I was wrong

I just want to get this on the record and off my (fully clothed) chest: I was wrong about Anthony Weiner.

I’d said nothing about the whole hoo-ha because I didn’t think it was worth the attention. Then I got a call from Howard Kurtz’ Reliable Sources to come on last Sunday and talk about it. My wife said, Why are you doing that? I said, I’ll be on the right side. As always, she was right. On the show, I said that media were using this as an opportunity for sophomoric jokes and that the fuss over a penis was a symptom of American Puritanism. What’s the worst that happened here? I asked: So what if he had a stupid picture on his phone and accidentally tweeted it, so long as he wasn’t sexually harassing anyone? But that’s not the worst that happened.

Weiner lied. That is the story. That’s what haters said in email to me after the CNN segment. They were right.

What’s most amazing to me is that anyone in politics in this age could still be stupid enough to think that the coverup won’t be what kills them. That’s not just a matter of the age of publicness and the net that I write about. It is perhaps Richard Nixon’s most important legacy. I gave Weiner too much credit when I thought he must have figured this out.

The personal irony for me is that I’ve long thought Weiner is a weasel. I chose to overlook that in this case. Wrong again. I confronted him at a Personal Democracy Forum a few years ago (it so happens that PDF11 is going on right now) over his support of noxious legislation to raise fines on so-called indecency on broadcast. Weiner would go onto Howard Stern’s show as an alleged fan to get the attention but then he’d turn around and throw Stern, the First Amendment, and freedom of speech to the wind for a politically expedient vote. So he voted with prudery and isn’t it always the case that the prudes are the ones with something to hide? Now we see what he was hiding.

I’m trying to pull back from my personal embarrassment and stupidity at giving this shmuck the benefit of the doubt and see the lessons here about our age of publicness. There are many. It fascinates me that Twitter provides such an easy way for people to connect for *any* purpose. It astounds me that Weiner thought he could do this under his name with his face and think it would not end up being a public act. Once he was public to the extent of sharing with one person — a stranger — then it’s nothing for that to be shared with the world in an instant. All this affirms my belief that the only sane way to operate in one’s life today — as a public figure especially — is as if *anything* you do can and will be seen by *anyone.* I would still like to think that eventually this will lead to an assumption, a default of transparency.

But then, I keep forgetting the calculate into this view the forgetful, venal stupidity of the public official. That’s where I was wrong. Have I said that enough?

: I emailed a link to this post to the people who emailed me after the CNN segment. They were nasty in how they said it but they were right.

  • charles

    Nice the way you turn the liberal champion’s perversities into an attack on prudery. Once a loser…

  • I had much the same reaction: “What’s the big deal? Just admit it and roll on…” Makes me wonder what he was trying to get in front of and what we haven’t seen. Perhaps it was a combination of embarrassment and worry over his recent marriage, but I suspect he was either doing this sort of thing with underaged girls, or it’s led to some greater infidelity.

    Like you, I think this guy is a “weasel” –he’s the worst sort of arrogant, untalented, meddlesome jerk that defines the 535 people in office in the Capitol — and for that, I will admit a bit of shadenfreude (okay, a lot…) at his stumbling attempts to extricate himself, then his mea culpa.

  • Join the club. Many of us assumed that Weiner’s quick response was transparent and honest.

  • JustMe

    Am I alone in thinking that his apology here is designed to curb any more damage? He thought he would get away with it by saying it was a “prank” then a “distraction” and now it seems he’s copping to it because he knows how much worse it could get and he’s hoping to put it to bed.

    The media asked Breitbart “why should we believe you”? That they have not asked Weiner that question says much about them.

  • Crandall

    … so a professional politician lied — what a sorry newsflash & late epiphany.

    That what politicians do for a living. How did you not know this ?

    [” A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man.
    In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker.
    A ‘good’ politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.” ]

    — H.L. Mencken

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  • PokerCat

    I never got fooled by Weiner’s obvious lie. Hacked? Really? That did not fool me for a second. I knew he lied. Obviously.

    Even Weiner knew it was not going to fool anyone. He said so during that never ending insincere “apology”.

    The only question would the lame stream liberal echo chamber was going to get away with blaming the messager, etc. and have the crisis meme pack move on.

    Hey, Jeff, did you hear about Glenn Beck TV (gbtv.com)? Streaming “liberatian” TV channel/network. Launch announcement tomorrow June 8th, 2011, 7PM ET.

