Anthony Weiner, I'm looking at you, so stop tweeting for a minute and put the cameras away. Mark Sanford, I don't care if you won, you should listen, too. And so should anybody else running for office, because I'm about to explain The Five Rules Candidates Should Follow.
•No. 1. If the first things springing up in a word association game at the mention of your name are "disgraced," "dishonored" and "lies like a rug" only to be swiftly followed by "Forgiven by his wildly humiliated spouse who once seemed smart but now looks like she's auditioning for 'Sister Wives,'" you should lower your sense of self-esteem the way people lower the blinds.
Get out of the sun, leave the spotlight, and if you have anything to offer this great land of ours, do it without pretending that the rest of the electorate are married to you. Yes, your partner might choose to forgive you — maybe you're better in bed than any of us could possibly imagine, not that you left us much room for imagination; or you have some other magical power, which at this point seems far more likely than the first option — but we get to evaluate you on other grounds.
Anthony (if I may — I feel we know each other so well there's no need to hesitate in using an intimate address), do you really think it's OK for you to start your bid for New York's mayoral race by apologizing?
I grew up in New York. We don't like apologies very much. If you broke it, honey, you bought it. We like comeuppance and maybe a little retribution on the side, like kraut on a dirty-water hot dog. Anthony, I don't think you get that part. Is it because you've been convinced by nefarious forces you can slide out of your past because your wife, who worked for Hillary Clinton, is sitting next to you and that, like some bizarre political SAT test, you will be Bill to her Hillary? Where's the buzzer so I can hit "Wrong" as my final answer?
•No. 2. No, this isn't only about men and women. Of course not; there's no gender bias here. Put it this way: If there were a well-known and already influential female candidate running for mayor of New York who had once made some silly or poor choices (spread her legs and then spread the images across the Internet and worldwide media in precisely the way Congressman Weiner did when he sent women a photograph of his penis) I'd also suggest that she reconsider her political ambitions.
But that would be unlikely, wouldn't it? Because such a woman would have been vilified and hidden in a safe house in Queens, not to mention being declared crazy enough to be played by Barbra Streisand in the film version. If she were running for mayor in Italy, she could get elected — although she'd have to run against another porn star (I'm not making this up).
•No. 3. I can't picture thousands of New Yorkers, fists in the air, gathering to chant "Weiner! Weiner! Weiner!" at a rally. Not sober, anyhow (Them. Not me. Or all of us, really). It's not right to make fun of somebody for his name, but seriously, folks. A guy who photographs his genitals with his cellphone and sends the images to a young woman who didn't ask for them and this guy has a name that is often used for said genitals? Besides, New Yorkers don't call hot dogs wieners, any more than we call hero sandwiches subs. And I won't even make a joke about that.
•No. 4. Mind you, I couldn't have anticipated Sanford being elected again after he broke 27 of the Ten Commandments (he got extra points for the Appalachian Trial bit and for using "soul mate" without laughing so hard he had to cough and spit).
•No. 5. Even if you can't be better than the rest of us, you can at least try. Be smart. Have class. Be a good citizen and then, if possible, prove that politicians can have decency and be respected.
Zippers up and eyes forward would make a good start.
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books. She can be reached through her website at http://www.ginabarreca.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun