Lessons Learned and Points Pondered in the Media Maelstrom Over Weiner’s Wiener (Part 2)

Lesson 8: You can always blame THEM

When it comes to the sexcapades of public figures, members of the punditocracy show absolutely no imagination or variety in fingering who’s responsible for the degeneracy. They simply point to the same scapegoat they use for everything else they perceive as a problem: the “liberals”.  It’s all THEIR fault. After all, if libruls back in the Sixties hadn’t practiced all that free love crap, nobody ever would have discovered s*x, and babies still would be delivered by birds the way God intended.

In the political arena, “liberal” is generally held to be synonymous with Democrat. (You’ll have to ask someone else to explain why; it’s utterly beyond me.) The official spin is that Democrats/ “liberals” are by and large the ones who indulge in extramarital hanky-panky, while Republicans/ “conservatives” are paragons of virtue. Like most spin, this requires an extraordinary capacity for ignoring facts. But even former first lady Rosalynn Carter seemingly bought into this myth when she joked (?) that Democrats do it to their secretaries while Republicans do it to their country. Meanwhile, her husband was pilloried by the media for admitting that he’d “committed adultery in my heart”. Remember, thinking about it is the same as doing it, especially if you’re one of them libruls.

Ask most Americans which president was the most accomplished philanderer, and the answer you’re likely to get is Kennedy. Not even close. Warren Gamaliel Harding ran a harem-like operation that made JFK look like Barney Fife. He even maintained a special room in The White House for his many trysts, and fathered a child out of wedlock while serving as president. Did we mention that Harding was a Republican? You don’t suppose that has anything to do with why his satyric exploits are seldom mentioned?

Or Americans with a much shorter attention span (which includes a great many of them, alas) might respond that Bill Clinton was the all-time champion womanizer. After all, he engaged in some adulterous acts with Monica Lewinsky (which didn’t include intercourse, but never mind that) lasting by some estimates a total of about 45 minutes, none of it occurring, contrary to rumor, in the Oval Office. (Shhh!!! Don’t tell the media. “Sex in the Oval Office” just makes such a great soundbite.)

He was even impeached for it. Yeah, yeah, it really wasn’t about the sex, of course; it was about perjury and obstruction of justice. Yeah, that’s it. After all, he lied under oath, didn’t he?

Not so fast. Most likely, he didn’t. When he said “I did not have sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky, he probably meant it as a factual statement by the standards he understood to apply.  Which would make him in agreement with about two-thirds of American men who also would not classify oral sex as “sexual relations”. Politically, it might have become known as The Lewinsky Defense, except that it was already known as the Newt Defense, in honor of Republican Newt Gingrich who’d used it to deny an affair he’d had a few years earlier.

But if you somehow could look into Clinton’s heart and determine that he was one of the other third of American men and really was lying, then it was perjury, right?

Well, actually, no. There is a big difference. Many people lie under oath without committing perjury – including anyone who falsely enters a plea of not guilty. Perjury is lying under oath about the evidence in a case. When Clinton “lied” under oath, he was being investigated by Kenneth Starr for … um, let’s see, what was it? It was either Whitewater or Paula Jones or defeating George Bush or farting in his second grade class, or some combination of the above, or something like that.  So in order to establish that he was guilty of perjury, you’d have to establish that there was a direct link between Monica and all of that. Good luck.

As lay people, you and I can be excused for not understanding this distinction. There is no such excuse for the Congress that impeached the president, most of whom were lawyers. It was all about politics. Oh yes, and s*x. The Republicanoids in Congress, the right-wing pundits and the televangelist set were shocked, shocked at the president’s behavior – which they nonetheless insisted on relating to the public in every lurid detail.

The funny thing is that among the Republicans who were demanding his testicles on a platter, a good many were adulterers themselves. These included Illinois Representative Henry Hyde, who oversaw the proceedings, and Idaho representative Helen Chenoweth, one of Clinton’s most indignant accusers. And theirs were not 45-minute dalliances that would qualify for the Newt Defense. They were full-blown Tab A in Slot B affairs lasting FIVE YEARS and SIX YEARS respectively.  (If you have the stomach for a longer – though by no means inclusive – list of GOP adulterers, from the perspective of “Christian” hypocrisy, you’ll find it here.) How much did you hear from the librul media about all of this? For that matter, how much did you hear from the Republican guardians of morality?

But “conservatives” don’t just aggressively push the myths that “liberals” are more immoral (read: libidinous) and more dishonest; they also aggressively push the myth that “liberals” are much more cavalier about their lechery. (Adultery is, one gathers, the one thing that “liberals” are truly tolerant of.) Every time there is a sex (or even remotely related to sex) scandal involving a Democrat, the right-wingers will bemoan the fact that “liberals” don’t chastise their own. They say this often and loudly, perhaps so as to drown out the chorus of “liberals” who are, um, chastising their own. Of Weiner’s conduct, Fox “News” bewailed how disgraceful it is not only that Democrats do this type of thing, but that they “get away with it”.

It’s hard to imagine exactly what they meant by getting away with it, since Weiner’s non-story made headlines of every newspaper, TV news (as well as “news”) program and website in the land. Furthermore, he lost his job because of it – due to pressure from his OWN PARTY. But Fox hucksters continue to rewrite the news to their liking. And they get away with it.

Compare this to Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, who used to say of Clinton that “it’s not about the blowjob, it’s about the lying.” Then during his own campaign, he was accused of having an affair for nearly a year with a PROSTITUTE. He repeatedly and vehemently denied this, but -whaddaya know – turns out he was lying. And  of course the guardians of morality in the media and the Republican party loudly demanded that he resign. Nah, just kidding. The same demagogues who were all over Clinton for lying about his blowjobs and all over Weiner for lying about maybe considering blowjobs and all over Democrat Eliot Spitzer for patronizing a call girl, were strangely very forgiving of Republican Vitter for lying about his extended patronage of a call girl. And he’s still comfortably ensconced in office right now.

Lesson 9: It’s mostly irrelevant

People like to justify their voyeuristic obsession with the sex lives of politicians by pegging it as a barometer of character – which is a Victorian notion that wasn’t even accurate in the Victorian Age. The argument goes that if a politician will cheat on his or her spouse, then he or she will also cheat on his or her constituents. And on paper, that even has a certain logic to it. But in the real world, wherever sex is involved,  all bets are off. Mrs. Carter was on to something: there is no correlation among public officials between marital infidelity and dishonesty on the job, nor is there any sound connection between fidelity and honest job performance.

Kennedy and Eisenhower, despite their skirt-chasing, generally were straight with the American people. Bill Clinton will be forever branded a liar because of ONE LIE he probably DIDN’T tell about his sex life. But as presidents go, his Pinocchio quotient wasn’t particularly high. There’s no reason to believe that Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush cheated on their wives while in office (Bush, for one, may have done so prior to that) but they were without a doubt three of the most dishonest men ever to set foot in the White House. And Anthony Weiner (who, let’s reiterate, was NOT caught in any actual sexual activity) had an impeccable level of job performance.

Lesson 10: There may be a ray of hope

In spite of his impeachment, Clinton was reelected handily in 1996. And at the time of his resignation, more than half of Anthony Weiner’s constituents thought he should stick it out (so to speak), compared to only about a third who said he should resign. So maybe, just maybe, there’s a solid (if minority) core of Americans who refuse to be manipulated by the media.

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