Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Why Weiner’s Behavior Warrants the “Truly Horrible” Label

with 6 comments

Over the past few days, I’ve resisted the temptation to kick Representative Anthony Weiner, D-NY, while he’s down.  Weiner, as you probably know, has been in the news for the past two weeks due to having a picture of him, in his underwear, published inadvertently on Twitter.  Weiner lied about this initially, claiming he had been “hacked.”  He admitted on Monday that this picture really was him (the one in his underwear), and said other pictures existed, some conversations with women not his wife existed also (before and after his marriage to Huma Abedin, one of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top aides at the State Department), and that he was “deeply ashamed” and really, really “sorry.”

So, since I resisted saying anything up until now, you might be wondering what has changed.  Two things, really.  First, Weiner’s wife Abedin is reportedly pregnant with their first child, which makes all of Weiner’s behavior (including a nude photo of Weiner’s “equipment,” which surfaced today) even more sophomoric than it already was — and second, I got to thinking.

Look.  I’ve known people — myself included, with my wonderful, late husband Michael — who got to know each other online, mind to mind, before they ever got into physical proximity** (we’re talking long-distance relationships, here — committed, monogamous ones).  Or perhaps one of the pair had to take a job far away from the other — hundreds or thousands of miles — and to keep the “home fires” burning, the pair may well have sent scantily-clad pictures of themselves in order to encourage fidelity.   Or maybe the pair had intimate phone conversations.  Anything, to keep the relationship — a monogamous, consensual, committed relationship — on track.

It takes a lot for me to call behavior “truly horrible.”  Usually when I slap that label on it, we’re talking about one political party behaving badly and doing stupid things, not a juvenile, irresponsible man over 40 who can’t keep his pants zipped when he has a wonderful wife at home.

And make no mistake — what Weiner did is definitely cheating.   He talked about sex with women (not his wife, when his marriage was still a going, vital concern), and presumably acted on his desires.  That’s cheating.  Period.

To be clear, I do not believe Weiner should resign from Congress.  But I do think his behavior was terrible and reflected very poorly not only upon him and how he conceives of marriage, but makes anyone who’s trying to use cyberspace and/or the telephone to keep a long-distance relationship going feel like they’re either doing something sleazy, or have already done it.

I feel terribly sad for Abedin, who knows her husband has not been faithful to her and did not take his wedding vows seriously.   And I feel even sadder for Weiner, who not only didn’t realize the jewel he had (and for the moment still has) in his wife, but went around cheapening himself — and everyone else who uses alternative means to remain close to his or her committed partner — because he was too damned stupid to know any better.  Or care, either.

All of these thoughts make me wish once again my husband was still alive, because I’m sure he’d have something interesting, funny, scathing, or possibly all three at once about the Weiner set of scandals.  But I truly wish I weren’t thinking about him — the most wonderful man in the world, the most wonderful person the Deity ever created — in this context.

Thanks a lot, Anthony Weiner.  Really.


** In my case, Michael and I met once, at a mutual friend’s house, then I went home to one state and Michael went home to another state, hundreds of miles away.   We relied on our mutual friends (we had several) to help us out when the inevitable miscommunications arose — and ultimately, being so far away from each other helped our relationship immensely because we had to learn to communicate or our relationship wouldn’t survive.  That’s how cyberspace, and the telephone, can help a relationship — whereas what Weiner did just shows how a stupid man can screw up his life with the latest, up-to-date technology.

6 Responses

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  1. I agree that Weiner’s behavior is pretty disgusting but I also agree with what Glenn Greenwald wrote here . . .

    – – –
    “Reporters who would never dare challenge powerful political figures who torture, illegally eavesdrop, wage illegal wars or feed at the trough of sleazy legalized bribery suddenly walk upright — like proud peacocks with their feathers extended — pretending to be hard-core adversarial journalists as they collectively kick a sexually humiliated figure stripped of all importance. The ritual is as nauseating as it is predictable.

    “What makes the Anthony Weiner story somewhat unique and thus worth discussing for a moment is that, as Hendrik Hertzberg points out, the pretense of substantive relevance (which, lame though it was in prior scandals, was at least maintained) has been more or less brazenly dispensed with here. This isn’t a case of illegal sex activity or gross hypocrisy (i.e., David Vitter, Larry Craig, Mark Foley (who built their careers on Family Values) or Eliot Spitzer (who viciously prosecuted trivial prostitution cases)). There’s no lying under oath (Clinton) or allegedly illegal payments (Ensign, Edwards). From what is known, none of the women claim harassment and Weiner didn’t even have actual sex with any of them. This is just pure mucking around in the private, consensual, unquestionably legal private sexual affairs of someone for partisan gain, voyeuristic fun and the soothing fulfillment of judgmental condemnation. And in that regard, it sets a new standard: the private sexual activities of public figures — down to the most intimate details — are now inherently newsworthy, without the need for any pretense of other relevance. “


    June 10, 2011 at 10:00 am

    • Greenwald is right, as far as he goes. I am more upset about it because of Weiner’s initial lies. If he’d have said right away, “Yes, this was me; I hadn’t meant to put that picture online, but . . . ” and then said what he did, I think he would’ve found less vitriol.

      In my case, I just am upset because I don’t like men who cheat on their wives — especially pregnant wives. I don’t care for the lying, but I put that right alongside “cheating” with undesirable character traits as they often seem to go together.

      Thanks for reading my blog and pointing out Greenwald’s article.

      Barb Caffrey

      June 10, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      • I would just add that Ted Kennedy cheated on his wife and let one woman drown — and lied about it. Yet, Teddy managed to have a four-decade long career in the senate where he was respected as a serious person who fought for the non-privileged. And after he died, the the federal government approved contributions in the millions of dollars of taxpayer funds for the Ted Kennedy museum.

        It’s the inconsistency of the outrage that is a bit off-putting.


        June 10, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      • That’s certainly true . . . I agree with you that it’s “selective outrage” in the case of much of the mainstream media. In my case, what hit me was more *how* Weiner cheated on his wife, not that he did it. I don’t _like_ the latter, mind, but that’s between him and his wife — what’s really sad is that Weiner’s been an effective public servant otherwise and we need all the people in Congress who care something for the poor and middle class as we have so few of them.

        As for Ted Kennedy, a lot of what he did after the Mary Jo Kopechne incident was good. We never got a really good answer as to why that all happened. (I also didn’t like how Ted acted during the ’08 Presidential campaign, though admittedly for different reasons.) If Ted’s last name had been anything aside from “Kennedy,” justice would’ve been served and we’d know the truth there beyond a shadow of a doubt — but it was, and we’ll probably never know what happened there. I will give Ted K. a lot of credit for caring about the poor and downtrodden, though I wish I didn’t have to do so because I believe every Congressman and Senator should care about the poor and downtrodden. (That I actually have to point it out when someone does care is the sad part.)

        Anyway, most of what’s happened with Weiner and all the women he’s cheated with is between him, them, and his wife. I do hope Weiner didn’t send any X-rated photos or have any suggestive talk in any on-line correspondence with that 17-year-old girl because that’ll just make everything worse for him. But providing he didn’t do anything wrong there, my best guess is that he survives this scandal, but as a soon-to-be divorced man.

        Barb Caffrey

        June 10, 2011 at 11:17 pm

  2. I was not aware of the 17 year old until you wrote about it, but that does point out one of the very scary parts about social interaction via the Internet: One really NEVER knows the age, gender,proclivities, political bent, occupation, or intentions of people one communicates with. People can get into very big trouble if not careful, because it is all too easy to lie or at least misrepresent who one is.

    BTW, your observation that after the Chappaquiddick affair, Ted Kennedy (who had been a serial adulterer) went on to do many good things for people is a point that could be made for Rep. Weiner as well: he could pull himself together and go on to do battle on behalf of issues that matter. He is a good fighter, as you have noted.


    June 11, 2011 at 9:51 am

    • I really hope that Weiner will be able to do so, too.

      It is odd in Ted K’s last marriage that it appears he was finally faithful. His late wife, Victoria, seems like a very together person, and apparently she demanded fidelity so Ted finally became a faithful man.

      I don’t know about you, but I don’t think public servants have to be perfect people — that is absurd. But I do insist that they be as transparent as they possibly can; if Weiner has a sex addiction (as he’s now going in “for treatment”), then perhaps he can get some help for that and save his marriage if Ms. Abedin is interested in doing so. He has a tough road, yes, but if he can get past it, maybe he’ll do some good down the line. Here’s hoping it’s so.

      As for online relationships, I think it’s important to watch for what I call “internal consistency.” If someone is who he or she says he/she is, they’re going to be very consistent about what he/she tells you. If they are playing a long game of some sort, you should be able to catch ’em out if you’re observant.

      Barb Caffrey

      June 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm

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