Of all the many political sex scandals of the last twenty-five years or so, none has had such a high ratio of political lethality to concrete caddishness as the Weiner affair. In the caddishness category, consider what Congressman Weiner did not do:
• Commit adultery • Fornicate • Hook up • Patronize prostitutes • Seduce an intern • Seduce a congressional page • Get divorced • Get divorced serially • Get divorced with children at vulnerable ages • Hypocritically embrace prudish “family values” • Advocate “abstinence” • Lie about sex under oath • Demonize his own sexual orientation • Demand that some other politician resign because of some sexual misbehavior • Break up somebody else’s marriage • Make an assistant take the fall for getting a mistress pregnant • Fly to South America to see a mistress on Father’s Day while leaving wifey home with the kids • Pay off a mistress or a mistress’s husband • Have a mistress • Break a law
There are plenty of strictly political reasons why Anthony Weiner was forced to walk the plank while others whose behavior was more morally reprehensible were not, and those reasons are getting a thorough airing at the moment. But certain cultural, or media-cultural, factors are perhaps more interesting.
The bad things Weiner did do—his sins, let’s call them for convenience, without embracing the churchy implications—were, once revealed, a hundred per cent visible. And a hundred per cent of them were visible. They were a hundred per cent documented. No he said/she said this time, no need for witnesses, no need for testimony. No need for “evidence”—because the evidence was the sin, and the sin the evidence.