Meet the Press   |  August 04, 2013

3: The political sex scandal: When it does and doesn't ruin careers

A Meet the Press roundtable looks at the current cloud around Anthony Weiner and how his controversy differs from past political sex scandals; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani visits with input on its effect on the city of New York.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back with some of the images to remember from this week. that last one, of course, anthony weiner remaining defiant in the new york city mayoral race. joy ann reid, he spoke about this on friday with some comments that raised eyebrows. this is what he told a reporter.

>> i think citizens have had plenty of chances. i think now they understand i've got something personally embarrassing in my background. and you can try to come up with the next, you know, combination, permutation of it, but at what point do i get to say let me talk about the issues important to the city of new york ? when do i get to say that?

>> we've had a little distance from the start of the scandals, spitzer , weiner , filner in san diego . the question that really drives me this week is what makes these politicians feel like it's okay for them to stay in public life in light of all this?

>> i think it's history. i think there are very few political disincentives to stay in. you can go back to larry craig being able to just retire from the senate, david bitter getting re-elected over and over again after people understood about the madam business. you can go back to bill clinton being impeached over a sex scandal and being more popular than ever afterwards. in anthony weiner 's case, the problem is he doesn't have a record, a congressional record to weigh against what people are talking about now, so it is all about the scandal. i think that if you're a politician like bill clinton , who has accomplishments in office that people want to retain, you're excused, or if you're somebody who is for whatever reason personally popular like the former governor of south carolina , who had a very public sex scandal and divorce but was still able to get elected to congress because people liked his body of work, you can survive so, what is the incentive to get out?

>> i've talked to people about this, andrea. it's not eve an question of why do men behave badly or why -- but why do politicians -- what is it about politicians that think that they should remain in public life despite this?

>> well, in most cases i think it's ego, enormous ego. and the thought that you have something to share in public service but also needing the spotlight. but i do think this is remarkable that we have not seen women politicians -- there are fewer women politicians, but we don't see women with these kinds of personal scandals. everyone can be criticized for policies and judgment and character but not this kind of behavior, the kind of behavior where you hide in a closet somewhere and put your head down and, you know, never -- never, never come out into the spotlight again.

>> for rick and joe --

>> i mean in the electoral spotlight is just extraordinary.

>> the question is why isn't just going away a reasonable option? nancy pelosi spoke out about this recently. she said the following.

>> let me be be very clear. the conduct of some of these people that we're talking about here is reprehensible. it's so disrespectful of women. and what's really stunning about it is they don't even realize it. you know, they don't have a clue. and it is really -- if they're clueless, get a clue. if they need therapy, do it in private.

>> do it in sprooift what strikes me about that comment.

>> i agree with nancy pelosi .

>> oh my god. stop it.

>> we're done here.

>> peggy noonan wrote a column a couple weeks ago about a british politician who went through an even more elaborate sex scandal in britain. this was "the" story in london.

>> brought down the government.

>> brought down the government. what did he do? he went to the soup kitchens of london. he had shame. he knew the consequences of his actions. and if he really did care about the people that these politicians say they care about, they'd go and serve them directly, humbly, out of the limelight. when he died a few weeks ago he was give an hero's funeral. he never appeared in public again except to do what he said he really cared about, which is serving those who were in need.

>> and, you know, weiner is saying, wait a minute, i know i've had two rounds of this and i've, you know, not levelled with the public, but when do i get to talk about the issues? ? and we don't know if there's going to be a round three, four, five, and six, but when can we talk about prices of water in new york city ? i don't think people are ready for that yet. you look at each case differently. mark sanford believed he needed to get back into the race because he had fought over debt issues and deficit issues and he thought it was his time to get back. anthony weiner , there's a question of what else can anthony weiner do but be a politician. then you look at spitzer , eliot spitzer . everybody says, you know, he was making great money as an attorney, but what eliot spitzer does is run for office, try to get votes, win elections, and serve in the public. it's different for different people.

>> weiner had, like, three days or two days of, quote, therapy. filner in san diego says he's going off for two weeks of therapy. if he --

>> but in filner 's defense, though, the city of san diego did not offer him -- give him the manual on sexual harassment. can you believe that? he's suing the city?

>> and this is the san diego mayor, mayor bob filner , actually starting his therapy tomorrow, joy ann.

>> right. i think at the same time, though, there is a certain level i think of puritanical sort of vibe that we have in the united states that maybe in europe we don't see. we had jacques chiraq have tremendous sort of marital issues publicly and it didn't really matter. we have politicians who are able to compartmentalize and have great achievement bespite being lousy husbands. you can go back to fdr, look at jfk, people considered great. ronald reagan was the first divorced president and people didn't hold it against him. the idea you cannot perform well as a politician because you are not a stellar husband has been disproved by history. the problem for weiner and others, when the scandal becomes all you're about, anthony weiner is having trouble getting out what are his programs would be as mayor.

