Donald Trump’s gloating survey of Anthony Weiner’s career is less an indictment of the Congressman’s moral fiber than a cold-eyed judgment of his capacity to play the big time. Going for the big time requires the ability to maintain discipline and focus in a pitiless environment. Weiner, Trump implied, had showed that he had neither. The Congressman badgered him for donations, and he might have gotten them had he shown his quality. After Weiner self-destructed, Trump concluded it was obvious he lacked a certain something. “I thought his career was so important to him. The fact is that what he was doing was more important to him.” And that, in the calculus of power, was his greatest fault. He took his eye off the ball. Weiner could therefore rattle his tin cup somewhere else, somewhere in the bush leagues.
Aspiring to success requires above all the ability to succeed. Napoleon once said that people with great ambition “may perform very good or very bad acts.” But the chief thing was to get away with it, to carry it off, whether good or bad. In the movie Wall Street the audience is told that first place is reserved for people who can claw their way to the top. It’s not about amity, or morality but success. If you want a friend, buy a dog.
Now that an “X-rated” picture of the Congressman is circulating around the Internet, he will be made to pay the price, not so much for doing a bad thing — though he did — as for being caught. Now that he is a political liability, his calls won’t be answered — and not just by Trump — but even by those he thought of as his pals. The most telling blows will soon come from Weiner’s own “friends”. In 2001 Vanity Fair ran an article following a pretty young intern’s experiences in Washington. There she met a jolly group of Democratic Congressmen. One of them was Anthony Weiner.
Politics is nothing if not applied opportunism. When Darius fled from Gaugamela, his courtiers had decided the Achaemenid Emperor was only proving a hindrance on the run. To hasten their escape from Alexander’s pursuit, the formerly servile aides of Darius stabbed and left him by a waterhole, where Polystrates, a Greek officer, found him in his last agony. Polystrates gave him a draught of water and brought up a Persian prisoner who translated the Emperor’s dying words. Tell Alexander, Darius said, that he found greater mercy at the hands of his enemies than from those he called his friends.
Its hard to find a greater indictment of fair weather friendship in history than that. But then Weiner still has to pen his memoirs about his life in politics.
The most tragic aspect of the Anthony Weiner story is that his fall comes directly from entree into a circle which he imagined it was an honor to join. No society of ordinary human beings is as treacherous as the club of the Great and the Good. And very few fraternities are as cynical as those which wear idealism on their sleeves. He could not, like Kim Philby, console himself by declaring that “to betray you must first belong, I never belonged.” For Weiner very much wanted what he has now lost; very much desired the affections of those who are even now lining up to drive the dagger into his back. In some horrible way Weiner got what he wanted and this is what he got. To paraphrase Groucho, Weiner wanted admission into a club that would accept him as a member. It’s all been said before.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
“No Way In” print edition at Amazon