New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s revelation Monday was only the latest in a string of proofs that, to paraphrase poet and philosopher George Santayana, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
Why is it that politicians’ first response to an embarrassing accusation is to deny participation?
He said in his televised confession, “Last Friday night I tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle.”
For the sake of discussion, lets take Cong. Weiner at his word: He said he made an error in sending a public tweet he intended to be private. There is, in fact, a way to do that. It’s the difference between an at-sign and the letter “D.”
Weaner sent a picture of his, uh, filled out boxer shorts to a woman who was over 18 and who, by her own story, had not said she did not want that and other pictures Weiner sent. Her greatest concern was to assure herself that the sender was, in fact, Rep. Anthony Weiner. So what’s the problem?
I’m not saying what he did was OK, just that an awful lot of us do it, in one form or another. It’s just that we members of the public generally, at least, pretend to eschew such activity, at least in public. And if we get caught, well, most of us are not holding or running for national office.
I’m told that back in the day, some boys and girls used to shuck their duds down at the swimming hole and jump in for a summer afternoon cool-off. When the fun was over, they put their clothes back on, and at least some of them became doctors and lawyers and accountants – and politicians.
Back in the day, pictures were captured on film, which had to be taken to the town’s Rexall drug store – akin to the CVS and Rite Aid of today – to be developed. The film was sent out to be processed, and several days to a week or so later, the pictures came back.
Privacy was highly regarded in the world of my youth, at least when it came to the government looking at your pictures and searching your luggage, etc. But when it came to the man who owned the local Rexall – not so much. There was a very good chance if one of our classmates has shot a picture such as Weiner sent to that young woman, the classmate’s parents would have known within minutes.
Then came Polaroid. Suddenly the pictures could be instantly developed, and shared among the owner’s “in group” in the boys’ locker room. I have been told by several people who seem credible that similar goings-on occurred in the girls’ locker room.
Now we’ve gone digital. Pictures are instantly available on our cell phones. For sharing, there is Facebook, Twitter, or a plethora of other social media. As we often hear: There’s there’s an app for that.
The trouble is, as many young people find out when the school principal or police come knocking, is that sending sexually suggestive pictures involving under-18 participants is illegal. Sharing such pictures via text message, Twitter, Facebook, et. al., when the participants are over 18 is not illegal, but it does suggest a certain youthful lack of awareness and judgment.
Like in 1987, when then-presidential candidate Gary Hart, amid rumors of his philandering with a young model, dared the media to “Follow me around.” The Miami Herald did just that, and caught him. So long to aspirations of presidential exaltation.
Extra-marital sex among those in high office is not new. John F. Kennedy did it in the 1960s. Franklin D. Roosevelt did it, as did Bill Clinton.
Some of us are just better than others at the monogamy thing.
But as Clinton learned, Roosevelt and Kennedy were the Last of the Mohicans when it came to the press helping cover up such dalliances. These days, mere suggestion is enough to get tongues wagging on 24-hour news cycles and newspapers flying off the stands. To rise to a level of national prominence and not be aware of what will happen when the press finds out – and it will – shows a marked lack of judgment.
Anthony Weiner, as far as we know, did nothing illegal. Whether he did something wrong is best judged by his wife and his God.
But at his level, one might wonder at his judgment, first in doing it, then in lying about it. That’s “What’s the problem.”
Photo by Max Talbot-Minkin
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