Even if the Democratic congressman did send x-rated tweets, he won't suffer the same fate as Republican Chris Lee.
If the stranger-than-fiction Anthony Weiner scandal were fiction, the part about Bill Clinton presiding over his wedding ceremony last year would be considered foreshadowing. Whereas “a vast, right-wing conspiracy” allegedly engineered Clinton’s periodic bimbo eruptions, anonymous hackers supposedly made it appear as though the New York City congressman Tweeted a picture of a member of Congress. Who are you gonna believe? The honest politician or your lying eyes?
This much we know: Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account broadcast a snapshot of an excited male in gray underpants last Friday night. Weekend nights disproportionately claim the texts eliciting weekday regret.
Every picture tells a thousand words. But Weiner’s graphic graphic befits the abbreviated world of 140 characters or less. Weiner says it wasn’t him. We don’t know who occupied those gray briefs. We do know that we can categorically rule out Peter North, Tommy Lee, and Animal Kingdom as suspects.
The alleged intended recipient of Weiner’s Tweet is a 21-year-old undergraduate living in the Pacific Northwest. The actual recipients were the Congressman’s 45,000 Twitter followers.
The unclean photo was quickly scrubbed from Weiner’s account and the co-ed shut down her Facebook page and Twitter account. Alas, every exhibitionist’s dream of a voyeur comes true as a nightmare. The narcissistic lawmaker and the youthful object of his alleged aggressive affections had their online admirers. Twittericans preserved the unsightly image and a previous Tweet from the undergraduate declaring the married congressman her “boyfriend.”
If a cabal has indeed framed Weiner, it was an elaborate set-up involving at the least the collaboration of a 21-year-old woman, an ingenious computer hacker, and a bawdy male model. That’s one possible explanation of the scandal. Another one is that a 46-year-old tech-challenged egomaniac mistook a text message to a comely college girl for a Tweet to a gawking public.
What seems most likely may not prove to be true. Weiner may be victim and not offender. But it would help the congressman’s cause if he imitated a politician whom he may never have envisioned as a role model. When Sarah Palin’s email account was hacked by the son of a Democratic politician, she brought in law enforcement. The online intruder was arrested, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to jail. By avoiding such a course, Weiner makes it appear as though he has something to hide.
Lying to the press through a flack is a common-enough Washington transgression. Perjuring yourself to federal law enforcement officers is a jailable offense. Should Weiner take his public relations flunky-told tale to the feds, and appear as eager to hunt down journalists as he had been prior to the scandal, then the public might give his story a listen. But Weiner has developed a case of cameraitis that he had previously been immune to and he doesn’t seem so keen to personally interact with the police.
The seedy public fixation on the private lives of politicians undergoes a role reversal here. Instead of a peeping populace forcing its way up to the bedroom window, a politician has imposed, albeit unwittingly, his private life upon the public space. It’s different that the exposed is also the exposer. But the revulsion felt by the dignified remains the same either way.
Illicit sex is about the only area of bipartisan harmony on Capitol Hill. Whereas Democrats benefitted from the resignation of Craigslist Congressman Chris Lee through a seat pick-up last week, Republicans will not be so lucky with the Indiscreet Tweeter Anthony Weiner. A person prone to broadcasting his every half-developed thought through Twitter is by definition immodest. The shamelessness that prompts the publication of so personal a picture necessarily precludes the possibility of a humiliation-avoiding resignation. For anecdotal evidence of this phenomenon, see Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, Gavin Newsom, and David Vitter.
Weiner benefits from the “D” next to his name. He benefits more from the lockstep partisanship of his New York City district. Whatever vainglory the seven-term congressman possessed prior to attaining federal office, the lack of accountability built in to representing such a deep-blue district has exaggerated it. Live wrong but vote right, and you’re sinecure will stay yours. Had Buffalo-area Congressman Chris Lee possessed the correct the political affiliation, or enjoyed a similar party monopoly among constituents, he might be sitting alongside fellow New Yorker Anthony Weiner in Congress today.
Lee had neither, so he is gone. Weiner has both so he won’t be going anywhere.
As bad as it is to have an inadequately-endowed groin imposter, it could be worse for Anthony Weiner. The congressman’s last name could be Johnson. There’s no telling the sport his political enemies would make of him then.
Daniel J. Flynn is the author of Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002), Intellectual Morons: How Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas (Crown Forum, 2004), and A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008). He writes a Monday column for Human Events and blogs atwww.flynnfiles.com.