So Anthony Weiner has a hobby.
Is this the first political sex scandal of the internet era? Perhaps it is the first virtual political sex scandal, where no sex was had and only pics were exchanged (a/s/l?) and even the participants are unsure of who each other is. (The most uncomfortable moment in what was already a ridiculously uncomfortable press conference was when Weiner admitted that he could not know for sure that the women he interacted with were of age.)
What a bizarre sideshow. The media asked their usual penetrating questions. Was he wearing boxers or briefs? (To be fair, this was crowd chit-chat prior to Weiner's remarks.) Are you a sex addict? (Someone please punch that guy.) Will you apologize to Andrew Breitbart? (Also punch this guy.) Were you fully erect? (Especially this guy.)
Weiner brought this on himself, but it's never fun to watch a man cry on live television, unless than man is Andrew Breitbart. We all have strange pleasures and needs, even popular witty Congressmen with beautiful wives, that we don't want to admit in public, and the internet allows us to indulge many of them. In the grey of the morning in front of that flickering screen, we've all likely done something we regret. As Amanda Marcotte points out, many of the people attacking Weiner, including that female reporter haranguing Weiner about the ages of his Twitter flirts, almost certainly have regrets of their own. Most are less public figures and most are more cautious about it, but only Echelon knows how many dark secrets of theirs are preserved in servers around the world.
This is still a disappointment. It's disappointing becuse we thought Weiner was better than this, morally, and less bereft of intelligence and common sense. It's a disappointment because such a vocal advocate for the progressive cause has been silenced. And make no mistake, that's what is going on here. Weiner brought this on himself, but that doesn't make this any less of a political attack, one which may have been specifically timed to distract from Justice Clarence Thomas' ethical issues, which Weiner has taken the lead in highlighting.
Andrew Sullivan writes "this is the result of raw culture war with no scruples or principles, designed purely to destroy." And that's what this is. The message here is that if you stick your neck out for progressive causes, they are going to chop your head off. You'll have stalkers on Twitter hounding you and your followers, waiting for a slip up they can use against you. You'll have ludicrous professional charlatans like Breitbart manipulate the story and then claim to be the victim. You'll have Fox News attack you all day and the "liberal" media will cheer them on, while largely ignoring the John Ensigns and the David Vitters of the other party.
The worst part about Weinergate is that this may legitimize Andrew Breitbart. I'm now convinced that Breitbart, not the cockroach, may be the only thing that survives the Armageddon. What should have happened is that the press conference should have ended with Weiner (or better yet, his wife) punching Breitbart in the mouth, but instead he grabbed the spotlight and the assembled reporters sprang to his defense, demanding an apology on his behalf. Somehow Breitbart has survived being exposed again and again as a manipulative liar and professional libel artist, and now he has the audacity - no, because he is completely made of slippery, amoral audacity - to claim victimhood and vindication because he was sort of correct about a story he manipulated into being. Now viciously attempting to ruin the life of an innocent Department of Agriculture employee, sponsoring the junior pseudo-pimp so he could pseudo-seduce a CNN reporter, and everything else he's ever done may be all wiped away and Breitbart may become a professional, respected journalist and pundit because someone sent him a picture of a Congressman's dick.