  • PokerCat

    Oh, sorry for the double post, and the typos, but that gratuitous “hater” comment.

    I assume by “hater” you mean the vulgar emails, not just the ones that disagreed with you and said you did not “get it” because it was all about that Weiner lied.

    Sorry, I missing you on the Howie Kurtz show. I cut the cable years ago.

  • Trish Abelson

    I enjoyed reading this post. As a Brit who caught only the gist of what this man had done, it became clear that he is in fact a ‘toe rag’ (by consensus.)

  • Andy Freeman

    > So he voted with prudery and isn’t it always the case that the prudes are the ones with something to hide?

    You were going good until that sentence.

    There are two kinds of drunks. One kind says “This doesn’t work and I’m trying to get it under control.” The other kind says “Hey, I’m going to keep drinking, deal with it.”

    The first kind will fail to to meet her professed standards so latter is arguably more “honest” but which one is likely to be better in other respects? On the whole, which one would you prefer to deal with?

  • While I disagree with you on substance and style quite often, I actually don’t think you were wrong in your CNN comments. At the time you made the comments, I am assuming you didn’t know that he had lied or the extent of his behavior.

    I am assuming your comments would have been different if you knew he was lying and the extent of the behavior he was lying about???

  • Charles Giacometti

    All politicians lie. I learned this when I was about 13 years old. The role of the media should be to heap scorn on them at every moment of every day. At some point they might stop. But along the way, the rest of us would see how morons and liars should be treated–with unmitigated disgust.

    This applies to both parties.

    What did we learn from this? That we are not the adults we should be. When Weiner so obviously lies, he should be ridiculed. When Palin or Bachmann say astonishingly stupid things, they should be reminded of this constantly. Maybe, just maybe, these horrible human beings will finally be ashamed enough to disappear.

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  • R

    You gave the Democrat the benefit of the doubt. Something I don’t think you would have done if Weiner had an ‘R’ after his name.

    Why refer to emailers as ‘haters’? because they disagreed with you? because they told you you were protecting a guilty man?

    Maybe you are the hater.

    • No, because of what they said, hatefully.

  • Al Pittampalli

    I caught the CNN interview. I didn’t think you were too off base. But it’s refreshing to see someone who is willing to admit they were wrong. Cheers.

  • By coincidence, I just finished watching the Reliable Sources segment on Hulu, and was curious to see whether there was going to be a mea culpa on your part.
    Glen Beck gave Mark Sanford the benefit of the doubt on the Appalachian Trail story. But a serious journalist never gives anyone person in power the benefit of the doubt.
    And they do so by asking direct questions that cut through the muck, not by picking an angle.
    The signs were all there that something larger than what Weiner was admitting were there, if anyone cared to look for them. Those who didn’t were more concerned about their own image – and perceived wisdom – than the simple truth.
    Sadly, I observe this every week. More questions about the politics of Medicare than Medicare reform itself. If any journalist or U.S. layperson for that matter were asked to explain how the Obama or Ryan plan specifically effects a 65 year old in the 2020, I bet over 99% would fail to come up with an explicit answer.
    Because like on every story, the simple truth is obscured by the cleverness. Or perceived cleverness.
    Some of us aren’t being fooled.

  • There are two things about the story that I find most fascinating. The first was the fact that instead of creating an Internet pseudonym, he traded on his Public Persona in order to engage in these activities. And secondly, when it happened, rather than simply try and let it rest, he tried to use that same Public Persona to talk the story away instead of just trying to hide away and let it burn out. Hopefully everyone learned something from all of this and he will have the chance to put his life back together when he becomes a private citizen again in the near future.

  • What is it about social media and twitter in particular that makes people commit career suicide? Why don’t politicians and sportsmen and celebs for whom dealing with media and social media is a key part of the job get this stuff? We just did some focus groups in China for a client and young people there told us that they feel more real online and more virtual (fake) offline because in the real world they have to conform and fit in whilst online they can be themselves. These kids act differently online. but consciously. Is Weiner acting differently because he was on twitter or is this just the real Weiner? Either way (and morals to one side) I am with Darwin on this. If he is this dumb then he is not fit for public office and better social media made him extinct than citizens have to deal with his incompetence later on.

  • James Stegall

    Our politics are quite different, but I’m a fan and admire both your zeal in arguing for what you believe and your willingness to be honest and humble when you’re wrong. I only wish more of our elected officials shared these traits.

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