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Posted by on Jun 12, 2011 in Politics | 7 comments

Politics, Mental Health and America’s Obsession With Sex

America is unforgiving about mental illness and its politicians. Well, maybe it’s the media that are unforgiving. Or the opposition.

Exhibit A: Thomas Eagleton, whose disclosure of depression cost him the vice presidential slot:

Eagleton divulged that “on three occasions in my life, I have voluntarily gone into hospitals as result of nervous exhaustion and fatigue.” He added that he had undergone electric-shock therapy for depression on two of those visits …

Days after the South Dakota press conference, Eagleton described his illness in detail in San Francisco before a gathering of wealthy fundraisers. One asked if McGovern could lose the election in the time “it would take to educate the American public that mental illness could be treated and cured,” according to an account in The Chronicle. Eagleton replied that he didn’t have the statistics, “but I know it is a fact that millions of American have periods of depression – of having the blues, being down in the dumps.”

Even McGovern wasn’t sure how the public would react. He may have misjudged. A Time magazine poll taken at the time found that 77 percent of the respondents said “Eagleton’s medical record would not affect their vote.” Eagleton left the ticket 18 days after joining it. (SFGate, 2008)

Exhibit B: Anthony Weiner.

Anyone with a passing understanding of mental illness understands that Weiner has psychological issues. And were he to be employed in any profession other than American politics, his taking a leave of absence to deal with mental health should be, no pun intended, a no-brainer.

After all, extended leaves of absence for physical health are not unknown in Congressional circles. See Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-AZ), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), Sen. Karl Mundt (R-SD) and Sen. Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI). Neither are they unheard of for drug and alcohol: Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL). (Senates Absent For Extended Periods, 1942-2001 – pdf)

But mental illness related to sex? Good luck with that, Congressman Weiner, even though (at this writing) the lapses have been “moral”, not “legal”. However, the jackals are howling.

Rather than derision, I think Weiner deserves a nod for publicly acknowledging that his behavior was not only unacceptable but that it is treatable, not necessarily a character flaw. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll take a small step towards getting our collective noses out of political and celebrity bedrooms.

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  • DLS

    Not derision? Disgust, actually. And don’t blame the reporters or others who have taken note of his wrongful behavior and remark about it, or that it could cost Weiner his job — Weiner is at fault here; “blaming” observers and those remarking about it will not distract most people from the real issue here. Anger at his lying and other coverup behavior has nothing to do with sex, incidentally.

  • DaGoat

    Sometimes there is a thin line between bad behavior and mental illness. Assigning a diagnosis of mental illness to Weiner is premature, especially since we have little idea of his motives or underlying mental health. At this point, both this article and the one by Joe Windish look an awful lot like rationalization.

  • casualobserver

    The Kubler-Ross model of liberal behavior when confronted with bad political news.


    Malign the messenger (anger)

    Minimize the crime (bargaining)

    Tu Qouque (depression)

    Make excuses for the perpetrator (acceptance)

  • JSpencer

    Weiner is an idiot, although perhaps not an idiot in quite the same league as John Edwards. He betrayed the trust of democrats primarily, but it’s especially amusing to see the piling on from the right. They aren’t going to get very far trying to scale the deep hole they are in ethically and morally by trying to squeeze a few drops of blood from a fool like Weiner.

  • EEllis

    I don’t care about his sexting I care about his behavior and attitude when discovered. If it is no big deal like so many are now trying to push then his lying, attacks, misuse of friends, etc, is beyond the pale. If it is a big deal then again accept the result of reckless behavior. To many commentators seem to want it both ways. Seems to me even if one behavior is somehow excusable the other isn’t.

  • I’ve been consistent — I don’t care about politicians and their sex lives (assuming consensual relations with adults) whether they are Rs or Ds. I do care about people in power preying on pages and interns in the Capitol, even if the younger person is technically of age.

    The person who has never told a lie is the only person who can throw a stone, IMO. (I’m reminded of Sunday School.)

  • EEllis

    The person who has never told a lie is the only person who can throw a stone, IMO

    That’s absurd. Even if you want to call what some are doing as “stone throwing” Your statement is so general as to be useless for the real world. It assumes That saying “those jeans don’t make your ass look big at all” is the same as Wiener lying and attacking. That trying to cover up a person embarrassment is the same as libeling and misusing people who trust you.

    I realize that a big issue with many Dem’s and Libs is the idea of Repubs making hay out of Wieners indiscretions, but right now the feeding frenzy is pure media and the only one you can blame for the hit if any Dem’s are taking is Wiener himself. Not so much even for the original behavior but for the whole “they’re out to get me” counterattack and the tap dancing that so many are doing to try and somehow excuse Wieners behavior or make it that it doesn’t count because …… yeah whatever

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