minority residents. (If Dyson thinks it is racist to give minorities generous retirement and health benefits, he has a very unconventional definition of the term.)

Plenty of liberal writers did not stray nearly so far from reality. And in fact some of the initial responses from the Washington Post’s Wonkblog hold up pretty well, and are now being echoed by more conservative voices. The group blog offered “Six crazy ideas for saving Detroit.” Some of them were actually wacky, while others were merely free-market and small-government oriented (which may seem “crazy” to the left, but that’s another topic). The first suggestion was to get rid of all the taxes and regulations:

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When Detroit’s bankruptcy was announced last week, the analysis from the left followed a peculiar trend: the more time passed, the less informed their commentary became. That’s because the government-centric causes of the city’s financial collapse were obvious, and had been in motion for decades. When bankruptcy was finally declared, everyone already knew the unfunded pension and benefit liabilities the city held were unsustainable and unrealistic, and most simply acknowledged that reality had finally caught up with the city.

But if you wanted to absolve the liberal approach to governance of blame for Detroit’s woes, you had to get pretty creative. Challenge accepted, responded some Democrats. So by the end of the weekend Paul Krugman had come up with a particularly unconcerned dissection of Detroit’s crisis. The crowd at MSNBC first tried blaming Republicans for … well it wasn’t exactly clear. Then Michael Eric Dyson proposed the city had been bankrupted by racism, because the city contains a large number of minority residents. (If Dyson thinks it is racist to give minorities generous retirement and health benefits, he has a very unconventional definition of the term.)

Plenty of liberal writers did not stray nearly so far from reality. And in fact some of the initial responses from the Washington Post’s Wonkblog hold up pretty well, and are now being echoed by more conservative voices. The group blog offered “Six crazy ideas for saving Detroit.” Some of them were actually wacky, while others were merely free-market and small-government oriented (which may seem “crazy” to the left, but that’s another topic). The first suggestion was to get rid of all the taxes and regulations:

Jack Kemp, the former congressman and housing secretary, 1996 Republican vice-presidential nominee and 1988 presidential candidate, had an idea for America’s inner cities. He wanted to make them “enterprise zones,” where federal taxes and regulations were greatly relaxed, to spur outsiders to come and do business. That’s been tried to varying degrees, including a federal program creating “empowerment zones,” but why not go all the way? Eliminate all taxes for year-round residents of Detroit, with the federal government paying the cost of the abolition of state and local taxes. Get rid of zoning, parking requirements, occupational licensing and other cumbersome regulations while you’re at it. See how many businesses come.

Today the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Bill Frezza makes a similar argument, that Detroit can be rebuilt as an American version of Hong Kong. Cut regulations and taxes to spur economic growth and investment. Frezza explains:

Imagine what would happen in a city where both the personal and corporate federal income tax rates were set to zero. Imagine, further, if all federal labor laws were suspended-hire whomever you want to do whatever job you want at whatever pay they will accept without having to ask the National Labor Relations Board and Citizenship and Immigration Services for permission. Start any business you please-no Interstate Commerce Commission, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or Federal Trade Commission to get in your way. Only the laws, rules, and regulations of the State of Michigan would apply to protect citizens from acts of force or fraud.

The reason this is such an intriguing idea is also the reason it’s unlikely to be enacted if Democrats in the state (and nationally, since the White House and Congress would have to oversee elements of it) have a say in the matter. When she tried to blame Detroit’s downfall on Republican policy, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry was reduced to claiming that the end result in Detroit’s meltdown is actually the goal of conservative policymakers.

Detroit’s fiscal woes, Harris-Perry explained, were exacerbated by population flight that reduced the tax base and that “this lack of tax base is also exactly the kind of thing that many Republicans would impose on us, even when our cities have sufficient populations, even when our communities have sufficient populations.”

There is an important distinction, of course, between the productivity of a city with a high tax burden that drives out private-sector workers and entrepreneurs causing a narrowing of the tax base, and a city with a light tax burden that draws those same people back into the city. Conservatives would no doubt love the opportunity to help MSNBC’s economics experts understand that distinction.

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The Anthony Weiner Spectacle

Some cases involving sexual infidelity and whether it should disqualify someone from an election and public office are complicated. The one involving Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former member of Congress who is now running for mayor of New York City, isn’t one of them.

“Carlos Danger,” Weiner’s sexting pseudonym, is a man who is disturbed on multiple levels. He’s chronically unfaithful and irresponsible, stunningly reckless and impulsive, drawn to risk and danger like a moth to a flame, and a serial liar. He is also a man of jaw-dropping ambition and arrogance. His press conference yesterday, with his wife Huma Abedin by his side, was depressing and painful to watch. He apparently didn’t believe his infidelity was enough of a humiliation of her; he felt the need to use her as a prop in, and a spokeswoman for, his election. (It needs to be said that she was willing to go along with it.)

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Some cases involving sexual infidelity and whether it should disqualify someone from an election and public office are complicated. The one involving Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former member of Congress who is now running for mayor of New York City, isn’t one of them.

“Carlos Danger,” Weiner’s sexting pseudonym, is a man who is disturbed on multiple levels. He’s chronically unfaithful and irresponsible, stunningly reckless and impulsive, drawn to risk and danger like a moth to a flame, and a serial liar. He is also a man of jaw-dropping ambition and arrogance. His press conference yesterday, with his wife Huma Abedin by his side, was depressing and painful to watch. He apparently didn’t believe his infidelity was enough of a humiliation of her; he felt the need to use her as a prop in, and a spokeswoman for, his election. (It needs to be said that she was willing to go along with it.)

These may not qualify as hanging offenses or crimes, but they ought to disqualify Weiner from becoming mayor of New York City.

The psychological dimensions of this case are too complicated for most of us to untangle. But it’s obvious even to people without a degree in psychiatry that Mr. Weiner has a compulsive need for public adoration that finds its expression in running for and serving in public office. His vanity seems to demand it, to the point that he’s convinced himself that the Empire City cannot function unless he’s mayor. This is, of course, ludicrous. But Weiner (and apparently his long-suffering wife) have convinced themselves that he is New York City’s Indispensable Man.

The layers of rationalization are something to behold. A man on a rather extraordinary ego trip has convinced himself that what he’s doing is a form of self-sacrifice, that he’s willing to endure this humiliation in the name of public service.

What we’re seeing, of course, is an example of a sybarite, of self-indulgence that would be hard to equal. Very few of us are interested in learning more than we have about Anthony Weiner’s sex life and social pathologies. He can do all of us a great favor by withdrawing from his mayoral race. He is a genuinely sick individual who needs help to rebuild his broken life. He should do so away from politics, away from television cameras, away from magazine profiles and the limelight. It’s unclear whether Mr. Weiner and his wife can ever repair their lives; but it would be impossible for him to do so if he were to be rewarded with an election victory and the ego gratification that would go with it. For him to beat the odds and win the race would be the worst possible things that could happen to his supposed recovery. His feeling of invincibility would be off the charts; an even more twisted ending would await him.   

Withdrawing from the mayoral race would be best for the people of New York and the rest of us, and that matters. But it would also be best for Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin.

It’s time to end this ugly spectacle.

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