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Much Ado About Weiner

Comes now Anthony Weiner and his publicity-hungry penis.

Actually, I can’t say for sure if his penis is publicity-hungry. It certainly wants attention. But I don’t know of many penises that do not.

The “news” story that brings all this up (just in case you’ve been living under a rock in a cave) is that Weiner, the former New York congressman and current New York City mayoral candidate, was once again caught sending explicit photos of his anatomy to women who are not his wife, the same transgression that led him to resign his congressional seat two years ago.

I’m just exhausted at the thought that I’m being asked to give a hoot about some congressman’s private moral failings...

We’re all supposed to be totally shocked and outraged and offended by this. But we’re not. Here’s what we are: titillated and sanctimonious.

Or, in my case: exhausted.

I’m just exhausted at the thought that I’m being asked to give a hoot about some congressman’s private moral failings, as if the media outlets covering this story actually gave a damn about morality, as if they were not so transparently and tiresomely interested in making money by preying upon the public’s appetite for sex scandals.

God, it’s all so … Lewinsky.

Speaking of which, a little story.

Back when the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky nonsense was just breaking, a reporter friend of mine came to visit me in my old apartment in Somerville. I’d always known her to be high-strung, but on this occasion she seemed especially agitated and toward the end of the night she finally revealed why. She told me that she had the tapes that Linda Tripp secretly made of Lewinsky talking about her relationship with the president — recordings that no other reporter yet had.

My friend looked at me gravely and asked, in a whisper, if I wanted to hear them.

I’m not proud of many things in my life, especially when it comes to my so-called “personal morality.” But I wanted no part of those tapes.

I could see that the entire mess was going to distract the public, and its leaders, for months on end, that it was going to further degrade the public discourse (dick joke politics, I call it) without in any way improving the lives of our citizenry — which is, when you boil away all the romance, the actual purpose of government.

And sure enough, it came to pass.

Now we’ve got the same nonsense with Weiner, the same stupid lust for schadenfreude, the same drooling sermons from righteous pundits.

God, what a crock.

Let me say this as clearly as I can: Unless a politician makes his personal morality, his "family values," a part of his appeal to the public, I just don’t care about it. Male. Female. Republican. Democrat. Just don’t care.

And neither should you.

For most of this country’s history our politicians led two different and necessary lives: public and private. The press, and voters at large, understood that elections were about judging the public actions and policies of politicians.

If you want to know whether Weiner will be a good or bad mayor, study his policy positions. And if you’re only interested in perusing his sexual sins, think about what that says about you.

This is why, for instance, none of the press mentioned that John F. Kennedy was a womanizer. Yes, it reflected poorly on his personal morality. But it had nothing to do with his performance as president. That was understood.

But somehow, over the past few decades, this distinction has devolved into a sad, never-ending tabloid con game.

Will Americans never learn? Are we still such Puritan rubes that we can’t figure out what’s going on here? That the for-profit media is, with our fervid support, turning politics into just another tawdry Reality TV show?

And yes, I mean us. As in: We, the people.

Nobody’s forcing us to follow the coverage of Weiner after all. We the people are tuning in to this trash.

Hey, if you live in New York City and you don’t like what Weiner did, fine. Don’t vote for him. But I have to say, that’s an awfully stupid way to judge a politician. He should be judged based on his policies, his public record, how he’ll perform in office — not in bed, or on Twitter, or in his own marriage.

So howzabout we take a giant step back from all this salacious rubbernecking and treat the blessing of our democracy with the dignity and respect it deserves.

If you want to know whether Weiner will be a good or bad mayor, study his policy positions. And if you’re only interested in perusing his sexual sins, think about what that says about you.


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This program aired on July 25, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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