From time to time, Americans manage to elect extraordinarily corruptible people—and these walking moral catastrophes, in turn, pass laws for us, enforce those laws for us, presume to lecture us, and run, in general, as much of our lives as they can gets their hands on. It's not that we don't care about being governed by vulgarians, and it's not that we're pathologically gullible—so what is it? What's the secret of their success? How do they hold on to power for so long? The short answer is: the media—with a little help from human nature.
Such was the case with Weinergate, which most people still regard as a sex scandal and not the story of a scandalous character. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner has recently begun his campaign to become the next mayor of New York City, and given New York’s bizarre and inexplicable gluttony for punishment, he has a real chance of being elected. Then again, maybe New Yorkers are catching on – the fact that Weiner was booed last weekend at a parade offers a sliver of hope.
Andrew Breitbart took a proverbial rhetorical bullet by exposing Weiner, putting everything on the line to give the people of New York fair warning that their would-be mayor had all the libido, ego, judgment, honesty, and self-control of a drunken teenager. You can see this sad episode on display in my movie Hating Breitbart, now available everywhere, much to the disgraced Congressman’s chagrin.
To this day, however, most people believe that Weiner was forced to resign his seat in Congress because he had tweeted, in the words of Barbara Walters, “flattering” photos of his otherwise private parts to a 21 year-old college student on the other side of the country – not because he had fabricated a federal crime, claiming that he had been “hacked,” and willfully allowed his surrogates to publicly suggest that Andrew Breitbart had something to do with it. In the end, of course, Weiner apologized to Breitbart – but that was only because Breitbart, as it turns out, had the goods.
This wasn’t the first time Andrew was involved in a non-sex scandal. In fact, Andrew Breitbart’s New Media skills were originally forged, and ultimately informed by, his experience working with Matt Drudge during the Clinton-Lewinksy scandal in the late 1990s. While the particulars of the Clinton and Weiner scandals are very different, they share one very important thing in common – in both cases, the perpetrator knowingly defamed an innocent and allowed others to obscure his misdeeds with the mind-numbing mantra, “It’s all about the sex.”
In the case of Clinton, rather than fess up, he opted instead to lie about somebody: Monica Lewinsky, stalker. In the case of Weiner, rather than fess up, he opted instead to lie about somebody: Andrew Breitbart, hacker. And in both cases, people were far more disturbed by their dishonesty than by their sexual foibles – I mean, who among us hasn’t cigardomized their intern or tweeted a photo of their engorged genitals?
Most importantly, in both cases there was a complicit media machine in place that was all too willing to repeat the "It's all about the sex" mantra - and other distracting mantras - on behalf of their pet politician. The notion that Monica Lewinsky was an unstable stalker gained footing only because there was a media megaphone willing to repeat it; the idea that Andrew Breitbart, or anybody else for that matter, might have hacked a sitting congressman's Twitter account seemed feasible because it was repeated ad nauseum. The media, by and large, circle the wagons for their own—that is, for creatures of the Left. Happily, there are always exceptions—in Hating Breitbart, you can watch Chris Hayes and Jeffrey Toobin play interference for Weiner, but you can also watch Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer do their jobs.
Thankfully, Bill Clinton is old enough now that his sexual appetites are no longer considered a destructive social force, except perhaps by his scarred victims – and he’s lied so much that nobody really takes him that seriously anymore. His sole purpose in life now is to regret the presidency of Barack Obama and try not to do too much damage to his wife’s presumptive future presidential campaign. As for Anthony Weiner, his future in politics remains to be seen. Given the overall quality of political discourse in this country, the moral compass of our so-called mainstream media, and our sophisticated electorate, I’m afraid he’ll do just fine.
Andrew Marcus is the director of Hating Breitbart, a film about the last several years of Andrew Breitbart's life. It is available on DVD cable video on demand services.