'I did not have sext with those women'

Can congressman Weiner survive wanker-gate?
By EDITORIAL  |  June 9, 2011

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Anthony Weiner, New York's embattled sexting congressman, seems determined to ride out the storm.

Weiner, a Democrat, is betting that his constituents in Brooklyn and Queens will vote him back into office if he can only tough out the ongoing firestorm of unpleasantness.

After all, Weiner's fellow Empire State congressman, Democrat Charlie Rangel, survived a nasty ethics probe that found Rangel guilty of a wide range of shifty financial irregularities.

Cynical New York voters have long understood that Rangel is a rogue, a corrupt dinosaur who brings home millions of dollars of federal treasure to his district. That Rangel cut special deals for himself may not be kosher, but, to many, it's understandable.

The Weiner case is a very different barrel of pickles. It's hard to get a handle on it.

The sexting aspect of all this, and the vigorous lying that constituted Weiner's feeble first line of defense, gets the most media attention.

Lying about bad behavior is an easy story to package and sell. But it is the unspoken that is a key element conspiring to keep this story alive.

What Weiner has admitted to is not and uncommon social practice.

The fact of the matter is that the mass of citizens can sext to their hearts' content, so long as they don't force digitized images of their flesh upon the young or the unreceptive.

Teenagers can get into big trouble with their parents, schools, and maybe even the law if they are caught sexting, but adults generally do not — unless they pull a Brett Favre.

Yet polite society still frowns on salaciously exuberant online behavior — especially when accompanied by images and videos.

Weiner has blasted through the constraints of the naughty and not nice and entered the realm of the awkward.

The manic nature of his digital dalliances suggest that Weiner constructed his own weird little world, in which he was king: a Priapus, son of Aphrodite by Dionysus.

The presumed private activity that accompanies the sending of lewd photographs to women via social networks is not exactly the topic of kitchen-table conversation around the blue-collar precincts Weiner represents.

And — until now — it wasn't the currency of Georgetown cocktail-party chatter.

We are talking, of course, about masturbation, the solitary vice practiced around the globe but little discussed — except for that singular episode of Seinfeld.

More than 100 years ago, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned, and then run out of England, for being a homosexual, or — in the idiom of Wilde's day — an invert or a Uranian.

When you move beyond Weiner's pathetic packet of lies denying wrongdoing, you come to a very strange place. In reflecting on his own downfall, Wilde spoke of "the love that dare not speak its name." Wilde, of course, meant being gay.

Weiner's breathless love was not for another man, but for himself, for his own image, for his own likeness and being, for his own magnificence.

And the women? Sad to say, they appear to have been mere prompts for a form of male preening that would make Beau Brummell blush.

The scandals surrounding former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former presidential candidate John Edwards are almost quaint in comparison. Man meets flesh-and-blood woman other than his wife. Whoopee ensues. Nine months later, child is born. Original marriage dissolves.

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