A limited defense of Anthony Weiner
Let's all calm down just a little bit.
No one, at this point, questions that Weiner did some dumb stuff, starting with sending a tumescent-if-covered picture on Twitter without realizing it's not as secure as he apparently thought. No one questions, now, that Weiner was getting a little strange on the side, at least electronically, or that he was apparently picking twitter followers of the feminine and toothsome variety to approach. Should he resign? I'd just as well he didn't; he's been a complete jerk, and the longer he stays the longer he provides an example pour encourager les autres. And whether Huma should stay with him is entirely their business.
So let's be real clear I'm not saying "give him a pass." But listening to the conservasphere today, I've heard him called a "pervert", and "a stalker" who was "randomly sending pictures of his penis to young girls". So let's back up just a bit.
Is he a pervert? Well, there's an old saying that the declension there is "I'm adventurous, you're kinky, he's a pervert." Since we're talking in third person, I guess that makes him a pervert. But one of my best friends, someone I know from acting, runs a legal phone sex service; guys pay her and her employees to talk dirty. If Weiner is a pervert, he certainly has a lot of company in his perversion -- look in the back pages of most any weekly newspaper.
Is he a stalker? Not in any reasonable interpretation of the word. He was carrying on electronic flirtations that were to all appearances voluntary on both sides. Had he exceeded these women's bounds, they could block him instantly -- hell, Jay Rosen blocked me on twitter because he kapt tweeting dumb things I could refute in 140 characters. You can block anyone at any time. If you just stop following smoeone, they can't send you direct messages any more. This isn't Bill Clinton asking an employee to "kiss it" -- much less some of the other things that have been reported about Clinton.
I haven't seen anyone suggesting that he was randomly sending unexpected pictures. Everyone who has talked about this appears to be saying it was part of a flirtatious conversation. Nor are these women all that young. No, sorry, a 21 year old is a grown up, completely capable of making her own decisions, certainly a sexual being and in today's world probably not sexually inexperienced. Even a 19 year old is a legal adult -- sure, as Stacy McCain says, he would be angry if he learned his 19 year old was having hot conversations with a man Weiner's age -- but what father is really comfortable thinking of his daughter as a sexual being? And one of these "young women" -- the blackjack dealer, who Jason Lewis was all outraged about on the radio this afternoon -- is 40 and apparently carried on this phone-and-facebook dalliance for most of a year. Similarly with the people who have been saying Weiner is an "exhibitionist" and put him into the same category as a guy in a trenchcoat flashing schoolkids.
Well, when I was overseas years ago, my then-fiancee sent me some fairly racy pictures, and I wrote some pretty torrid letters. If everyone who exchanges racy pictures with a current inamorata is an exhibitionist, there are sure one helluva lot of them.
The point is: what Weiner did was dumb enough, and arguably immoral enough, and his lying afterward embarrassed his friends and family and his political allies and supporters. I don't blame Kirsten Powers a bit for wanting to kick his ass. But some of the things people on the right are saying about Weiner are as maliciously untruthful as the repetition of the things about Sarah Palin saying she could see Alaska from her house, or that she personally hunts wolves from helicopters as blood sport.