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San Diego's long Filner nightmare might soon be over

Bob FilnerElectionsPoliticsSexual MisconductPublic OfficialsAnthony D. Weiner

Looks like San Diego’s about to wake up from its six-week civic nightmare.

After two weeks of therapy and three days of legal mediation, Mayor Bob Filner has struck an agreement with city officials and his former press secretary, who sued him for sexual harassment, according to San Diego City Atty. Jan Goldsmith.

But the world will have to wait until Friday afternoon, when the City Council, whose nine members have all urged Filner to resign, vote on the agreement in a closed session.

In the meantime, I decided to call one of the few former elected officials who could shed some light on what Filner, a progressive Democrat, might have been thinking for the past month and a half after women began to accuse him of inappropriate, if not downright illegal, sexual behavior including forcing them into headlocks.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon, a Republican, was forced out of office in 1995 after it was revealed that he’d made unwanted sexual advances toward at least two dozen women over a period of 20 years.

Like Filner, he was a social progressive and a big supporter of women’s rights who had a habit of trying to stick his tongue into the mouths of unsuspecting women.

Like Filner, he was the subject of a complaint by Gloria Allred.

Like Filner, he apologized, saying “My actions were just plain wrong.”

The Packwood scandal, a low moment for the Senate, went on for three long years.

Though it's only been a month and a half since former San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye stood in front of City Hall to accuse Filner of very bad behavior and demand his resignation, you could argue that San Diego has had it even worse.

At least the business of Oregon, or the nation, did not grind to a halt as Packwood fought for his political life.

San Diego has essentially been paralyzed by the scandal around its chief executive, who has so far clung to his post despite the overwhelming evidence that most San Diegans want him outta there.

What must Filner be thinking as 18 women have now stepped forward to accuse him of unwanted sexual advances?

With so many years to reflect, I thought perhaps Packwood could help us understand what makes Filner tick.

Reached at home in Oregon, Packwood was gracious, but curt: “You’re a good reporter,” he told me when I told him the reason for my call. “I really have no desire to get into it.” Click.

So I called David Wexler, the San Diego clinical psychologist who has followed the Filner saga.

Wexler, who has worked with many powerful men whose lives are torn apart by their compulsions, conjectured that Filner has an emotional “Teflon shield” that has somehow prevented him from being crippled by the accusations and demands for his resignation by most of the city’s Democratic establishment.

(It's not just the city; California’s two Democratic U.S. senators have also urged him to resign, as has the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. The DNC is slated to take up a motion urging him to resign when it meets Friday in Phoenix. Filner’s biggest supporters, in organized labor, have condemned sexual harassment but have not demanded he resign. “It’s an awkward situation, but we have a lot invested in him,” Tom Lemmon, head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council told the U-T San Diego early this month. “We believe in due process, so let it take its course.”)

“Most people can’t handle it,” said Wexler. “They would say, ‘Oh my God. I hate having all these people see me this way, talk about me this way, and so rather than continue to subject myself to this, I have to leave. I have to resign because I don’t want to feel this horrible every day.”

But Filner, like embattled New York Democratic mayoral candidate and serial sexter Anthony Weiner, may feel simply feel that he was destined to be mayor and resistant to the idea that he is a “quitter.”

“In some of the pro-Filner protests or marches, they are singing ‘We Shall Overcome,’ which invokes the sense that Filner and his supporters believe that they are victims of something, and that they are imploring him to be strong or resilient,” said Wexler. “I think that is part of what motivates someone in that situation. Not ‘I am gonna maintain my power and perks,’ but ‘I have a belief in myself and I am not gonna back down from this path that I have been working for for my entire life.’ “

On Friday, we’ll know exactly what lies ahead on Bob Filner’s political path. My prediction: dead end.

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More from Robin Abcarian

Twitter: @robinabcarian

robin.abcarian@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Bob FilnerElectionsPoliticsSexual MisconductPublic OfficialsAnthony D. Weiner
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