The Debate: Is Anthony Weiner an Asshole?

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Anthony Weiner announces his decision to resign from Congress, June 16, 2011.

We justices of the Supreme Court of Assholedom had an extraordinarily difficult time adjudicating the case of New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, who in recent weeks has achieved incredible notoriety for… what exactly? Even defining the nature of this scandal is problematic; it is extremely difficult to distinguish here between what he actually did wrong, and what’s merely a luridly gripping tabloid crucifixion of a guy exhibiting run-of-the-mill mongo-horniness.

The Weiner scandal is a weird cross of about nineteen other celebrity fiascoes: it’s a big dose of Brett Favre, mixed in with a dash of Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer, along with maybe a half-teaspoon of Watergate (the coverup was far worse than whatever the “offense” was) and a bit here and there from every upskirt/locker-cam naked-politician internet weirdness scandal from the last decade.

Whatever it is, it appears to be enough to end Weiner’s congressional career. The word is out today that he’s telling friends he’s hanging up his skates, surely because the DNCC fundraising chiefs do not want the Democratic Party to enter a presidential election season carrying Anthony Weiner on its back.  

There was certainly a lot of assholeness that came out of the Weiner affair, from the gloating dickitude of Andrew Breitbart to the preposterous over-coverage by the media (and we’re now a part of that) to the howls of brazenly hypocritical outrage emanating from the same Republicans who kept quiet during the John Ensign, Chris Lee and David Vitter affairs. The  central difficulty of the Weiner case, from our Supreme Court’s point of view, was in identifying precisely where Weiner’s own assholosity was to be found here, if there was any to be found at all.

The Justices found themselves arguing fiercely over whether or not any individual, even a congressman, has the right to be really horny and kinky, and possibly unfaithful, and possibly creepy, without it being the business of reporters and bloggers and other assorted media vermin. Justice Mara Schmid was the most vocal in her insistence that Weiner isn’t necessarily an asshole just because he was dumb enough to give people a chance to gawk at his blood-honker on the internet.

“Can't we be more like France?” she said provocatively. “The only time personal lives of politicians should matter is when the politician is inappropriately linking their personal life to their public life, i.e. paying their lovers with government money or similar.”

Schmid added:  “As someone who is a proponent of at least the option of open relationships, just once I want to see the person's spouse reply to allegations like that with ‘yeah, so? big deal.’  I am NOT excusing cheating.  But at what point is someone's sex life relevant to their job?”

This is where I jumped in. Disclaimer: I’ve never liked Anthony Weiner, and not just because people were driving around New York in pickup trucks dumping copies of the New York Press issue containing my infamous Pope column on his suggestion. I just never liked him because he’s always seemed like an imperious little meanie (an impression verified to some degree by this old Times article chronicling his habit of abusing his staff and terrorizing his office furniture) whose public style was an over-the-top parody of mentor/Wall Street proto-whore Chuck Schumer’s unabashedly grating asswipe-New York act. In fact I always kind of imagined Weiner being a little like the chattering half-human face growing out of Richard E. Grant’s shoulder in the greatest-titled movie ever, How To Get Ahead In Advertising, with Weiner as an obnoxious talking boil on Schumer’s shoulder.

Weiner apparently got his habit of publicly chewing out employees, slamming phones, and reaming staffers who stray from email range from his old boss – he worked in Schumer’s office once upon a time. “People joke that two years of Chuck equals one year of Anthony,” one staffer told the Times.

Anyway, my take on Weiner was a little different from Schmid’s. I said Weiner’s hobbies were relevant to his job because he just killed his career and therefore just castrated all of his constituents politically. It’s not like it’s fair, but when you get elected to do a job, you’ve got to keep your nose clean. “If I was actually counting on Weiner to get something done for me, I'd be pretty pissed that he just self- immolated because he just likes sending dong shots to strange women too much to be careful,” I said.  

I thought this was a pretty solid argument, and others (including particularly Justices Kourkounis and Sirota) backed me up, but then Justice David Rees, who incidentally just sent me a spectacular exemplar of his artisanal pencil sharpening work  (I encourage all readers to avail themselves of this incredible service – David makes the finest hand-sharpened pencils on earth – a full review is coming) made an interesting point.

“[About ]the critique that Weiner's an asshole because his behavior jeopardizes his seat,” Rees said. “So if we lived in a culture where online flirting wasn't an impeachable offense, Weiner wouldn't be an asshole? If he waits this out and holds on to his seat, does that make him less of an asshole retroactively?”

