Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dirty Men, Double Entendres, Damage Control

I almost started this column four weeks ago, just after news broke of Anthony Weiner's pecker being paraded on Twitter. But I hesitated: what's the big deal? It's a harmless pic ... pervy men post tasteless photos of their willies all the time. It will blow over.

And blow until last week it did.

Over the following weeks, I watched as Weiner's story morphed from a computer hack to a misjudgment, to a televised apology à la Tiger, to a string of lies that revealed Anthony Weiner to be not only an insidious liar but a destroyer of progressive ideals and a shatterer of political integrity.

Okay, maybe that's going a little overboard, but Weiner's shenanigans demonstrate a trend among male politicians -- the crown for which, until recently, was held by Republicans. A trend that highlights how hypocrisy, lies and political sex scandals have become acceptable in our society.

It seems that perviness, narcissism and good old-fashioned idiocy are bipartisan offenders. I won't go into the "why" here, but how can they think they'll get away with it? Is the public to blame?


One rule when being sworn into office is not to lie to your constituents. Another is not to expose your private parts to the universe. Clearly, a lot of men can't help themselves with the latter, but we've tolerated a growing number of sex-related scandals in the past few years (Sen. David Vitter and Mark Sanford's, for example) that have set a precedent.

So why have we accepted that it's okay to deceive, deny and lie publicly if you're a politician? One could argue that when a degree of morally bankrupt behavior gets a pass, it lends a teachable moment to A-listers' PR factories. Each indiscretion, however miniscule, provides a backdrop for the next literal battle of the bulge, Weiner-style. For social networking scandals, there's the hacking defense; for extramarital affairs, there's sex-addiction rehab. Just as our communication options have skyrocketed, so have options for finger-pointing.

There's no doubt that Weiner's lack of a PR powerhouse made a difference in how he handled his scandal. The end result of resignation may have been the same, due to the last straw that was wife Huma Abedin's pregnancy news, but the timeline and details would have been different.

Weiner committed many a foul that could have been squelched by a PR professional. The laundry list includes calling a CNN producer a "jackass" and responding to initial inquiries with a political-brand blend of defensiveness and near sarcasm. Not to mention the bald-faced lying. Backtracking on hacking claims didn't enhance the sincerity of Weiner's following press appearances, nor did his lack of a promised "investigation" into the Twitter-centric rumors.

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