Let's face it. Anthony Weiner is the comic relief we've been seeking: sexualized politics without a moral message. Salacious texting, a parody of sensual touching, doesn't depend on the meaning of "is" or "was." Vice in virtual reality is sexuality-lite, superficial fantasy, timorous titillation, shadows in the shallows of the Internet.
Bill Clinton's affair with Monica has become so yesteryear. The former president is an aging adulterer from an earlier time. He broke ground in getting a public pass on his behavior, but he doesn't want Huma and Anthony to sweep Hill and Bill into a satirical performance they can't direct. Bubba did his bit for Cupid, officiating at the Abedin/Weiner wedding, but the couple exceeded the amount on the blank check of his blessings. If Huma thought she could get away with standing by her man just like the first lady, she was deluded, too. Anthony Weiner is no "comeback kid," and though his wife looks stylish in Vogue, fashion statements don't create a political strategy.
The would-be mayor is a court clown wearing cap and bells next to the former president, now philanthropist with gravitas. Huma's "ups and downs" are roller coaster rides in an amusement park when compared to Hillary's steep mountainous climbs to be the first women carved on Mt. Rushmore.
Tina Brown, furious at the male mismanagement of the gender wars, writes how the high-tech, high-testosterone political powers in Washington threaten to mess up decades of carefully crafted gender negotiations, ironically giving men the edge with their genital exposure, humiliating Hillary's message of women's empowerment. Standing by your man is reduced to falling on your face. She asks in the Daily Beast whether we could imagine a prominent woman in Washington politics uploading "a crotch shot of herself on Instagram."
Electing Anthony Weiner's female opponent, Brown suggests, would at least keep us safe from "private parts" racing around the Internet -- one of the most bizarre feminist reasons yet for voting a woman into office.
The sexes are supposed to be equal, but when the middle-aged male libido enjoys renewed power, it turns out that his loud, lewd and sometimes laughable lust can also be forgivable. At least that's what Eliot Spitzer thinks. Five years after paying for a high-priced hooker in a Washington hotel room, he believes he's paid the piper of penance. New Yorkers, he says, should now let him manage cash payments of another kind as controller of New York City, and he feels secure enough to criticize Weiner as a bad choice for mayor without generating comparisons. (The polls support the former governor's assessment.)
Spitzer has been able to limit his liabilities to drawing room comedy, which titillates and draws in an audience with intellectually understandable foibles found in people they know. Weiner, by contrast, stars in his own farce, the ugly American whose grotesque actions embarrass those watching and offer nothing but shame to the country's cultural capital. The joke that's circulating is that he chose the pseudonym Carlos Danger because Carlos Underpants was already taken.
"It's almost as if a little child were playing at being a politician and trying to hide something," Dr. Richard C. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, told The New York Times. You don't have to be a psychiatrist to come up with a diagnosis, when a public person who aims for a position of responsibility reveals himself to be a total jerk. Sins that once dominated moral judgment in a religious age have been replaced with explanations of "root causes" and a search for cures in our scientific age. Therapy replaces self-discipline.
We've come a long way from Freud's world of repressed inhibitions. If privacy once camouflaged a multitude of sins, public exposure today desensitizes us to abnormal behavior. All kinds of exhibitionism on the Internet pass as normal behavior just as our current collective fixation on physical fitness obscures an obsessional nature. A hedonistic, permissive society is slow to judge aberrant behavior by any fixed standards so that we often overlook the more dangerous side of misbehaving.
Politicians, like entertainers, can often find professional outlets to hide serious symptoms until they crash and burn in front of us. The narcissistic attitudes that take people into these celebrity fields can also morph into the aberrations that take them out.
Elections can be decisive, but campaigns don't offer the most precise tools to illuminate the character traits we expect from our leaders. Comic interludes such as the one provided by Anthony Weiner serve as distractions from larger problems we suffer as a society. In the final act we're pretty much left with Puck's perception, when he turned to Oberon and said, simply, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"