The story has become so familiar, so ubiquitous, it can almost recede into background noise at this point. A politician, popular, physically attractive, charismatic, a rising star, finds himself in the middle of a personal crisis, typically of his own making.
Part of the story, of course, is the rise and rapid fall. But the more compelling part is often the wrenchingly public cycle of rumor, followed by denial, followed by the release of statements and evidence, followed by misdirected anger (e.g., at the media, at witnesses, at political adversaries), followed by the mobilization of opposing constituencies, followed by eventual and inevitable admissions, betrayals, recriminations, political fallout, and so on, to the final, bitter end.
San Francisco’s sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi is now in the latter stages of the end-game of this drama, after months of very public agony. A politically progressive veteran who was once the city government’s rising star, Mirkarimi pled guilty to a lesser charge stemming from a domestic abuse incident mere months after taking office. He has now been relieved of his duties and office by the mayor. The full review of Mirkarimi’s fall from grace can be read in this San Francisco Chronicle story.
What Mirkarimi’s case has in common with virtually all its historic antecedents is the principal’s publicly evident feeling of entitlement, unshakeable love of himself and faith in his abilities, reliance on friends in high places and perquisites of office. Another, of course, is its inevitably pathetic climax: a barely-velied self-loathing draped in complaints about the unfairness of life and his particular situation, all played out live in front of the TV cameras. Mirkarimi is not alone, of course; he follows the well-worn trails of John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton, Larry “Wide Stance” Craig, and generations of others.
Completely clear to the public, of course, is the fact that nearly all the wounds we’re asked to empathize with are self-inflicted. Cry for yourself, little man.