I know not everyone agrees with this, but it always strikes me as slightly bizarre to think that learning about Anthony Weiner’s sexting habits has told us important things about his character that would cause us to re-evaluate him as a public official. Character counts, of course, and you sometimes have very little information on which to base a decision. But in Weiner’s case that’s not true. Even though he’s only 46, he’s been working in politics non-stop since graduating from college. He was on the staff of then-Congressman Chuck Schumer, ran for City Council with Schumer’s support, then when Schumer got elected to the Senate in 1999 he took over Schumer’s old seat. Since that time he’s followed his mentor in aggressively courting media attention, and for a few years now has been wading back into municipal issues as he considers a mayoral campaign. There’s a long record here to explore. You by no means need to limit your analysis to his voting record or his position on “the issues” if you have deeper character concerns. You might disparage him as more of a showhorse than a workhorse. Or you might admire him as someone who’s using the media to punch above the weight of your average backbench House member.
The idea that we should regard this extensive record in the career to which Weiner has dedicated his entire adult life as somehow fake, and his after hours twittering as revealing his “real” character just doesn’t make a ton of sense.
One way to see this through an extreme case is perhaps just to observe that the demands of being President of the United States are straightforwardly incompatible with being a model husband and father. The hours, the travel, and the stress just don’t make it add up. But it can’t be the case that all Presidents of the United States lack the requisite character to be President of the United States. It has to be the case that the kind of character that matters for a public official isn’t the same as the kind of character that matters to be a good husband and father. After all, you want a responsible public official to neglect his family and friends (“hard-working”), to display a certain kind of ruthlessness and cunning (“negotiation”), to be a bit of a phony in certain situations (“diplomacy”), and all kinds of other things that don’t carry over straightforwardly from personal life to public affairs.