I happened to be in New York last week, hiding out from hostile Bruins fans after an ill-advised trip to Boston to watch the Canucks get butchered in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup. I rode into the Apple as word broke of the teacup sex scandal surrounding New York Congressman Andrew Weiner. For those of you who’ve recently emerged from a coma, I’ll summarize; married politician takes pictures of penis then sends them on Twitter to a half dozen women, none of whom happen to be his wife – thus giving new meaning to the phrase “junk mail.” Now, two weeks after news of the dong shots first popped up (along with double entendres like the ones you’ll read in this post), Weiner has opted to resign, saying the fallout from the scandal has made it effectively impossible for him to represent the constituents in his district. It’s the kind of lapse in judgment that gives late night talk show hosts and cable news networks reason to believe God loves them, and them alone.
Now, given how frequently they seem to occur, you’d think American pundits would be kind of blasé about political sex scandals – yet somehow they always find a way to be shocked (SHOCKED!!) when an elected official does something inappropriate. So the thing that struck me about being in New York at the time (aside from the ridiculous New York Post headlines – “Pop Goes the Weasel”? Ugh) was how sanguine New Yorkers were. I made no attempt at an empirical study, but I did speak to several New Yorkers about Andrew’s boner. For the most part they were downright European in their level of concern – which is to say they couldn’t really give a shit.
There was Richie, a bartender at an Upper West Side joint called Malachy’s, who called the whole thing “minuh league bool-shit.” He’s right – on the radioactive scale of career implosions, this is low grade plutonium: it isn’t the 1963 Profumo scandal, when a member of the British cabinet was caught sleeping with a woman who was also sleeping with an alleged Russian spy. It isn’t former Florida Congressman Mark Foley harassing teenaged boys. This isn’t the late Francois Mitterand keeping one family with his wife and another with his mistress, or John Edwards allegedly using campaign contributions to cover up his secret love child, or Berlusconi with…well, with any woman who will let him stick his penis inside her. It doesn’t even rise to the level of Clinton’s “secret sauce” on Monica’s dress in the Oval Office…the biggest scandal there was the amount of money spent finding out about it. This IS more scandalous than former NY Congressman Chris Lee’s shirtless pics, but the speed with which that guy resigned makes me think there were even bigger, uglier skeletons lurking in his closet.
On the whole, New Yorkers seem to be “whatevs” about their aptly-named native son. Rachel, an impossibly gorgeous NYU student from Brooklyn with whom I rode the L train into Manhattan, pretty much summed it up: ‘no crimes were committed, no government funds were embezzled, no public trust was breached, so…who gives a fuck?’ (imagine that said with a Brooklyn accent – it’s way more fun). Voters in Wiener’s district seem to agree with her: when asked if Andrew’s member should stay in Congress, more than half said yes. This was in stark contrast to Democratic shrew Nancy Pelosi, who demanded in very shrill terms that he resign. Mind you, Weiner’s support may’ve been soft – unlike Weiner himself. As Richie put it, he may need to resign “if only to get that Pelosi bitch and all the others to shut the hell up. Now do you wanna gossip, or do you wanna ‘nother fuckin’ drink?”
Of course, just because New Yorkers are glib doesn’t mean they’re blind to a basic truth – that salting Twitter with pictures of your cock is not exactly smooth, to the extent one has to wonder if Congressman Bonehead isn’t some kind of idiot savant. This kind of clumsy exhibitionism is right out of the Cro Magnon Narcissist’s dating manual, next to clubbing a woman over the head – neither subtle nor sexy. To call Weiner’s behaviour sophomoric would be insulting to sophomores – at least they’ve tweeted and sexted enough to know if you put explicit photos of yourself online, they will get probably get out – especially if you’re hot and/or hold public office.
So Weiner has joined a sad fraternity, comprised mostly of dim bulb pro athletes – Brett Favre, the horselike Greg Oden, and the porn-handled Grady Sizemore. It could be these guys were swept up in some kind of celebrity douche-fugue that made them think their reputations were untouchable. More likely it never occurred to them that pictures of their penises would go viral because personal technology arrived rather late in their lives. They’re still so enchanted by it’s novelty – “FINALLY, I can send unsolicited pictures of my junk to women” – they failed to realize, as author Sloane Crosley put it, that “information technology is like getting undressed with the shades open: if you can see the neighbors, chances are they see you.”