Filner scandal: Mayor uses Hollywood survival strategem

July 12, 2013

By Chris Reed

gI_125909_Twit_Pic_Clinton_EndorsementSan Diego Mayor Bob Filner responded Thursday to allegations that he sexually harassed several members of his staff with a classic Hollywood strategem: pleading for forgiveness and announcing he was in a rehabilitation program to deal with his personal failings. This is from the L.A. Times:

“SAN DIEGO — Facing calls for his resignation amid sex harassment claims, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner issued an apology Thursday for his treatment of women and vowed to change his behavior, admitting ‘I need help.’

“Filner indicated he will not resign but that ‘I have reached into my heart and soul and realize I must and will change my behavior. … As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people, I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them.”

Will this ploy work? The San Diego insiders that I talked with Thursday were split. Some thought Filner had enough core supporters that his apology would suffice. Others said he was doomed, a sentiment that seemed on the money when the alternative weekly CityBeat — previously a huge admirer of Filner’s — posted a call for him to quit. But many people thought it all depended on specific allegations finally being brought forward instead of the vague talk of wrongdoing offered Wednesday and Thursday by three former longtime Filner supporters. If these allegations are credible and as horrific as some scuttlebutt suggests, then it’s time for Bob to say,”Aloha.”

Filner enabled by fellow Democrats for decades

If it gets to that point, it will be time for recriminations. A U-T San Diego editorial makes the case.

“For decades, Filner’s abusive personal manner has been common knowledge. He’s had brushes with the law and with federal security agents because of it and has thrown too many public tantrums to count. This editorial page was hardly the only institution to warn in 2012 that the then-congressman simply didn’t have the temperament for the job. Former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña told the Voice of San Diego on Thursday that she had specifically warned former Democratic Party Chairman Jess Durfee in 2011 about six local women who had been verbally or physically harassed by Filner.

“Yet only now are top Democrats, labor bosses and environmental extremists having fits about his fundamental unsuitability to be chief executive of a large city? It wasn’t that long ago that former Councilwoman Donna Frye and the brother-and-sister act of Marco and Lorena Gonzalez supported, campaigned for and raised significant funds for Filner’s mayoral run. They would be more credible critics of the mayor if they had sought another Democratic nominee back in 2011 instead of helping clear the field for Filner. Instead, they pretended he was something he was not.

“They’re not pretending any more. On Wednesday, when the sexual harassment allegations were revealed, it was striking how little surprise it triggered among powerful local Democrats. They had either found it par for the course with our coarse mayor or heard it was coming.”

A politician simply not ready for the spotlight

Filner spent 20 years in Congress being ignored as an obscure back-bencher, someone whose bad behavior occasionally made news but was mostly ignored. He simply wasn’t ready for the spotlight. His multiple scandals of the last few months were all too predictable.

Now his survival may depend on his suddenly having to be nice to people after many decades of being a menacing jerk. Can a leopard change its spots?

Or, more specifically, can a jackass?

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