The Self Destruction and Collateral Damage of Anthony Weiner
Independent's Eye by Joe Gandelman
So much for New York's Rep. Anthony Weiner: it's "buh- bye" to his blossoming career as a TV star, his self-depreciating jokes about his name that "killed" before roaring-with-amusement crowds, his hope to be New York City's next mayor, his role as a high-profile Democratic Party surrogate and probably his House seat.
Weiner's "sin" of sexting will get the most attention since details from more women are emerging. But I predict Weiner will long be held up as a textbook case of how not to handle the media and damage control, how not to preserve a political career andas someone who burned his supporters and fostered more distrust of politicians among voters and the news media.
Weiner seemingly envisioned himself as a kind of potential 21st century Fiorello La Guardia but instead morphed into a political version of Charlie Sheen due to the breathtaking degree of his self-destruction.
The bulk of what has happened to him was indeed "self," even though the story was pressed by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, the new mediajournalist-blogger operating with political search-and-destroy motives.
The man-who-never-grew-up's early mistake was the way he handled the story. Advice to politicos: if you give evasive answers, play word games and angrily, defiantly berate the press, editors and reporters will feel a story DEMANDS closer examination.
When he said in his widely televised apology-fest: "I have not been honest with myself, my family, my constituents, my friends and supporters, and the media" he only hit on part of it. His lying will have consequences, even if what he was lying about was not the world's biggest sin.
He has propelled Breitbart into a more respectable status. Just as Matt Drudge made his media bones with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Breitbart has made his media bones with Weiner. Although some past Breitbart revelations were discredited, he proved correct on this and those who decry the trend of targeting people in an opposing political party can decry it all they want. It will continue.
Weiner has now made the press more wary of politicians than ever. Weiner had raised eyebrows and created sympathy due to the earlier indignant way he went after the press before he confessed. The Washington Post's Hank Stuever called the confessional press conference coverage "the whole story, or perhaps the whole story, that nobody wanted but everyone covered." Weiner made it a big story.
Weiner let down everyone who still believes in giving someone the benefit of the doubt. He has ensured that future politicos will limit details they provide when their hands are caught in the cookie jar or their crotches are caught on Twitter: every time Anthony Weiner opened his mouth he dug a deeper hole.
He has also ensured that the symbiotic relationship between new and the old media will continue. Websites and ideologically driven bloggers will increasingly shove stories into the mainstream media. Why? Because they can.
Two things can be said "with certitude": House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's demand for an ethics probe of the scandal means he's on borrowed time -- and for every tear Anthony Weiner shed during his press conference, someone somewhere felt a deep, sick sense of betrayal.
In the end, Anthony Weiner lived up to his name. In more ways than one.
Copyright 2011 Joe Gandelman
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN's John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.
This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.
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