As someone who had my own experience in politics with embarrassing photos gone viral through social media, I want to offer Rep. Anthony Weiner some advice. Normally it's hard to give advice in politics, because every situation seems so nuanced, but there's no nuance on this issue. Get it all out. Everything. All at once. Answer every question that is remotely related to the issue from every legitimate, non-tabloid news outlet. Don't hide, don't obfuscate, don't duck, don't use euphemism, don't try to preserve your dignity by asserting the undignified and trivial nature of the controversy itself.
People may not have the right to know about your personal and private life or any detail about any potentially embarrassing photo, but they do have the right to know whether you are honest, candid, and forthcoming. When you resist the scrutiny, you magnify the underlying embarrassment of the photo and you bring into question your own candor and forthrightness, and that is fair game. Let the media savage you a little bit. Your dignity gets a bit ruffled, but the storm blows over and people know that you don't duck and hide.
This can all be a blessing to you, in spite of the temporary embarrassment and pain it may cause you on a personal level, because it gives you a chance to show people what you are really made of. The American people are incredibly generous and even playful when you open yourself up and feed the media beast until it goes away satisfied. In the meantime, people will get to know you and see beyond the wiener jokes to who you really are as a person. There's no dignity in hiding from an undignified story. You don't want to die the death of 1,000 cuts. Just get the whole thing out--the entire thing, every detail, answer the questions and move on.
I was the second- or third-most Googled term in the world for a brief period of time, and then people moved on to the Duke Thesis. All that's really left from that period -- what remains to this day -- are two things: 1) Young women know that you don't have to run and hide from serving your country because of embarrassing photos; and 2) people know I don't run and hide. (And maybe there's also a perception that I am more fun at a party than I really am.)
You can leave a legacy from this incident as well, and it shouldn't be some parsed, half-answered questions and a cloud of doubt allowing all kinds of conspiracies to hatch. It should be that you have humor, grace, and fire in your belly and the cojones to stand up and tell people what they need to know--not because people deserve to know the details, but because they deserve to know that you can stand up in a difficult situation and say what needs to be said.
Want the news first every morning? Sign up for National Journal’s Need-to-Know Memo. Short items to prepare you for the day.
Krystal Ball is a Democratic strategist and 2010 candidate for a U.S. House seat from Virginia. contributed to this article.