What a great deal the people of San Diego have, with Bob Filner as their mayor.
When the going gets tough, when charges of sexual harassment sprout forth against a fellow so frequently that the county sheriff sets up a “hotline” to manage the volume, when one’s own party, the county Democratic Central Committee, votes 34 to six that you should immediately resign, any ordinary public servant would succumb to the embarrassment and shame by surrendering his or her office.
But not Mr. Filner. He’s no quitter.
No matter how humiliated he might be, no matter how much his and the city’s name get dragged through the mud, Fightin’ Filner is willing to suffer those slings with smiles in order to serve the people of sunny San Diego.
Demented? Perhaps . . . but also dedicated.
He’s committed. Or should be.
Seven women have now come forward with specific and horrendous accusations of Filner’s sexually abusive behavior. The mayor’s response? “I begin today by apologizing to you,” he said in a YouTube video weeks ago, after the first allegations broke. “I have diminished the office to which you elected me.”
Filner continued, “I have reached into my heart and soul and realized I must and will change my behavior.” Meanwhile, he remembered to remind folks that he is “someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people.”
With just a few short time-outs from public wonderfulness, apparently.
The mayor admitted he was “embarrassed to admit” that he had “failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them.”
“If my behavior doesn’t change,” he explained, “I cannot succeed in leading our city.”
What?! Unthinkable. How could San Diego survive without Filner fiddling about city hall?
Filner rises above scandals that would stymie most other career politicians. Twenty years in the U.S. Congress, where his predilections were probably par for the course, taught him the arrogance and narcissism needed by today’s politicians. No sooner had Filner expertly delivered his apology, than he was announcing that he will soon “be announcing fundamental changes within the Mayor’s Office designed to promote a new spirit of cooperation, respect and effectiveness.”
Turning scandal into “change” and a “new spirit” is no simple spell; it takes a consummate professional politician.
Later, the magnanimous mayor told a reporter, “I very much welcome the fact that some of these allegations will finally be addressed by an appropriate investigative authority rather than by press conference and innuendo.”
Agreed. Everyone is buoyed just by having this conversation. Pinch me.
Still, this stoic public servant sought to put the ugly accusations in context, noting that he has struggled lifelong as “a hugger, of both men and women.” Equal opportunity, see? And it’s just like Filner to share his struggles with those closest to him — within arm’s reach.
Furthermore, while Mayor Bob was apologizing to everyone who might have felt offended by his offensive and downright bizarre and abusive behavior, he was also asserting his innocence as a legal matter. “I do not believe I am guilty of sexual harassment,” he offered, “and I believe a full presentation of the facts will vindicate me.”
Sorry and vindicated. This is a fast-moving world.
Oops! Then four additional women came forward on the local PBS television channel — one a dean at San Diego State University and another a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral — to air their allegations of Filner’s groping, verbal harassment, headlocks, etc.
Even a political pro like his majesty the mayor would be hard pressed to maneuver around such a PR body blow, right? (Oh, ye of little faith.)
“Beginning on August 5,” declared San Diego Mayor Robert Filner at a news conference last Friday, “I will be entering a behavior counseling clinic to undergo two weeks of intensive therapy.”
Not sure what his precise behavioral syndrome will be called, but the man is clearly ill and needs all our compassion along with some expensive and secluded medical attention. While still mayor, of course. Even during his stay, he’ll be briefed on the city’s survival status morning and night.
“The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong,” Filner reiterated. “My failure to respect women and the intimidating conduct I engaged in at times is inexcusable. It has undermined what I have spent my entire professional life working on — fighting for equality and justice for all people.”
Yes, it is inexcusable, but mustn’t we excuse it or risk interrupting the mayor’s sublime stewardship of our nation’s eighth largest city?
Get well soon, Mayor Filner!
Now, if there were only someone back East — in say, New York City — who had this same selfless and sensational commitment to serving in public office, someone so dedicated to “fighting for equality and justice for all people” that no level of personal scandal or abuse of real people, regardless of how outrageous, could stand in the way of progress.
For the people. [further reading]