That’s a good question and gets us to a chicken-and-egg quandary. From my end, Weiner entered politics knowing what the ground rules were -- that if pictures of your erect dong and transcripts of your sexting sessions with six different women end up being made public, you’re a corpse politically.

That means he was basically holding all of whatever work he might have been doing for constituents over a lava-pit every time he went downstairs for a type-and-stroke session. You’ve heard of unsafe sex, that’s unsafe politics. I can see the argument that this wouldn’t be true if society was less prudish about “flirting,” but to me that doesn’t make it less of a betrayal of his constituents. Not all of the Justices agreed with me, however.

And not all of the Justices were sure that this was really just “flirting,” either. Was there anything inherently assholish about Weiner’s sexting behavior, or about his week-plus attempt to lie and bully his way out of it? Justice Drew Magary insisted repeatedly that the court’s very legitimacy was at stake in the Weiner case.

“If this court wants to be known as anything other than some liberal mudslinging collective,” he said, “you better damn well judge that idiot an asshole.”

Justice Sirota, again playing the role of the Court scholar, suggested that we apply a thing called the “Edwards Scale” to judge Weiner’s behavior. Edwards, who Sirota says is “clearly a 10,000-point asshole,” is the metric of jurisprudence in such cases.

[Edwards] is the asshole for which all other politician sex freaks should be evaluated against, because he combined a whopping four 2,500-point asshole moves together in one move modern-day politician asshole. He didn't just cheat on a spouse (2,500 points). He didn't just cheat on a spouse who had cancer (at LEAST 2,500 points). He didn't just cheat on a spouse who had cancer WHILE running for president (2,500 points). He cheated on a spouse who had cancer while running for president - and made the decision to not use a condom (2,500 points for a total of 10,000 points).

By this standard, Sirota argued, Weiner is only one-fifth as much of an asshole as John Edwards. “Weiner is clearly an asshole,” he wrote, “but he didn't cheat on his wife, but his racy messages are a kind of Internet cheating (1,000 points) and he did this not while running for president, but while holding a fairly important federal office (1,000 points).”

That made sense, but then it occurred to some of us that since Weiner had already been caught lying about nineteen times by then (this was in the first week of the scandal), it was too early to say that all he was up to was sending racy pictures to strangers. “Just because he says he didn't actually cheat on his wife doesn't mean he hasn't,” said Justice Kourkounis. “The guy is a proven liar, liar, pants on fire politician at this point.”

I agreed. “By the time it all comes out, we'll find out that Weiner has been doing video shoots with amputee meth whores in Atlantic City,” I said.

Sirota then backtracked a little, agreeing that “we’re still in the discovery phase” and that it may be too early for us to make an Edwards-scale ruling. Then he made another important point.

“This, of course, says nothing about Anthony Weiner's politics,” he said, “which are a whole other case for debate, though probably better suited for the Court of Douchebaggery & Asshattery than the Supreme Court of Assholedom.”

And indeed, Weiner’s politics are a themselves an issue – his “Israel is always right” thing being particularly tiresome (he once accused both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were biased against Israel). We debated some of these points, and some of the judges included their feelings about Weiner’s various stances in their opinions.

Others were swayed by other factors – like the sheer dickishness of Weiner’s behavior toward his wife, who made quite an impression on some of the members, most notably Whitmer. “Jesus Christ, he hit the smart and beautiful jackpot,” he said. “But I guess 17 year-olds, and single mothers from Texas he won't actually sleep with, were filling a void he wasn't getting at home.”

Others, and I include myself in this number, were more interested in Weiner’s douchey eye-rolling and baldfaced lying in the first week after the scandal broke – I was particularly impressed by the way he kept picking his nose and snickering while Dana Bash was asking him questions, continuing a habit he’s had for years of ignoring people who are talking at him or near him when he feels like he has better things to do. From the 2008 Times article:

During a panel on the middle class in January at the New School with the mayors of Miami, Honolulu and Buffalo, Mr. Weiner irked some audience members by constantly working on his BlackBerry, as an assistant continuously ferried documents to him on the dais.

In any case, Weiner’s blasé bullshitting in Scandal Week One made an impression on some, including Magary, who also grew tired of all the judges who were moralizing about how we should stay out of politicians’ private lives. “[Weiner’s] pathetic lying about it is really what gives him that trademark asshole politician sheen, not the act itself,” he said. “And frankly, I totally want to know about what famous people do in their private lives.  Do they like tickle torture?  Do they have a poolboy?  I'm nosy like that.”

Anyway, such were the issues the Court considered this week and last. How did we vote? I’ll post the results tomorrow, along with majority and minority opinions. I’d do it now, but I’ve got to run to the vet, for the ten millionth time this month. To be continued …

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