Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why Weinergate?

Why does Anthony Weiner suddenly have a “gate” affixed to his name? Leave aside the pleasure so many of us take in seeing a spectacularly self-assured person of elevated social status cut down to size to the point where even we can look down on him. Maybe the media shouldn’t be pandering to our baser instincts. What else about Weinergate warrants public attention?

If you ask Glenn Greenwald, nothing at all (my emphasis):
“What makes the Anthony Weiner story somewhat unique and thus worth discussing for a moment is that, as Hendrik Hertzberg points out, the pretense of substantive relevance (which, lame though it was in prior scandals, was at least maintained) has been more or less brazenly dispensed with here. This isn't a case of illegal sex activity or gross hypocrisy (i.e., David Vitter, Larry Craig, Mark Foley (who built their careers on Family Values) or Eliot Spitzer (who viciously prosecuted trivial prostitution cases)). There's no lying under oath (Clinton) or allegedly illegal payments (Ensign, Edwards). From what is known, none of the women claim harassment and Weiner didn't even have actual sex with any of them. This is just pure mucking around in the private, consensual, unquestionably legal private sexual affairs of someone for partisan gain, voyeuristic fun and the soothing fulfillment of judgmental condemnation.”
Let’s stipulate that, as matter of morality or law, no one besides Weiner’s wife has been injured by his Internet adventures. That doesn’t change the fact that Weiner aspired to be, and until a week ago had a pretty good chance of being, the next mayor of New York City. I don’t think I’m succumbing to a New Yorker's chauvinism when I say that, other than the presidency, that’s about as challenging an executive position as there is in this country, arguably more important to the life of the nation as a whole than all but a few governorships. Does Greenwald really believe that the Weiner’s display of juvenile recklessness and his readiness to lie through his teeth is irrelevant to his worthiness for that office?

The people finding a little diversion in Weiner's travails aren't the only ones luxuriating in the “soothing fulfillment of judgmental condemnation”?


Anonymous said...

Check out the transcript of Weiner's on-line conversations with one of his women. This man should not be an elected official. He is a disgusting man. Pelosi and the democratic leadership ought to show him the door. He should leave now before things get even uglier.

Can you imagine that the child of Weiner will one day learn about his or her father's actions. How sad.

Anonymous said...

I'll just imagine the worst, thank you very much respecting Weiner's sex-talk. Human sexuality is interesting: people, even women, have fantasies about getting raped without thereby accumulating the actual desire to be raped. In fact, there are sexual fantasies we hold based on our determination they remain private and never become acted upon. I'll go with a slight paraphrase of Susan Sontag: What [internet sex chat] does is precisely to drive a wedge between one's existence as a full human being and one's existence as a sexual being -- while in ordinary life a healthy person is one who prevents such a gap from opening up. Normally we don't experience, at least don't want to experience, our sexual fulfillment as distinct from or opposed to our personal fulfillment. But perhaps in part they are distinct, whether we like it or not."

If this is the case, and I strongly suspect it is, worrying about the size of the gap in a politician is pointless, probably arbitrary, puritanical at heart, and worse of all foolish. -- Ben Currie

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 12:50: this is not about sex. This is about the public trust. It's about impulse control in a grown man, not a teenage boy, who had aspirations of becoming the mayor of one of the largest cities in the world. Being a congressman means showing up most of the time and hopefully not lying through your teeth. Being a mayor of NYC is a big, serious job. Can you imagine a Mayor Weiner in a 9/11 scenario? I don't care about his sexual fantasies; I care about his ability to portray an image of seriousness and good judgment. Sending photos of yourself in emails, twitter or whatever internet route you want to name is beyond stupid. It's juvenile and shows an abhorrent lack of judgment. He should not be an elected official.

Ron Replogle said...

Ben: I'm with anon. 1:02. The problem with Weiner isn't that he's immoral, it's that he's a smuck. What else can you say about someone who can't keep his sexual self-portraits off the Internet where they're bound to become public. Lord knows you don't have to be a puritan to be a good NYC mayor and you don't have to have much of anything going for you to be a decent congressman. But it helps to be a prudent adult. People should care when an aspirant to high office clearly isn't.

Anonymous said...

Maybe my attitude arises in part from never thinking he was a serious threat to become mayor, and that his destiny was to remain an average Congressperson. I also don't find sexual impulsivity immature or juvenile. My observation tells me adults don't get a whole lot better at "control" over horny impulses; so I almost never see these public revelations as signs of poor judgment. I fail to see any connection between whether a man flashes his naughty parts on twitter and the ability to rise to genuine leadership in an emergency. Most men and woman lack that ability in any event - in or out of office, horny or chaste. You have to give credit to Rudy for his demeanor and calm and steady and profound leadership on September 11th and the days and weeks that followed; but it is nonetheless true that his political judgment told him to nix the purchase of the superior radios and other communication equipment that firefighters had been asking for in the years before the attack. Weiner seems like the kinda guy who'd have bought the new radios.

The real issue seems to be more about his competence as a politician i.e. the ability to keep his secrets secret and his lies believed. This lack of acumen is consistent with my prior view of him -- a non threat to become mayor and an average Congressperson. -- Ben Currie