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The Big Scandal

As nooze stories go, it has all the elements necessary to become an out of control frenzy – sex, a rising star, and the shiny-kewl allure of an internet fad.  The scandal involving Rep. Anthony Weiner was bound to be horribly over-played, and it has been.  Yet there is so much missing from the breathless hours already reported that it’s worth looking at much deeper.

What we was lost immediately in the frenzy was any sense of humanity and, as could be expected, a complete lack of introspection by those involved in the “reporting”.

Before I get started, I want to make it clear that I’m not condoning what this guy did.  It was selfish and childish, points I consider obvious.  If he can’t represent his district properly anymore he should resign, putting his “career” second – if Elliot Spitzer can bounce back with his own show, Weiner should do fine.

But what drove him to behave this way?  It’s a simple question that I’ve never seen asked in all the speculation around this story.  Here’s a driven, serious man at 46 who is probably feeling a little of the “second adolescence” that is common at midlife.  He’s also expecting the birth of his first child, a time when any man has tremendous anxiety.  In addition, Weiner has been getting a lot of exposure on teevee lately as a fiery spokesman for the left, certainly giving him a feeling of incredible power.  The stress must have been incredible.

What he needs now, or really needed a month or two ago, is a close friend to pull him aside and say, “I know you, this isn’t you.  Cut it the Hell out, now!”  That, and a good dope slap.  But that didn’t happen as far as I know.

The only essay I’ve found with a shred of humanity is this excellent analysis by Scott Adams of Dilbert (thanks, Meghan!) on how and why men sometimes do very stupid things for sex.  Adams isn’t a reporter, he’s just a guy with a sense of reality.  But if he can get it, why didn’t anyone in the nooze?

What I’ve seen of the exchanges on twitter shows me a man who is awkward with women and probably never acted like this before.  I know because I’m the same way and I can relate to this guy.  The phenomenon we’re seeing here is probably the flip-side of “flame wars”, where people act differently when there is a machine between them and the person they are “talking” to.  But when we get into machines the focus of any article is going to be the kewlness, not the people.  Here’s an article that attempted to play off of the scandal by, in my view, utterly missing the point.  Somewhere in here is a good novel (that I need to finish, BTW).

Beyond all of this, however, is the real question as to how this got to the news in the first place.  A certain sleazy “reporter” who practices the “gotcha” moment has been feeding this all along, now peddling in pornography for mass consumption.  Given that Weiner has been one of the few Democrats with a real spine and the fact that his accuser has a track record of less than ethical behavior we have to at least consider that this has been a set-up from the start.  How did all those pictures and exchanges come out so carefully, measured out day by day, to keep the scandal boiling?  There is little question that big media has been at least manipulated, even if it was pure opportunism on the part of the one pushing the story.  But if it was all a trap there is a much more interesting story at the heart of this, one where the playground of politics has managed to turn even nastier thanks to willing accomplices in the nooze.

Where does this take us?  Hopefully to a point of silence where a family can start putting their lives back together.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t see this as the most over-hyped nooze item they’ve seen in a very long time.  But for all that noise there has been an awful lot unsaid.  That’s what’s really sick here, in my opinion.  But I’d love to know what you think, too.

22 thoughts on “The Big Scandal

  1. I just don’t see that this is any of our business to start with. It’s not like he got caught taking bribes or even doing his staff. I also think this had to be a set-up and I can’t believe that no one is willing to say that. Maybe the media and the democrats are one in the same because they are both cowards.

  2. Men! 🙂

    I realize that you were just explaining what was going on in his head and I won’t ask why you can relate to him so well. 🙂 But if this is really what happens to men and Scott Adams is right (great article BTW) I think there is a lot more wrong with men than I thought – & that is saying something!

    Maybe this is proof that women should be in charge?

  3. Dale: It really should never have gotten anywhere. it’s pure sensationalism. They report this because they think it sells, and maybe because they have no idea how to present real issues like the Debt Ceiling and Budget.

    Anna: You know I’m all in favor of more women in power. The list of nations who entered “Golden Ages” once a woman took control is quite long:
    But we are all just human after all. Once we forget that we’ll never be honest about problems like this and we’ll never get past them. It’s not like he is the first guy to chuck everything for a quick sexual encounter – look at Dominc Strauss-Kahn of the IMF, for an even sleazier (and more obviously job affecting) example.

  4. Has anyone seen national polls on this? Because I don’t know anyone who thinks this is news and actually cares about it. The only poll I found was in Wiener’s district where a majority said he should not resign –

    That pretty much ends it for me. But it is interesting to think about how the media was fed this story despite the fact that no one really thought it deserved this much attention. If this story deserves to continue at all that would be the only reason I can think of.

  5. I understand Adams contextualizing but I have little mercy for the guy. Clinton’s choice (j Elders) for surgeon general was bounced because as a doctor she talked openly and honestly about petting and sexuality. When my son graduated the other day I told him he will never be as innocent as he is now, friends will drift. I have always thought our culture has debased to the point where the only thing some people consider wrong is murder. On that cheery note, girls lie too//we don’t care how much money you make// what you do or what you weigh// size don’t matter anyway//don’t think you are the only ones// who bend it, break it, stretch it some// we learn from you// girls lie too.

  6. Jim: Well, I guess that settles it for me. I have no idea what the polls would be like nationally, but I can’t imagine people care about it any more than they do in his district. If they still support him, he should stay.

    Dan: It is a general problem and that is what I try to write about. This is just on brief moment where it all crystallizes into something that I think makes a good example of how sick we are. But the disease is pretty deep, isn’t it?

