Opinion

Weiner's Behavior Is Unseemly, but So Is the Schadenfreude

Tawdry escapade raises legitimate questions about Clinton's judgment

Many in the media are perfectly okay with enjoying Anthony Weiner's self-destruction, as long as it doesn’t accrue to Donald Trump’s benefit, writes Matt Lewis. (Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty Images file photo)

We're in the midst of a political campaign during which penis size has been a legitimate debate topic and where the words "blood coming out of her wherever" have been bandied about. So to paraphrase "Alice's Restaurant,” you've got to have a lot of damn gall to tell someone he might not be moral enough to opine on politics in 2016. But that's what happened this week when NY1 and the New York Daily News both informed Anthony Weiner that his services would no longer be required.

In fairness, Weiner's repeated behavior certainly disqualifies him from being a congressman and (most would agree) a good husband. But since when does being a scribbler or talking head constitute adhering to some morals clause?

In an industry that increasingly rewards celebrity and provocative attention-seeking over substance, the media’s sudden urge to uphold traditional family values feels like a non sequitur to me.

['Weiner' Walks Line Between Political Farce and Personal Tragedy]

If a modern day Hunter Thompson did something like this, we'd be calling him "colorful."

Now, some have suggested that Weiner's son being pictured in one of the "sexts" is what crossed the line. The picture, I think, was exploitative — just not in the worst way that people might assume. Weiner is a cad (which is bad), but that doesn't put him in the same league as a child predator. Instead, Mickey Kaus’s theory on the evolutionary psychology behind Weiner's behavior sounds plausible: "He was telegraphing to this woman he was sexting that he had a high male parental investment," Kaus hypothesized (perhaps in a tongue-in-cheek manner).

We'd all agree that this behavior is scummy — but so is the schadenfreude.

What has become increasingly obvious is that many in the media are perfectly okay with enjoying Weiner's self-destruction, as long as it doesn’t accrue to Donald Trump’s benefit. Trump's suggestion, for example, that "Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information" has been widely mocked by the chattering classes.

[Debate Prep: Can Trump Score a 'Knockout' This Fall?]

"How is this Huma/Weiner security leak supposed to work?" tweeted The Washington Post's Dave Weigel. "'Anthony, I am never around and you've humiliated me. Here's some state secrets.'"

Fusion's Kevin Roose scoffed at the notion, imagining a hypothetical sexting conversation might go like this: "Weiner: u up? Woman: yeah. Wiener: what r u wearing? Woman: nothing. Weiner: I have information on the whereabouts of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi."

Should it concern us if the husband of the president's top aide is vulnerable? Absolutely. At the very least, we should concede that Trump's point isn’t absurd.

Don’t get me wrong — Trump’s penchant for scoring cheap points and weighing in on every little news item is often a counterintuitive impulse. In this case, however, he is on message. Trump's line of attack at least buttresses a pre-existing narrative, which is to say that Hillary Clinton's judgment is questionable, particularly as it pertains to national security.

Suggesting that this wouldn't matter to the Clinton campaign (and the general public) constitutes a failure of imagination.

[Why Trump Is Smart to Drag Bill Clinton's Past Into the Race]

Anyone who has seen the FX show "The Americans" has seen how this works. Even otherwise decent people can be seduced and/or bribed to do things they normally wouldn't do. In some cases, these compromises seem very small to the person being "turned," but they have huge geopolitical consequences. The more vulnerable the person, the bigger the mark.

In a world where stories of Russian hacking are a near-daily event, it's not insane to think that Weiner's past Twitter proclivities might constitute a problem that transcends the personal travails of one married couple.

The fact that Huma Abedin has now kicked Weiner to the curb probably solves this potential problem, but it does not absolve Hillary Clinton (and her top aide) of a pattern of poor judgment.

Anthony Weiner might not deserve to hear any pillow talk from the president's right-hand woman. He is, however, perfectly capable of offering us his unsolicited opinions in columns like this one.

Roll Call columnist Matt K. Lewis is a Senior Contributor to the Daily Caller and author of the book “Too Dumb to Fail.” Follow him on Twitter @MattKLewis.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.