…and Craigs, Foleys, Clintons, Harts, Spitzers, Lees, and long walks on the Appalachian Trail. I have endeavored over these last two years, to steer well clear of the tawdry “affairs” of state, but the world has finally caught up with the Rational Middle. I am selling out friends, and am told by reliable sources that sex is just the ticket for generating web volume. I am so excited, at the prospect of in depth reporting on Anthony’s Weiner, that I might change the “donation” key (upper left corner of the blog) to a “subscription” key. After all, why discuss the silly little working class issues like jobs, education, healthcare, and security? Why write at length about boring (and math-intensive…ugh) economics and fiscal calamities, when we can have a good, vigorous discourse on sex?
Why indeed; a good sex scandal is one of those rare instances where we the people can identify with politicians. No really, I am quite serious. Raise your hand if you attend a church that has not heard the whispers about “that” couple’s indiscretions in the last year. Speak up if your office is a hanky/panky free zone. And opportunities, oh the opportunities that a fling can offer those “in the know”. The right information, at the right time, could give you the inside track to that promotion, or allow you to finally get control of the children’s ministry away from that obviously deficient person who has been in charge. The right information, at the right time, could help you knock out a rival for President, or help you unseat the other party for control of the House, or maybe even just give a discredited con-artist (I am writing of you Mr. Brietbart) the glimmer and sheen of redemption and credibility.
The art of the political scandal is as old as politics. The only thing that has changed in the whole sordid history of sordid histories, is the staggering increase in the money that can be made from a grown man’s (typically, anyway) inability to use his “primary” brain to make decisions. The tactics of scandal have changed very little, although Republicans have become remarkably adept at hiding behind Jesus when confronted (they might, of course, have learned from a Kennedy). So what is different about this latest refrain from the tired old song; disrespectful, boorish, and misogynistic choices, followed by a bad show of denial, followed by tearful apology and resolute statement of will?
Nothing. Nothing is different. Anthony Weiner did not, apparently, “engage” his targets, but his “arsenal” was most definitely “on deployment”. That Andrew Brietbart, who is still a manipulative huckster who lied and distorted his way into a career, exposed Rep. Weiner, has no bearing on these proceedings. That Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) cheated on his wife with prostitutes without resigning, has no bearing on these proceedings. That Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) cheated on his wife while only resigning in the face of ethical charges, has no bearing on these proceedings.
Anthony Weiner’s wife must decide on the future of their marriage. The people of Mr. Weiner’s district will, if he chooses to stay, have the opportunity to decide on the future of his political career (precisely as Sen. Vitter’s constituents did in the last election). The Democratic Party must decide on its posture towards the pugnacious and highly visible representative from Brooklyn. And, like all scandals, public opinion will be expressed.
For my money, Anthony Weiner has made himself a tactical and strategic liability to the Democratic Party, and should leave his post. Others with whom I share a common political philosophy feel aggressively different than I. There is a common theme on the social networks that Weiner is being “judged” by a different standard than Republicans in similar situations. Unfortunately for the principle arguments of my friends, the figure of Rep. Chris Lee looms large. The Republican from upstate New York sent one picture of himself (shirtless) into the ether; he resigned the day the expose was published. He did not, as Mr. Weiner did, engage in a history of solicitations built around tweets of his erect penis.
Anthony Weiner is a smart guy; he is a guy I have written about in the most positive terms in the past, but it was he who hung himself out to dry. Weiner sent those photos over a long period of time. Weiner used a network (Twitter) that all of us who use know is easily hacked. Weiner hung his many allies in the blogosphere and within social networks out to dry by lying when caught. He watched people attack Brietbart when he knew this was the one instance where the “Big Government” publisher was in the right.
The trap I see here, for liberals, is that many of us have adopted the idea that if someone is an aggressive “champion” of our cause, then we should ignore their critical failings. Do we not criticize conservatives for that very behavior? Fighting for Anthony Weiner will hurt liberal initiatives, and for what? By most objective standards, Weiner has been a fair legislator, but nothing spectacular. His principal accomplishment was his correct admonishment of Republicans on the issue of the 9/11 heroes bill. I have much more respect for “liberal champions” like Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders; gentlemen who act like gentlemen, and carry themselves with the dignity that their office deserves.
The trap I see here, for Americans, is this notion of gotcha politics and victimization. We love to “trap” elected officials so that we can justify our suspicions that all politicians are corrupt. When someone we like, however, is found to be actually corrupt, we search and strive and struggle to find justifications for their actions. When we can’t justify, we victimize; it was the monsters (Limbaugh, Brietbart, NBC, Wolf Blitzer) who were to blame, our guy is just human, and they were picking on him.
This is the government of the people; it reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the people. The beauty of our system is that we can choose to keep our scoundrels. The curse of the system is that we are often stuck with the scoundrels of others.
The Rational Middle is listening…