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Are we too quick to forgive fallen politicians?

forgiveness on Politics - The classical tragedy nearly always involves a person of immense personal gifts who is derailed by a fatal flaw in his personality.

“Hubris,” the Greeks called it, the arrogant belief in one’s own greatness and infallibility that inevitably leads to a fall.

In New Jersey and throughout the country, we’ve seen plenty of it. Senators and governors, mayors and council members have all fallen prey to their own excesses and have been brought low. But now we’re witnessing a relatively new phenomenon — the comeback — in which disgraced politicians, in one way or another, seek to reintroduce themselves to the public they failed the first time around.

Exhibit A last week was Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic congressman from New York who embarrassed himself, his wife and his constituency by tweeting out lewd pictures of himself. Weiner, in a lengthy interview with The New York Times Magazine, admitted that he’s considering a run for mayor of New York City, while attempting to explain in uncouched language why he did what he did.

It turns out he really doesn’t have an answer, other than he was foolish, unthinking and drunk on his own legend.

Weiner is joined on the comeback trail by Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor who left office in disgrace after he admitted to an adulterous affair with a South American woman he called his soul mate. Sanford, a Republican, is now running for a seat in Congress from his home state.

Here in New Jersey, we have former governor Jim McGreevey, the subject of a documentary film that chronicles his own spectacular fall and attempt at penance by helping prison inmates.

This would be the place in any column to trot out F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “there are no second acts in American lives,” in the context of an inability to recreate oneself after disgrace. I would point out, however, that this is a misunderstanding of Fitzgerald’s comment.

Fitzgerald, it seems to me, was talking instead about our impatience to get on with it all. The second act is when the dilemma faced by the main characters bubbles into full-fledged drama, filled with recrimination, reflection and sometimes despair. The problem is that we as Americans are in a hurry and sometimes not all that willing to put in the hard work of both seeking and granting true forgiveness.

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