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June 7, 2011
What's important about Weinergate...And what's not
Regular readers of American Thinker know that our coverage of the Weinergate scandal has been thorough, but lacking the wall to wall coverage of some other conservative sites.
The fact that we received no complaints of which I'm aware shows that our readers are smarter than the press. The media frenzy on the scandal has been so over the top that one could be forgiven if they believed the future of the republic hung on whether Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was telling the truth about being hacked, or whether - as it turned out - he is a lying, pathetic, creepy, predatory sexual libertine with the appetites of an incubus and the morals of an alley cat.
The question isn't whether Weiner is a bomb throwing, ranting, unthinking liberal partisan caught in a juicy scandal but whether his sexual peccadillos rise to a level that justified the media coverage in the press and on many conservative websites.
The answer is yes...and no. It was nice of Mr. Weiner to present his neck so willingly and give Republicans the opportunity to wield the ax. From a purely political standpoint, this was an important story. A rising congressman (rumored to covet the NY mayor's office), a darling of the snarling left, a man who set himself up as a spokesman for the downtrodden and those "without a voice" in the halls of power proved to be a target of opportunity too tempting to resist. The nature of politics precludes giving him a pass desipte some calls to ignore the scandal because, after all, Weiner never claimed to be a paragon of virtue.
Well, if that's the case, then why didn't he reveal his sexual proclivities during the campaign? If it's unimportant, but voters should know as much as possible about their representatives, why not create an ad with his R-rated pictures and x-rated sexting messages?
Weiner hid his follies because he knew that revealing them would destroy his career and possibly force him to resign (still a definite possibility). He himself thought them important enough to lie about their existence. The logical conclusion then is that if Weiner kept his secrets because they were important then the revelation that he lied about the matter should be equally weighty. Liberals can jabber all they want to about "hypocrisy" but they're missing the point. Why should "hypocrisy" be the only catalyst for resignation and disgrace? Weiner convicts himself by his own actions in lying to maintain a secret. Not to spare his wife but to save his career was the overall motivation, and thinking differently places one in the same category as Santa Claus believers.
So it's perfectly legitimate to go after Weiner's scalp -- which now hangs proudly on conservative lodge poles around the net. Liberals have similar conquests on their record as well. But this kind of flinging dirt -- as old as Philip Freneau accusing John Adams of wanting to be king -- is, when reduced to its basic element, absolutely irrelevant to the functioning of government and cannot be seen as the symbolic representation of the opposition that is claimed by the mudslingers.
Weiner's transgressions are no more indicative of the morals of the vast majority of Democratic party members than Senator Vitter's visits to prostitutes represented the norm for Republicans. Making such blanket observations is an exercise for partisans. The American people tend to take their politicians one at a time, judging them for their performance and their individual impressions as to how well a politician lives up to the expectations they have set for them. Party loyalty is much less important today than in the past, which makes these adventures in muckraking far less damaging than 100 years ago.
This makes the feeding frenzy in the media and on blogs an exercise in dynamic overkill. A partisan like Andrew Brietbart -- a counterpart to Freneau, Callendar, and other newspaper bomb throwers of the past -- is a necessary adjunct for any political party (the Democrats have Media Matters' David Brock who functions in a similar capacity). He has proven to be a canny manipulator of the mainstream press -- baiting them, playing them, and forcing them to cover stories they would ordinarily eschew.
But this scandal-churning has a downside; so much importance is attached to, what would ordinarily be considered trivialities, that the salacious gossip crowds out actual news stories.
Megan McCardle thinks that this is actually OK in the Weiner matter since there really aren't any earth shattering stories that could use additional coverage. This is undoubtedly true. Poor Rep. Weiner chose an awful time to reveal his sexual predilections. Absolutely nothing else was happening in the world that had the journalistic ooomph to push the Weinergate story off the front page.
But if it had, would it have mattered? Almost certainly, yes. The pressure on the young women who were targets of Weiner's advances would have lessened considerably, keeping them in the closet, thus denying Breitbart the devastating proof he needed to force Weiner into his mea culpa press conference. Conservative blogs would have kept churning but the oxygen needed to keep the story alive in the mainstream press would have been sucked out if there had been a big foreign story, or a domestic disaster of some sort.
So, from a political standpoint, this was an important story. But in the larger context of history and "news," there wasn't much there. Another congressman proving himself a lying weasel is not the basis for the kind of over the top, wall to wall coverage Weiner and his dirty pictures have received.
All in all, he just isn't worth the attention.
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