>> it's an ongoing crisis as nancy pelosi said. just like rick santorum , who agrees with nancy so often, and i do, too, just in this one moment, as she said, if you've got to get therapy, that's cool, everybody needs therapy, but get it in private. don't do it on the campaign trail. and that's the problem here. these are evolving crises. we're watching the wheels come off the cart in the middle of these campaigns and perhaps should wait a couple years.

>> join meganow is the former new york city mayor rudy giuliani . he's got a unique perspective on some of the big issues we've been talking about, not only the scandal surrounding anthony weiner but the split on foreign policy in the gop, of course the new york yankees and a-rod, which we'll get to in just a moment. mr. mayor, welcome.

>> glad to talk to you as always.

>> let me start on what's -- this discussion, what makes politicians think they can keep working through this in public life . you've had to face personal questions about your own life when you were mayor of new york city . how do you think this is reflecting on the city, if at all?

>> oh, i guess it creates a lot of interest in the race. hopefully at some point that's going to focus on real issues. i think maybe some of this, when i'm listening to it, we have too little confidence in the e electorate. they get all these issues. they get to evaluate it. in the sanford race in south carolina , everybody knew what happened with sanford. they knew all the details about it. turned out to be a much closer race than anyone thought. maybe if the democrats went with a different candidate they might have won. who knows. but the electorate made a decision with all the facts. same with spitzer and weiner . it's in front of the e electric rat. the electorate is adult, mature. i'm confident they'll figure it out.

>> the only question i have as a parent, is this life in session that voters can judge, or is there something disqualifying at a point when i can't even turn on the news because that's going to create a bigger conversation than i want to have with my 8-year-old?

>> only way we can solve that, david , is if we had a disqualification process, if people put themselves up for public office and somebody investigated them and said your personal life is not so good, we're going to throw you out. then we have as i think a number of your panel ilss made the point, these situations, we actually lump them all together. they're all very, very different. people with great accomplishment made a big mistake . people with no accomplishment made a big mistake . these are very hard to evaluate and say this person should be out, that person shouldn't be out. this is why we have elections. the e electorate can evaluate this, and usually they get it right. when they don't, remember in boston they elected a mayor who was in jail? they got a mayor in jill.

>> let me ask you about national security and the fight within your own party. you went round and round with rand paul when you ran for president. it's happening again with his son and chris christie , and you're hearing rick santorum , who looks like he's running perhaps in 2016 as well. where do you see the resolution? where does this fight within the party over america 's role in the world and how to best protect the country go in 2016 ?

>> so, this is a good fight. now we're xwerting on a vubt whe subject where we're having a good fight, the role of america in protecting itself. i would agree with rick and with governor christie. i'm on that side of it. i think we need a strong, robust national security . i think that rand paul makes some good points in alerting us to how sensitive we have to be about privacy. but we can't stop all the things we're doing that protect us because we want to overprotect privacy. and i think to some extent, you know, this debate maybe can reduce some of the places in which we've gone to excess. so what i wouldn't want to see is, hey, we do away with all these programs. that would be a terrible mistake.

>> i saved probably the most sensitive for last for you as a die hard yankees fan, and that's judgment day coming up for baseball, particularly for star third baseman of the yankees , alex rodriguez . here you are last year, september of 2012 , with some young people getting an autograph from alex rodriguez . and now our reporting indicating today that he is on the verge of a major suspension. as you look at that, what do you think this morning?

>> i don't know. you showed me that picture, and it's very, very sad. he, alex rodriguez , went out of his way to not only autograph that for the boy, wonderful young boy , but he also gave him his glove, his batting glove. and the young boy still has that batting glove and he says, i have a batting glove that a-rod sweated into. his sweat was in here. he shows me the batting glove. i've seen the other side of a-rod. extremely kind to kids, very good teammate. i can't evaluate this. here's the part i'm a little confused about, david . i don't exactly understand completely this biogenesis situation. i don't understand exactly what it is they did wrong. did they just do biogenesis, which is basically blood enhancement, with which a number of other athletes did, or, here's what i suspect, under the guise of that they were getting human growth hormone , which is what would make it as serious as it is. so i don't know all the facts so it's very hard pressed for me to make a definitive conclusion about it.

>> all right. nay yor giuliani, thank you as always.

>> thank you.

>>> coming up here, more on this topic. judgment day , as i say for baseball. the future of america 's pastime. bob costas of nbc sports is her