Sex Scandal Sans Sex

Paul Greenberg

6/8/2011 1:23:00 PM - Paul Greenberg
What's to be done with the strange story, tabloid saga, curious case and general embarrassment that is The Honorable -- how ludicrous that title now sounds -- Anthony Weiner, congressman from New York's Ninth District and national object of derision?

Here's my suggestion: Exactly nothing. Rise above this whole one-day story that now threatens to go on for a week and seems as if it's gone on forever. Somebody find the hook and get this guy off the stage.

Here is just one more pitiable male who's made a beyond-absolute fool of himself. Except for his political position, he could be just another creep lost in well-deserved obscurity. Instead, it is his merciless fate to be the subject of glaring headlines and bad jokes.

Now that the congressman has betrayed friends, family, constituents and anybody who ever trusted him, how about just leaving the poor shnook alone for the rest of his life? And beyond. Because you just know the first line of his obituary -- and may he live a long, happy, healthy and much better life -- will refer to the kind of virtual sex scandal he confessed to this week.

I say virtual because his scandalous goings-on seem to have been confined to Twitter. Or maybe YouTube, Facebook, iPod, or some other constant interruption; I get them all confused. All I know is they get in the way of actually living.

In its own sad way, the congressman's story is the story of our Internetted times. Never before in the history of communication have so many sent so many messages of so little serious import so often.

Only his political prominence and solely chronological maturity distinguishes The Hon. Mr. Weiner from your typical adolescent devoid of impulse control. Here is just another pol drawn from the overflowing ranks of the incorrigibly immature. They seem everywhere.

Back in the Insipid Seventies, an English spoof entitled, "No Sex Please, We're British" played to packed houses in London for most of the decade.

Now an American congressman has found a way to have even a sex scandal without sex. He just sends naughty messages. It's enough to make the good old-fashioned, seamy-steamy, back-street affair seem almost wholesome by comparison. Or at least quaint in these cyberspaced-out times.

The gentleman from New York -- well, the U.S. representative from New York -- is already a national laughingstock and bound to go through the rest of his years the subject of snickers and pity (which is worse, do you think?) whenever he dares appear in public, or even if he doesn't. At least he could have the decency at this point to go away. Far away.

By now the sight of Anthony Weiner, M.C., whether clothed or un-, has become both bore and annoyance. Much like the spectacle of Bill Clinton lying his way ever deeper into L'Affaire Lewinsky years ago. This vanity, too, will pass and the sun hasten to the place where it arose. Just please let it happen soon.

There are some scandals that ladies and gentlemen pass over in adult silence. It is enough to duly record them and then, for mercy's sake, just go on. What's the point of dwelling on them except perhaps as a cautionary tale? Doesn't our society have enough sleaze to sift through on television?

Yes, if the man had any sense of honor, he'd resign. But his lack of one now has been firmly established. By no less an authority than himself. Why not just leave him to Heaven? Or to the Hell that unceasing public attention can be. He's scarcely worth making an example of.

But will the omnipresent media let us ignore him? Because more acts await in this disheartening drama. For example, the House Ethics Committee will have to investigate -- if only for form's sake. It's not a pleasant job, but somebody has to do it. Then could we please not mention the subject again, at least on the front page?

After all, Mr. Weiner's scandalous behavior was private -- and how he must wish it had stayed so! -- but he doesn't seem to have broken any law.

Yes, he seems to have lied to everybody in sight and out of it before he fessed up as it became harder and harder to hide the truth. But if his sad behavior showed contempt for anybody who ever respected him, he didn't show contempt for the law he swore to uphold. At least he never testified falsely under oath. That crucial, stupid mistake and sin he had enough sense, or at least luck, not to commit. He may be guilty of conduct unbecoming a gentleman, not to mention general tastelessness, but that's scarcely a criminal offense.

My recommendation: Enough already. Leave him to the tender mercies of his fellow New Yorkers. What more condign punishment could one wish upon him?

After all, he is their representative. And if they decide to keep him, that'll be their problem. I'm just hoping the rest of us can write -30- to this whole story.

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Mr. Weiner's isn't the only creepy act in this socio-political freak show.

There's the scandalmonger who exposed him, literally: Andrew Breitbart. He's all too well-known, at least to Shirley Sherrod. Remember her? Ms. Sherrod lost her job with the Department of Agriculture after her racial views were misrepresented -- whether by Mr. Breitbart, Glenn Beck or the secretary of agriculture remains a matter of some dispute and, America being America, of litigation. But that's a whole other sad story. For now Mr. Breitbart claims to have been vindicated by the outcome of L'Affaire Weiner. Messy thing, vindication. It can make you want to wash your hands afterward.

But get this: Blogger Breitbart claims he's holding back one dirty picture in his sizable collection out of consideration for the congressman's family.

That's nice. But he also claims he's holding the picture as "insurance" lest the congressman give him any more trouble. So much for our hero's tender regard for family values when pressed.

Would you call Brother Breitbart's shtick journalism or blackmail, or both? We report, you decide. What's clear is that these characters, both the congressman and his pursuer, deserve each other. It wouldn't be the first time respectable journalism, if that's not an oxymoron, was well served by less than respectable types.

(Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His e-mail address is pgreenberg@arkansasonline.com.)