Everybody loves a good sex scandal, and these days nobody’s disappointed. Politicians in particular appear constitutionally incapable of keeping their intimate arrangements from public scrutiny. In the case of New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, it appears, the more public, the better.
Satirist Andy Borowitz captured the tone perfectly, joking that Weiner had appointed his close friend “Carlos Danger” campaign manager, since “he was already making most of the major decisions, anyway.” The candidate praised the new hire as “’a tough hombre’ who ‘cares about the struggles of ordinary, middle-class New Yorkers.’”
Joking aside, however, breathes there a man or woman with a soul so callused they’ve never thought “OMG, I’m glad it’s not me?” Pretending to be horrified at other people’s sins is a sadistic activity. After all, doing foolhardy things while naked isn’t exactly rare behavior among human beings. During the Clinton scandals of legend and song, I’d sometimes warily observe my fellow Walmart shoppers. As hard as it could be to believe sometimes, almost everybody there had sex secrets they wouldn’t want seen on TV.
That’s pretty much why most people ended up giving Bill Clinton a pass. Among the myriad mistakes made by the clueless Kenneth Starr and his crack team of prosecutorial bedsheet sniffers, televising his grand jury testimony may have been the most telling. Making the president the protagonist of a one-man inquisition — with faceless prosecutors barking out insultingly intimate questions — caused all but the most hardcore Clinton-haters to empathize with the big dope.
Meantime, everybody was having a big time discussing oral sex at the office water cooler — the very existence of which was previously unacknowledged in workaday culture. Particularly among journalists, of course, an occupation universally known for the spotless probity of our own private lives.
There’s a good deal less sympathy for former Rep. Weiner, although he probably deserves more than he’s gotten. Never mind what the old Johnny Cash song called a “wicked wandering eye.” Weiner’s transgressions invite sheer disbelief. Me, I don’t believe I could possibly get drunk enough to email photos of my naughty bits to strange women. I’d pass out first. Somebody else would have to send out digital images of me hugging the commode.
Not to mention, where on earth would one find a woman who wouldn’t immediately call the cops upon receiving such a photo?
On CNN, actually, smiling like a Miss Universe contestant and telling Anderson Cooper how she never dreamed that the nationally-known, married politician she exchanged dirty photos with would phone-cheat on her with other bad girls. Or something. Honestly, I couldn’t make out what Sydney Leathers’ point was supposed to be, apart from enjoying her moments of TV notoriety.
But that’s enough moralizing. What I said about Weiner deserving a measure of sympathy derives from my belief that his cannot be rationally consequent behavior. It’s pathological. The man must suffer from some hitherto undiagnosed mental illness—a brain disease requiring not merely talk therapy but hospitalization and medication.