  7. I enjoy your commentary on this story. I have a Twitter account that is one of the 198 (now down to 197) accounts followed by Rep. Weiner. (This happened BEFORE the sex scandal broke out and happened merely by using the hashtag #WeinerYes. By the way, Rep. Weiner never sent any direct tweets or photos to this account, nor did he ever mention it.) Consequently a reporter from the New York Times was quite curious to find out any juicy information regarding all of this. There was obviously nothing to report as I just mentioned the whole being followed by him was just a random thing and nothing exciting happened as a result other than eventually being contacted by the media about it.

    I should also add that although I do not live in Rep. Weiner’s district (so my opinion is of very little value), I do not think he should (or needs to) resign. Unless of course he wants to for some reason or that ends up being a decision he along with his wife/family decides for personal reasons. I care more about his willingness to stand up for the PEOPLE and stand up to the GOP and stand up against the big corporations. He’s one of the very few in the House willing to do so and I personally care way more about that than stupid photos he tweeted of himself to random women.

    As for the commentary on how men act, well, I do think it’s foolish and arrogant and I happen to be a woman. However, I’ve spent a good deal of time in New York City. (Including the district Rep. Weiner represents.) I’ve even dated a couple of New Yorkers, yes, even a native New Yorker. Not to mention I have a number of male friends and acquaintances in New York City. I know nothing about the details of Anthony Weiner’s marriage or their whole set up. However, the whole culture in NYC is quite different than other parts of the country. As in it’s not unusual for example for people there to have “open relationships”. Be it a not married individual who is (openly) playing the field or even in some cases legally married people who really truly have no problem with the notion of being married, still having a relationship of sorts (including on paper), while (openly) dating others on occasion. As a Midwesterner it’s a strange concept to ME personally, but it’s really not THAT big of a deal to a lot of people who live there. And as grotesque as it sounds to email lewd photos or write dirty things on the internet, it’s way more common than most people will admit. It’s silly and kind of immature, but it happens all the time. And I guess it could be considered an “emotional affair” and extremely cruel to one’s spouse, but it’s not a physical in person affair, nor is it illegal last time I checked.

  8. Perhaps it’s my Minnesota upbringing, the influence of my parents (neither of whom strayed from the other), or maybe even my Puritan ancestry; I am not one who is comfortable with flirting, on line or in the “real world.”
    I don’t believe on line flirting is just a male thing. You and I both are followed by a very young woman who, until recently used a “come hither” avatar and was prone to writing somewhat suggestive tweets. She is a very nice person, really, and meant nothing by it…and perhaps doesn’t understand how suggestive her tweets were.
    The press will naturally gravitate to salacious stories; stumbling over one another in their collective desire to get the latest scoop. All at the expense of real news that matters, or should matter to us all.
    That Congressman Weiner behaved badly is a given, but it is up to the people of his district to determine his political future.

  9. Boomerjack, that’s interesting. Interesting about some random woman who has suggestive tweets, but more interesting to hear about someone with a Minnesota upbringing who is too shy to flirt. I’ve noticed that about Minnesota men. I scratch my head about it too. Whenever I go to New York City, men have no hesitation at all to flirt. Before you sit down in a bar or cafe, one is already flirting with two more ready to take over if you reject the first guy. In the land of “Minnesota Nice” it’s more like you sit down and nobody really talks. By the time a man has the courage to ask a woman out on some sort of date, we women have already grown too bored. It’s sexist and silly but also true. Women don’t want cheesy generic pick up lines. Just regular conversation I guess. But that’s the point. Too many Minnesota men are way too shy to even approach a woman. The ones that do, well, they often are just drunk or creepy. If you’re a man who is sober and normal, simple conversation about even the weather or the Twins will do. Maybe it’s not flirting, but it’s interesting conversation which is sadly lacking in Minnesota in my opinion despite our reputation for being so “nice”. Nice, sure, but shy as well. Too shy.

    • There are any number of people I know online and in person that would laugh at the notion of me being too shy. I did just fine in my dating days…if I remember correctly. Then again that ended over 30 years ago.

  10. Interesting turn on the discussion. Can I just say that I’m naturally very shy but come from a culture that is extremely outgoing. Living here means I’m constantly conffozed and have no idea what I’m doing – especially given that I’m pretty odd to start with.

  11. LOL! You don’t seem that odd to me, but what do I know. I used to be super shy as a kid and forced myself not to be later on in life. I still am an introvert. I’m just good at faking extroversion. I will say this; I can’t stand talking on the phone! I have a phone because it’s necessary but I’d rather talk to people in person or in email.

  12. After some internet research he also broke hindu and buddhist ethics. Wow 5for 5 that would be a grand slam in baseball.

  13. Seems to me the pendulum has swung way over towards holding politicians–is that term still in use?–more responsible for their personal conduct than their political conduct. From a public-policy point of view this doesn’t make sense. People of all genders are horny and do illogical things. Where should the line be drawn? Somewhere, clearly, but….is there anyone who hasn’t done something that would be embarrassing to have publicized? If so, this is probably a person who hasn’t done anything, hasn’t pushed any limits or boundaries….not my idea of leadership material.

    Likewise, reporting these days tends to focus on the personal. Jack Kennedy could not have stayed in office, behaving as he and his brothers did, in today’s zero-privacy environment. Not to mention somebody like Nick Longworth.

    I’ve seen the cell-phone locker room images but not the emails. Based on the photos this seems to me like a tempest in a teapot. Smells like a setup of the Acorn type.

  14. Alan: I think this is driven purely by the change to embarrass the Hell out of someone, really anyone. That’s really sick stuff. It’s gone on far too long.

    Anna: We can always hope.

  15. I really fell sorry for the guy now. Seems like an incredible double standard for politicians where they can lie like crazy but they can’t even think about committing other sins.

  16. Jim, I feel sorry for him now, too. He blew away so much with what he did. We haven’t heard about this in a while, perhaps the quiet will help Weiner get his life back together.

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