Does the Anthony Weiner affair mean anything? Some married congressman may or may not have sent a Twitter crotch shot of himself to a college girl on the other side of the country.
Snore. So what else is new? We all know that our male politicians – left, right, gay, straight, or whatever – suffer from overdoses of testosterone. It’s almost the sole distinguishing characteristic of a profession that otherwise has no specific qualifications. Weiner himself had the reputation of being quite the playboy before he married the half-Indian, half-Pakistani Huma Abedin in 2008. So what if it hasn’t really stopped, even to the degree he counts porn stars among the short list he follows on Twitter? How very French.
But wait. That’s the point, isn’t it? Is this really the kind of behavior we Americans want from our public officials? When they lie in public about sex, how do we know they are not lying about other things?
Yes, I know Weiner has not yet been proven to have done anything, but his evasive behavior in response to questions is reminiscent of a long list of public figures from Bill Clinton to John Edwards to Eliot Spitzer to Mark Sanford to… well, I could go on. Although these men were far from the first to commit adultery, they all have something in common that most do not. They lied about it to the American public while serving us as our elected officials. None of them could be honest until it was absolutely necessary, if they were then.
Weiner has all the earmarks of such a person, refusing to talk about what happened in a recent television interview while insisting on discussing the debt ceiling. Are we then supposed to take his comments on the debt seriously? Were we ever? Leaving aside that he is a ceaseless cheerleader for a political party that has yet to produce a budget — that, after all, is a partisan decision, disingenuous as it may be — Weiner is asking us to ignore one of the oldest of legal dictums, the Roman “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.” You lie about one thing and you lie about all.
An argument could be made, of course, that that makes a good portion of males (and a good portion of females as well) liars about everything. But there are degrees. And the way you respond to the revelation of your peccadilloes is a mark of your character.
In that sense, Weiner has failed miserably. The defensive mixture of entitlement and anger he displayed at the news conference Tuesday in response to many natural questions on his activities is, to put it mildly, unattractive. Like many Lotharios he finds it difficult to “man up” when the pressure is on. His Brooklyn constituents should be ashamed.
This may be a good teaching moment for America, just as the Strauss-Kahn affair should be for France. There is no reason we should elect such people. Their behavior is not cute, nor is it charmingly corrupt in New Orleans/Chicago fashion. These are our elected representatives at a moment, as Weiner himself reminded us, of serious economic crisis. We don’t have time for people like him.
But we shouldn’t feel sorry for Anthony Weiner. He may not achieve his lifelong goal of being mayor of New York, but, considering the values of our era, he could end up joining his former colleague ex-Governor Spitzer as a host on CNN.
One last thing: Twitter has been touted as great tool of democracy. Sometimes it is (Iran). But sometimes it’s more like a faux-democracy with all kinds of propaganda, distortion and, naturally, marketing flying back and forth in short unsubstantiated bursts. If a public official goes on Twitter, he or she does so at their (and our!) peril. Imagine, for example, if a real Hacker (not a Weiner pretend hacker) found his way into the direct message tweets between, say, a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and his paramour… Need I say more?
Maybe ask Frasier: