Jack Ohman / johman@sacbee.com

Editorial: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and New York mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner need to just go away

Published: Thursday, Jul. 25, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 10A

It never ceases to amaze how some politicians can delude themselves that they are so indispensable and entitled that any scandal should not disqualify them.

Just look at the spectacle of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and New York mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner – if you can stomach it. The honorable thing for both to do would be to spare their cities the turmoil and step aside.

But no, they won't go away. They insist on putting their political ambitions ahead of everything else.

Some might say their fates matter only to residents of San Diego and New York. That would be wrong. If Filner and Weiner somehow survive, it would further lower the bar of acceptable behavior for all public officials. And that would be bad for all of us.

Some people might argue that as long as no laws were broken, personal peccadilloes don't make someone unfit for elected office. But there is a point at which questions of judgment and self-discipline completely undermine whatever positives a politician might offer on policy and leadership.

Both Filner and Weiner have crossed that line.

In San Diego on Wednesday, a school psychologist became the third woman to publicly accuse Filner of sexual harassment, claiming that he tried to forcibly kiss her at a restaurant in 2009. On Tuesday, a former campaign staffer alleged that he patted her posterior at a 2005 fundraiser. And on Monday, his former mayoral communications director filed a lawsuit against Filner and the city, alleging that he groped her during the six months she worked for him.

Filner spent five terms in Congress before winning the mayor's seat last year; unfortunately, these allegations weren't made public and addressed during the campaign so voters could consider them.

He acknowledges that he "failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me" and sometimes "intimidated" them – whatever that means – but says that "a full presentation of the facts" will vindicate him.

So far, Filner has rebuffed calls from City Council members and other prominent fellow Democrats to resign.

On the other side of the country Tuesday, Weiner held a cringe-worthy news conference during which he admitted sending sexual images and explicit online messages well more than a year after he had resigned from Congress and had pledged to seek treatment and change his behavior.

That confession blew a hole in his story of redemption and recovery since his 2011 flameout – the narrative on which he was basing his campaign and which had him doing well in the polls.

Yet, he was out campaigning Wednesday and vowing to stay in the race.

Filner admits he needs help; even if Weiner won't acknowledge it, he obviously does. Whatever demons they have, they should be exorcised in private, not played out in public.

Like every other politician, they need to remember that it's not about them. If they truly care about the people they want to lead, they won't prolong these soap operas any longer.

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