The basic question, of course, is why they do such incredibly stupid stuff? It isn't just Representative Anthony Weiner, of course. The Washington Post published a list of old, familiar names yesterday: Gary Condit, a Congressman whose affair with an intern made news in 2001; New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, resigned in 2004 after acknowledging an extramarital affair with a man; New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008, admitting he'd spent thousands of dollars on prostitutes. If you're old enough, you remember Wilbur Mills of Arkansas, powerful chairman, as he was always called, of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. He may best be known now for carrying on with a woman named Annabella Batistella, aka the Argentine Firecracker. Why, oh why?
Partly, I suppose, it's about power, about elitism. They elected us, we're better than the rest, we're above the law. Not true, of course. The names above (the actual list is much longer than can fit in this short column) surely prove that. But elitism is part of it. Being in Congress you meet many flatterers, people who want your influence and will say nice things about you to get it.
"Power tends to corrupt," Lord Acton said back in 1887, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Still true, no doubt. Sad, but true.