Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shameless: adj. see: Weiner, Anthony

It seems that former Congressman and current New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has once again been caught engaging in the very behavior that led him to resign from Congress two years ago. Weiner has refused to drop out of the mayor's race, his wife is once again standing by him; it's now up to the voters of New York City, of whom I am one, to decide Weiner's fate.

This feels more appropriate than how it went down last time, when Weiner immediately resigned on the assumption (most likely on the part of his handlers) that he would not be re-elected; I'm not so sure that's true, and by re-entering politics so quickly after the his resignation, Weiner clearly feels what he did was not so awful that it couldn't (or wouldn't) be forgiven. This time, since Weiner enjoyed a comfortable lead in the polls just before this second scandal broke, there will literally be a referendum on the relevance of a politician's peccadilloes on his fitness for office.

I will not be voting for him.

I have no objection, on a moral level, to his habit of sending south-of-the-border selfies and extra-forward text messages to women not his wife. It's an old saw by now, ever since the Clinton-Lewinsky contratemps, that nobody knows the true parameters of a marriage except the people in it, but it's an old saw because it's true.

It's entirely possible that Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, has always known about his tendency to use a keyboard as a means of self-pleasure and given her blessing. For all we know, she could have a nasty puppy-on-kitten fetish porn problem, and they chose each other with the agreement that each would allow the other their idiosyncrasies without judgement. Far stranger marital arrangements than that have celebrated golden anniversaries. Dickpix and I'll-do-you-so-good texts wouldn't fly in my marriage -- not even if they were directed at my wife -- but that doesn't give me the right to assume the same of anyone else's.

The fact that he lied about these correspondences also doesn't really bother me. Of course he lied about them, they're enormously embarrassing -- the flexing pectoral shots even more than the sheathed sword shots. (You've got to admit, he's got a nice piece.)

The idea, as some have floated, that he's some kind of online predator taking advantage of starstruck (for lack of a better word) young women also doesn't move me; there's no evidence that he's directed any of these sonnets at anyone under 21, and there's no evidence that he's had any real-world contact of any kind with any of these women. They're old enough to consent (if not to know better), and in the absence of a blue dress or any kind of evidence that he did any more than solicit some long-distance ego-stroking (which he then converted into short-distance self-stroking), I don't have any real problem with it on this level either.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I draw a distinction between online activity and real-world activity. Just as shooting someone in a multiplayer game of Call of Duty is not real-life murder, neither is writing sexy messages to someone you have no intention of ever meeting real-life cheating.

In general, I don't believe that the sexual habits of consenting adults with other consenting adults, be they straight, gay, bi, poly, out, closeted, monogamous, or extracurricular should be any kind of factor in what they can or can't be hired (or elected) to do.

So if I don't have a problem with what he did, and agree enough with his politics that I would probably have voted for him if the election had been last week, what's the problem? Why not give him my vote for mayor? If nothing else, it would be fun to watch the Post and the Daily News use him as a scratching post every day.

I didn't necessarily feel that Weiner needed to resign from Congress two years ago. I thought what he did was super tacky, but it had no real relevance to his duties. I wasn't out in the street demonstrating on his behalf, and I wasn't the least bit upset when he did resign, but if he had stayed that wouldn't have bothered me either.

Whether you feel that he should have resigned or not, though, one thing is undeniable: when it came out, it created a giant shitstorm, a shiny new ball for the media to chase like a first grade soccer team, crowding out any discussion of any other issue and effectively making it impossible for Weiner to function in the job.

So, after having witnessed firsthand the worst-case scenario -- sexts and dickpix going public, wife humiliated, media shitstorm, resignation from Congress -- the fact that this guy would continue in the exact same behavior, after promising on live television to make sure it never happens again, is just baffling to me. It is the very definition of "shameless."

It's not that he did it. It's not that he did it and got caught. It's that he did it, he got caught, and then he did it again, knowing exactly, from direct experience, the ruinous consequences of getting caught. It points to a fundamental lack of impulse control and a startling naivete: did he think he wouldn't get caught again? Did he think people were tired of making fun of him? Did he think that THIS starstruck 22-year-old would be the one that wouldn't, ahem, expose him?

Maybe he thought that he was out of politics for good, so why not go ahead and enjoy what he enjoys? That would be fine, but it also shows a very peculiar lack of self (selfie?)-knowledge. He's been chasing the mayor's office for his entire adult life, and always saw the Congress as a steppingstone to City Hall. His blustering speeches on the House floor, particularly those about health care, showed an almost supernatural self-assurance, which is a close cousin to ambition, which has coffee every morning with narcissism, and none of them let you stay out of the spotlight for very long. I knew the day he resigned that Anthony Weiner would be back in politics. I would have given it five years, but I knew he'd be back.

How could he not know he'd be back? Does he not know himself at all? Does he completely lack the ability to think ahead?

This guy doesn't belong in City Hall, he should be in a psych ward. He doesn't need a shrink, he needs a team of them, working around the clock, only on him. They should devote an entire wing to spelunking his bottomless well of self-delusion.

A couple of great speeches about health care just don't outweigh crisis-level vanity, poor decision-making, the impulse control of a child left alone with a can of frosting, repeated lying, and a total lack of self-knowledge. Maybe these yawning character deficits could be overlooked in the Congress, where he was one of 435 members that never do anything anyway, but I do not want someone like that in charge of my city. Shit happens here!

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