Thursday, June 2, 2011


sigh.  this is not what i want to be writing about. or thinking about.  but here i am writing and thinking and trying to dismiss every idiotic but unavoidable pun that invades my mind.

i watched weiner on the rachel maddow show last night--which was the first i'd heard about the nasty picture. he sounded uncomfortable with the subject but determined to address it.  i thought he did, albeit without his usual wit and grace.  one can see why.  the picture, i learned today, was a shot of a pair of underpants covering a bulging and presumably large penis.  what seems to upset people is that he told maddow that he couldn't absolutely swear that it wasn't a picture of him.  he didn't think it was, he said, and added that he certainly didn't send any picture of himself to any twitter fan.

the hesitancy to swear it wasn't his picture didn't seem to me to suggest that it was, or even could be. it sounds like the sort of thing one's lawyer says not to admit or deny till everything has been investigated. probably smart:  it might be that someone found a picture from a drunk college episode years ago,  or some other long-forgotten event in his life. if so, with the ease of altering pictures that the computer provides, the original could have been something in context utterly innocent--a bunch of roommates in their undies, all posing laughingly together.  since there's no face or other bodily part in the picture found on twitter, it does make sense that he can't say with absolute certainty that it isn't him.

admittedly, i want it not to be him, and i want the story to be total bullshit.  i like weiner; i like his politics.  i would still like his politics if he engaged in anything as sophomoric and self-destructive as twitting someone a picture of his crotch.  so i'm predisposed to trust him.

actually, a couple of things he said on the maddow show give me reason to hope that he's telling the truth.  one is his wry observation that with a name like his, you get a lot of jokes from a lot of people.  [even with as innocent a name as watson, my father spent a lot of his life fielding jocular questions about the presense of sherlock.  he got very weary of the remarks long before i was born. with a name as suggestive as weiner,  i can only imagine the amount of  hilarity this man has faced over the years.]  it seems odd to imagine that he would invite another slew of jokes by tweeting a picture of .....yeah, right--his weiner.

the other thing was the joke he started to make when he was introduced by maddow, and caught himself when he realized it sounded tawdry--"I'm tempted to say, 'I wish!'", he half muttered.  maddow graciously ignored that.  but the fact that he'd even start to verbalize that quintessentially male wistfulness suggested his innocence: a man who'd send a strange woman a picture of his huge penis isn't a man who'd tell a live audience that his penis was smaller than the one on the picture.

of course, recent years have shown us that when it comes to sexual issues, american politicians can be unbelievably stupid.

it didn't used to be stupid for a pol to have affairs.  however 'yellow' journalism may have been in the old days, there seems to have been a gentleman's agreement.  surely the washington press knew about FDR's affairs long before the public did, as was also the case with JFK's extra-curricular life.  this reluctance to broach the personal peccadillo's of the powerful played out comically in england in the edwardian era.  edward vii was notoriously adulterous, but the press apparently remained discreet.  many years ago i saw a photograph from a contemporary newspaper, in which His Majesty was strolling down the Riviera in the  company of a very shapely ghost.  reporters had seen the king with a woman not his wife, and juggled the social value of a story about the king on the riviera with the scandalous fact of his being with such a companion. so they did the only form of photo-shopping available at the time: they carefully erased the picture of the woman, leaving white space in her place.  [yes, i'ved googled to find that photo, but so far unsuccessfully.]

for better or worse, that quaint bow to conventional morality has gone.  it vanished from england sooner, i think, than from the US.  the first example i recall here was in the late 1980s, when handsome, married young senator gary hart, who was considered a good contender for the next presidential election, was rumored to be having extramarital affairs. questioned about this at a press conference, he indignantly  denied his infidelities, then challenged the reporters to follow him and prove their insinuations.  so they did follow him--straight to a yacht party that consisted of the senator and several scantily dressed young women.  the pictures were all over the press, and none of the ladies appeared especially ghostlike.

then came that glorious moment in american history when president clinton found himself confronted with accusations of an affair with one of his interns --'that woman,' as he so elegantly dubbed her while vehemently denying the affair.  we were treated to the edifying experience of a presidential impeachment, during which the tv-watching public heard words like 'fellatio' and 'semen' for the first time in the medium's history.

the in-office sessions with monica lewinsky, tacky though they might have been, weren't necessarily stupid. in spite of hart's experience, clinton probably believed that the old gentleman's agreement still held. hart, after all, had invited the media to follow him.  clinton had been more discreet.

but in the wake of the impeachment and all its implications, such naivete should have been impossible. everyone now knew that what the press found out, the press reported.  if clinton's affair had nearly ruined his career, it stood to reason that an ambitious politician would attempt to behave the way americans expected politicians to behave.

apparently not.  in the past few years we've learned a lot about the real lives of the mighty.  for a time it seemed that most of the shenanigans came from conservatives who, between visits to their mistresses or the local massage lads, gave stirring speeches about the evils of any sex not between one man and one woman who were properly married to each other.

and then came the 2008 elections.  i watched the democrat primary, devoutly hoping that...john edwards would get the nomination.  he had very liberal politics and he was white and he was male, so, i thought, he had a chance of beating the republican candidate.  [never ask my advice in a political race.]  when lovely liberal stoops to folly....he stoops low.  knowing what could be found out about him, he not only ran for the nomination, he used his love and concern for his terminally ill wife as a political tool.  i shudder to think of what would have happened in that election if he'd been nominated.  no one could be that stupid.  edwards could.

so i can't give in to my temptation to believe that weiner is too intelligent to be sending crotch shots to pretty twitter buddies.  still, i'm not cynical enough to be convinced of his 'guilt.' he has, after all, hired detectives to find the culprit, and has firmly denied that he sent the picture.  he seems annoyed rather than blustering, and cautious rather than ambiguous.  i hope i'm right.  at this stage, no one with as little sophistication about the internet should have any role in making decisions that affect people's lives.

and  it's hard to ignore that it would be awfully convenient for the right to have one of the more articulate left-liberals turn out to be an overgrown frat boy. i doubt the conservatives would be quite as forgiving to an erring democrat as they have been to the sinners among their own ranks.

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