Low morals in high places

As pillars of discretion go, the unfortunately named New York Rep. Anthony Weiner makes Madonna, Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse look like founding members of the Eudora Welty Book Club.

We probably can all agree that in Weiner's hands a Twitter account has become a weapon of mass political self-immolation. In any walk of life it is probably not a bright idea to transmit smutty photos of yourself to strangers.

But particularly in public life, engaging in cyberporn with unsuspecting women doesn't help the "family man of the people" image our elected officials so love to craft.

So, yes, Weiner has proved himself to be a lecherous dope who deserves all the full-throated criticism he has received for trying to pass himself off as a congressional Chippendale.

The clarion calls for Weiner to resign his House seat have grown cacophonous. It seems everyone from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to Tampa Rep. Kathy Castor has urged Weiner to leave — now. It won't be long before Libya's Moammar Gadhafi jumps on the bandwagon, taking Weiner to task for his failings of moral leadership.

Still, we're a funny country when it comes to our uncanny sense of selective outrage. While there's no defense for the congressman's behavior in sending numerous women suggestive photos of himself, there's no evidence, at the moment at least, he ever engaged in full contact in flagrante delicto coo-coo-ca-choo with any of the recipients of the Weiner-Grams.

By contrast, then-President Bill Clinton engaged in a protracted dangerous sexual liaison with White House intern Monica Lewinsky — bringing an entirely new meaning to the term Situation Room — and there were precious few hand-wringing calls from high-ranking Democrats for the Playboy of the West Wing to step down.

And now Clinton is said to be personally angry and affronted with Anthony Weiner's conduct? Wouldn't this be a bit like Keith Richards taking Charlie Sheen to task for his substance abuse?

Still, nothing better demonstrates our cultural disconnect between men behaving badly and the relative scorn they receive than the case of sportscaster Marv Albert.

You will remember, or perhaps not, that in 1997, Albert was charged with forcible sodomy, battery and biting a woman 15 times while he restrained her in his hotel room. There was also the nice added touch of Albert prancing around in a woman's garter belt and panties. Dignity, always dignity.

Before trial Albert pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery charges and received a 12-month suspended sentence. YESSSS! NBC, his employer at the time, was so offended at the embarrassment he caused that it fired the sportscaster. But then two years later, the network got over its distress and hired him back.

Wouldn't you think Albert and Clinton sort of set the gold standard for salacious, sleazy, contemptible conduct? And they didn't lose their livelihoods. So why should Weiner be singled out simply for applying to become the Beefcake Boy of the Washington Beltway?

Weiner didn't seduce a young intern. He didn't dress up like a Bond girl and violently impose himself on a woman. He did indulge in a licentious, juvenile, irresponsible act of stupidity.

But Weiner needn't worry too much about his future. If he decides to stick it out in the House (wrong word choice perhaps) he can turn to Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, who was caught up in a hooker scandal and was still re-elected. Now there's a role model for you.

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer had his own call girl dust-up and is now a prominent CNN personality. And does anyone doubt former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will eventually resume his movie career after the whole tawdry affair with his housekeeper and the resulting spare child passes from the media spotlight?

Even Newt Gingrich, who is to marital fidelity what the Miami Heat are to sportsmanship, is touted as an intellectual lighthouse within the Republican Party.

Either the nation has no shame, or it has the collective attention span of a sack of snipes.

Is there life after making a total boob of yourself? In recent months former Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned from office after engaging in hanky-panky chatter with male congressional interns, has hinted at a political re-emergence, noting at least he has the benefit of name recognition.

So could we be looking at a possible Weiner for president — 2016? Don't be so dismissive. Stranger things have happened.

Low morals in high places 06/13/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 13, 2011 6:19pm]

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