Diana West

More than 5,000 words into the New York Times Magazine report on everything ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and his wife, Huma Abedin, want you to know about Weiner’s “sexting” scandal that led him to resign from Congress in 2011, reporter Jonathan Van Meter pauses the story.

Van Meter, a contributing editor at Vogue and New York Magazine, had worked diligently on this New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story – multiple interviews with Weiner and Abedin, both as a couple and separately. On some level, the prurient banality of what he was writing about must have gotten to him.

As he described listening to Weiner discuss the “original behavior” that culminated in the elected official, husband and father-to-be sending a photo of his own torso “wearing gray boxer briefs and an obvious erection” to 45,000 Twitter followers (rather than privately to a 21-year-old college student in Seattle), Van Meter writes: “I startled myself that day when, after two hours of listening while he unburdened himself, I heard these words come out of my mouth: ‘Maybe we should stop there for now.’ Never has an interview felt so much like a therapy session.”

And there were still 3,000 words and a crying outburst (Weiner’s) to go. This last event took place over the “enormous root-beer float” Weiner ordered after dinner, as opposed to his more restrained tearing-up over breakfast. Abedin broke down, too, or so she ‘fessed up to Van Meter, two days after the scandal went public. As a top adviser to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Abedin was en route to Africa when a supportive phone call came in from the White House.

“With tears streaming down her face, she turned to (Clinton staffers) and began talking about some issue that was on the Africa agenda. ‘They just totally went with it and got down to work. There was no attention paid to my tears. And I was like, “Thank you for just responding like that.”‘”

Like Van Meter, maybe we should stop there for now, too. Never has reading the newspaper felt so much like a therapy session. But how little these confessional torrents seem to have to do with genuine healing.

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).