Thursday, August 1, 2013

Narrowing the Strike Zone

It must be infuriating for batters to see the strike zone expand, giving pitchers the opportunity to get outs they don’t deserve. Last week we saw David Ortiz get a strike called on a pitch that was not even close and the pitcher ended up with a out he did not earn. A Big Papi-style temper tantrum ensued, the dugout phone was the recipient of a few home run swings and Ortiz was ejected from the game. In the end, the expansive strike zone not only got the pitcher an out he didn’t deserve but managed to rid himself of David Ortiz for the rest of the game.

Lately we have also seen the strike zone expand in politics, particularly around the area of inappropriate sexual behavior. My view is that bad behavior will change only when acting badly will affect one’s future success but since we promote a “just say you’re sorry and we’ll forgive you” path to redemption, the door is wide open for the pervert caucus to continue to grow.

Back in the olden days (which is the 80s according to my daughter) Gary Hart’s presidential hopes were blown out of the water because he was accused of an extra-marital affair. Today the media would be slower to report “allegations” and might even consider Hart’s “Monkey Business” a private matter between him and his wife, Lee. The Clinton administration may have desensitized us a bit—we had a president who was charming and by all accounts, really liked women. While his wife was clearly not okay with his behavior, they were able to separate his fidelity issues from their marriage and their life goals, so maybe it was none of our business. And even the Monica Lewinsky scandal—which I always thought of as sexual harassment in the workplace—was muddied by the fact that Ms. Lewinsky seemed a bit like a hunter in her own right.

Today’s perverts in public office make Hart and Clinton seem like gentlemen. Senator Hart and his paramour, Donna Rice, did a sing-along together in Bimini and President Clinton bought Monica a poetry book. They may have acted outside the norms for a traditional marriage, but they didn’t break the law while doing it. The spate of elected officials who have used prostitutes and been forgiven enough to be re-elected (Congressman Barney Frank, Senator David Vitter) has now led former Governor Spitzer to believe that he too deserves another bite at the (Big) apple. Readers may remember that he avoided being charged because the $80,000 (!) he spent on prostitutes came out of his own pocket. I have to believe that some of that money was spent on government time, booked on a government phone, or facilitated with a government car, but the reality is that even flagrant (yes, $80,000!) criminal activity seems to get a pass these days.

And while there may have been perverts like San Diego Bob Mayor Filner and former Congressman Weiner in the olden days, they would have at least had enough shame to step aside when they were caught. Our new strike zone gives these predators a second chance so rather than step down, Filner seeks “intensive therapy.” I guess he doesn’t think that the residents and taxpayers of San Diego deserve a mayor who can focus on running their city, not the women jogging through it. He's even asked the city to pay for his legal fees reasoning that it's the city's fault he didn't get sexual harassment training. And almost as an aside in his campaign for Mayor of New York, Anthony Weiner shows little remorse, trotting out his wife in a press conference while admitting that he’s been sending obscene texts to multiple women… in the time since he stepped down from Congress for sexting. I kept waiting for, “So, Mr. Weiner, how many women have you sexted today?” Don’t New Yorkers deserve better?

While I certainly don’t condone Ortiz’ assault on the dugout phone, I share his disgust for an ever expanding strike zone. We need to hold our elected officials to a higher standard—and societal norms should be the baseline. Mayor Filner couldn’t be a letch if he worked in a pizza parlor and Mr. Weiner would be fired if he worked in a bank. The voters in New York and San Diego have the chance to voice their concerns at the ballot box and maybe someday we’ll be able to shrink the strike zone back to a place where only the candidates who can demonstrate decent behavior will consider themselves eligible for office.