A few months ago a movie came out based on a premise that was, for me, an entirely new concept: a Hall Pass or, license from ones spouse to have sex, once, outside of marriage. (I understand that the movie, which I didn’t see, ultimately made the point that having an affair isn’t as easy or attractive as it seems.)
I thought of that movie when I read Amanda Marcotte’s outraged article about coverage of the wanking Weiner. Unlike Kirsten Powers, who was mad at Weiner for lying to everyone and making a fool of her, and who figured out that Weiner is a sexual predator, not a ladies’ man, Marcotte is furious at the media for being interested in Weiner’s dangerous and predatory sexual predilections.
There are two things deeply wrong with Marcotte’s article. The first is her claim that the media investigated Weiner’s sex life. After castigating Weiner for “stupidity” and Breitbart for “sleaziness” — and I’m so naive that I thought Weiner, who sent x-rated pictures of himself to strangers, was the sleazy one — Marcotte zeroes in on the true source of her rage:
This scandal may represent the end of the presumption of sexual privacy for politicians, and possibly even for journalists, activists, and bureaucrats—anyone whose public humiliation could benefit the ideologues wed to the politics of personal destruction.
What she seems to forget is that Weiner’s stupidity encompassed more than making his privates public. It was he who started the hounds on his trail when he tweeted to all umpteen thousand of his followers a picture of his semi-public privates, outlined showily against his undies. (Shades of Gary Hart, although Marcotte may be too young to remember the red flag that Hart waved before the media bull.)
Even after that first careless act, had Weiner immediately done his groveling mea culpas (think of Hugh Grant, who did a masterful public self-abasement after being caught with a prostitute), he could have gotten away with the thing with the damage limited to a whole lot of embarrassment. (At this point, you’re supposed to think of Barney Frank, who was forgiven the gay prostitution ring being run out of his home.)
Instead, Weiner upped the ante by accusing Breitbart of the federal crime of hacking his account, accusing the entire conservative political movement in the United States of hacking into his account, coaching porn stars to lie on his behalf, insulting members of the media (“jackass”), and generally lying through his teeth. That goes beyond “stupid” into sociopathic.
Bottom line: Marcotte’s fundamental premise is wrongheaded. This wasn’t about the media hunting for information about Weiner’s sex life, although Weiner’s foolish sexual behavior was the starting point. The frenzy was all about the other stuff, the carelessness, the personal malevolence, the lying, and the manipulation. When it comes to someone in political office, each of those qualities is entirely newsworthy because voters are handing their little piece of the country over to this person.
Working off of that factually and morally wrong foundation, Marcotte ups the ante on her stupidity. She seems to claim that, because Weiner is pro-abortion and pro-gay, he has a hall pass when it comes to sordid sexual shenanigans:
Prior to this scandal, the media and political operatives had to at least pretend that a politician’s sex life had some bearing on the public interest before they picked up the pitchforks. Being an adulterer wasn’t, in and of itself, a matter of public interest. There had to be a hook. If you were a social conservative who advocated for using the government to control the sexual behavior of consenting adults, for instance, then you were held to your own standard and your adulteries were considered public business. If you opposed gay rights, your own history of same-sex relations was fair game. If you broke an anti-prostitution law you vigorously enforced on others, like Eliot Spitzer, you had no reasonable expectation of privacy. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a long past of being accused of sexual harassment, so the state of the marriage he used as a shield matters. Even at the height of the national panic over Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Clinton’s detractors claimed that it wasn’t the sex that was the issue, but the perjury. No one believed them, of course, but the claim at least paid tribute to the idea that the private sexual choices of those who support sexual privacy are not the public’s business.
But with this Weiner scandal, there’s not even the veneer of an excuse in play. Weiner has an outstanding record supporting sexual rights of others, with100% ratings from NARAL and Planned Parenthood,and has a strong record of support for gay rights. No laws seem to have been broken, no public trust compromised, no campaign irregularities indicated, and there’s been no suggestion that his flirtations interfered with his ability to do his job. The entire rationale for the scandal is that Weiner isn’t living in accordance with strict social mores regarding monogamy, and that’s it. Even the whining about how he lied when initially confronted is hollow. In the past, lying when someone asks nosy questions that are none of their business was considered a socially acceptable white lie. (And really, who among us would be a paragon of transparency with Wolf Blitzer waving a penis picture in our face and saying, “Is this yours?”) The pretense that it has to matter to the public in order for the public to get involved has been dropped.
Color me stupid, but I’m pretty sure Marcotte is saying that, because Weiner is the feminist’s delight politically, he gets a free pass when it comes to tweeting his crotch shot to the world, lying, slandering, manipulating and, oh, yes!, let’s not forget, preying on women and demeaning and humiliating his wife.
I can just see it now:
Wife: I can’t believe you had sex with that . . . that slut! And then you tweeted it to all your friends. God, I hope that at least you used a condom. And then to lie about it. You lied to everyone, and you even got your brother to stand up for you when that tweet first went out. I’m so humiliated. I thought you took our marriage vows seriously. And what about the children? What’s little Johnny going to say to his friend? I don’t know how little Tina is going to hold her head up.
Husband: But Honey! I gave money to NARAL and Planned Parenthood. And have you forgotten how how we went together to campaign against Prop. 8 in California?
Wife: You’re right, Lover. I totally forgot. You really are a good man who cares about gays and women. You earned that hall pass. [Making kissy face sounds.]
Fade out as they walk off to the bedroom, hand in hand.
Cross-posted at Bookworm Room