In the movie “Broadcast News', the uber ethical producer played by Holly Hunter chastises the inexperienced reporter played by William Hurt for “crossing the line.' The problem, replied the bewildered Hurt, is that the line keeps moving.
Hello, Eliot Spitzer. And a howdy-do, Anthony Weiner.
Both disgraced politicians are back in the spotlight after having been forced to resign in the wake of sexual scandals — then-Congressman Weiner for “sexting' pictures of his private parts, then-Gov. Spitzer for soliciting a prostitute.
They've both crossed the political line, wouldn't you say?
But wait: Weiner is running for mayor of New York City and Spitzer has just declared for New York City comptroller.
Both men will face Democratic primaries to see if enough people in their political base are willing to forgive and forget and offer them the opportunity to carry the party's banner in the general election.
This being a land of second chances, where formerly impossible-to-survive transgressions now seem little more than tiny potholes in the political highway, Weiner and Spitzer obviously believe they successfully can resurrect their political careers.
Indeed, polls show Weiner has become the candidate to beat in the mayoral primary. Too soon to say what the tea leaves reveal on Spitzer.
Meantime, both can take heart in recent examples of political comebacks, not the least of which was President Clinton's amazing rebound after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's election to Congress after lying about his whereabouts to cover-up an extramarital affair of his own.
All of which begs the questions, where is that aforementioned “line' and what does it take to cross it?
“The behavior recurs because comebacks work,' Bruce Buchanan, a professor of government at the University of Texas, told Bloomberg News. “Clinton, Sanford, and others have won forgiveness. Why shouldn't Spitzer? Disgraced politicians want to go back to doing what they do well, and many are immodest enough to give it a try.'
“People in their natural goodness understand the fact that we err,' Spitzer said in an interview with Current TV. “We sin. We pay a price and hopefully continue. ... I made significant errors. I stood up, accepted responsibility, resigned. It's now been five years. I hope the public will extend its forgiveness to me.'
It's one thing to forgive, quite another to elect men like Weiner and Spitzer when they've violated the public trust.
Weiner apparently didn't commit any crime in the legal sense, but he sure did demonstrate a lack of judgment and an excess of hubris. Is this the guy New Yorkers want as the city's chief executive.
Spitzer (“Client 9') wasn't arrested, as are many johns, for patronizing a prostitute. Perhaps the legal system felt his public humiliation and gubernatorial resignation were punishment enough. But consider: As a former prosecutor himself, how could he have not known surveillance all but assured he'd get caught breaking the law? Again, hubris. Is this the guy New Yorkers want as guardian of the city's money?
Of course it's a shame that these men suffered such falls from grace politically.
Whether or not you agreed with them on the issues, there was little doubt (aside from their rather volcanic tempers) that they were qualified to serve.
That doubt is now infinitely greater.
Forgive Weiner and Spitzer? If they're wives can do it, so can we.
Forget what they did and return them to positions of guarding the public trust?