July 31 2013 09:10 AM

How can you bear going on like this?

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Bob Filner
Photo by David Rolland

Dear Bob: All the chaos surrounding you these past few weeks has reminded me of that summer in 2008 when I visited you in Washington, D.C. Remember?

As soon as I arrived, even though you needed to rush to the House floor to cast several votes, you insisted that I check out the view of the Capitol from your office. You had a photographer take our photo in front of the window. You wrote "Bitchin'" on the picture ahead of your signature because I'd used the word in the piece I wrote later about my experience.

You hustled me down hallways and into elevators, pointing out politicians I'd only seen on TV and dishing humorous anecdotes about them. I was gobsmacked when we arrived at the underground rail line that shuttles Congress members from the Rayburn office building to the Capitol building and back. I couldn't believe I actually got to ride in it. (That's what I called "bitchin'" in my story.)

You deposited me in the gallery above the House floor and then went to cast your votes. I watched as you chatted with other members and tried to imagine what was being said. But I wasn't in the dark very long because when you came to retrieve me, you told me all about what went on down there. I was fascinated. Then you took me to lunch in the members dining room and even irritated Tom DeLay while we were there, just for my entertainment. That was awesome.

Now, as I recall that time amid these charges that you're a serial harasser of women, I can't help but wonder how my experience might have been different had I been female. Maybe that's not fair. It's not like you've imposed yourself on every woman with whom you've ever come in contact. I'm just saying it crossed my mind.

Just like it'll probably cross the mind of any woman who works for you, meets with you or listens to you speak at public events—and, for that matter, any man. I don't know how you can bear continuing in such a lofty position of leadership knowing what everyone around you must be thinking of you: that you're kind of a gross old man who thinks it's funny to say disgusting things to women you barely know and manhandles women like a devoid-of-charm Pepé Le Pew. If it were me, I wouldn't just leave office; I'd leave town. But that's me—my flight is sometimes stronger than my fight.

You, on the other hand, are a fighter, and on a certain level, I admire that, especially if you think you're innocent and being railroaded and the whole pitchfork-and-torch-bearing world's closing in on you. But you don't think that, right? You realize that your past has finally caught up to you—and it's caught up because it didn't stay in the past; the behavior continued probably because you didn't truly understand that you were doing anything all that wrong.

I heard a guy say on TV the other night that the "level of shame" in Washington, D.C., is "very low." I suspect that the culture in the capital, where perceived power just reaches out and grabs its privileges, corrupted your sense of right and wrong, and it didn't occur to you that what passes for acceptable there doesn't fly in the real world. There, you were one of 435 in what many consider akin to an insane asylum; here, you have genuine power over genuine people.

Now, with eight eminently credible women having come forward with tales of awful incidents spanning eight years from 2005 up to very recently, you've had no choice but to admit to as much as you could without completely incriminating yourself, and you're trying to pacify the mob by signing up for intensive behavioral therapy.

It's not going to work. You might learn to be more respectful of women, but the damage is done. You might survive a recall process, but only on technicalities. If a vote were held today on whether you should be mayor, you'd get killed. You'd be lucky to get 35-percent support. You must know that. And knowing that, how can you go forward? Is it because a 35-percent approval rating for Congress would be a gift straight from heaven?

Here, it's terrible. People won't want to hear your ideas because they think you're a creep. Few organizations will invite you to speak because they don't want to be associated with you. Some people won't meet with you unless they have to. Some ideological allies won't work with you. You'll still have power, but it'll be diminished.

Don't stick this out just because you think you can beat the system. Don't be the guy who wouldn't leave. Resigning would net you a smidgeon of credit for releasing the city from your grip. Resigning would send a sincere message of apology to the women you've victimized. Bob, do it now.


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