By Patrick Martin in the USA:
10 June 2011
There are mounting calls from both Democratic and Republican leaders for the resignation of Congressman Anthony Weiner, a New York City Democrat, following a televised press conference Monday at which he admitted to engaging in “explicit” telephone and online exchanges with numerous women, and then lying about it for the previous week.
The saturation coverage of the Weiner affair caters to the combination of Puritanism and prurience—inseparably connected—that has long been a hallmark of American society.
The scandal follows a pattern so familiar that it has become stereotyped: lurid revelations, indignant denials, a media frenzy, self-abasing confessions, breathless speculation about the wronged spouse, whether in hiding or standing by her man, until the spotlight shifts to the next tawdry and equally insignificant scandal.
There is the cast of characters that have become familiar over the past two decades: ultra-right dirty tricks operatives, the corporate-controlled media, and an increasingly right-wing Democratic Party that cowers before both.
Perhaps the only thing new in the Weiner scandal is that the integration of ultra-right provocateur and “mainstream” media has taken another quantum leap. Deeply involved in the affair is Andrew Breitbart, who was discredited last year by the exposure of his use of a doctored videotape to smear Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod (See “The Sherrod affair and American social reality”).
So Breitbart teamed up with ABC News to do the dirty work, brokering the network’s contact with two of the women linked to Weiner. The network was more than happy to devote its resources to this “investigation”, and three of the four television networks led their evening news broadcasts Monday with the press conference of a congressional backbencher known previously only for his abrasive appearances on cable talk shows.
The Democratic Party establishment dropped Weiner abruptly. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for a formal investigation by the ethics committee to determine whether Weiner had violated House rules or misused official resources. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said if Weiner asked for his support he would tell him, “Call someone else.”
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Timothy Kaine, now a candidate for US Senate in Virginia, was the first Democrat to call for Weiner’s resignation, followed by eight of Weiner’s Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives.
The New York City congressman has so far refused to resign, telling the press conference, “I don’t see anything I did that violated any rules of the House. I don’t see anything that violated my oath of office to uphold the Constitution.”
In the past three years, five congressmen in New York state alone—two Democrats and three Republicans—have seen their political careers destroyed in this fashion. For that very reason, the principal public reaction to such revelations is indifference. People shrug their shoulders, because they expect little else.
Scandal-mongering allows the ruling elite to conduct its internecine battles without any interference from the masses. This or that politician can be eliminated without acknowledging the issues involved.
In this case, it appears the Murdoch-owned media targeted Weiner at least in part because he was the presumed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City in 2013, when the current mayor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, leaves office because of term limits.
More generally, both capitalist parties use such scandals to position themselves against each other while avoiding any discussion of political substance.
But the overriding effect of such scandals is to distract and debase public consciousness. As the Washington Post’s television critic noted, CNN afternoon anchor Brooke Baldwin told viewers Monday that the network had “intended to cover the breaking news of those five American men killed” in Iraq, only to be continually focused throughout the day on the Weiner revelations. Why think about war or the economic crisis of capitalism when there is a sex scandal to titillate the viewing audience?
Barack Obama intervenes in the Weiner affair: here.
Anthony Weiner Resigning (VIDEO): here.
The short, sordid campaign to force Rep. Anthony Weiner from office ended predictably Thursday, as the New York City Democrat announced his resignation in Brooklyn: here.
Stephen Zunes, Truthout: “A surprising number of progressives have been expressing regret at the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) over the ‘sexting’ scandal, correctly noting how the grossly inflated media coverage has distracted from far more pressing issues, as well as the far worse sins (mostly not involving sex) committed by Republican lawmakers. What is disturbing, however, is the way Weiner is being treated as if he was a leading progressive voice on Capitol Hill despite his decidedly right-wing political agenda, particularly on foreign policy”: here.
In other non-Weiner news, a new record for civilian deaths in Afghanistan was set in May: here.
USA: Foreclosed From Iraq: Father Seeks To Preserve Home As Son Fights Abroad: here.
Report: $6.6B Meant For Iraq May Be ‘Largest Theft’ In U.S. History: here.
US military forces are now waging simultaneous drone missile attacks, bombings, special forces assassination raids and ground combat in five separate countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen: here.
Imperial Hypocrisy: U.S. calls Iraq criminal and seeks reparations: here.
Robert Naiman, Truthout: “Senators are often much harder to move than House members on peace issues, and sometimes people get demoralized. ‘No, No!’ cries the Greek chorus. ‘Please don’t ask us to call our senators!’ In general, your average senator is much more attached to the Empire than your average member of the House, because senators are much more insulated from public opinion. They only have to run every six years, and senators rarely seem to show their faces in Yourtown, USA, to answer your questions about why they are supporting endless war. But when the Senate starts to move – now you got something. This week, the Senate started to move. Fifteen senators – so far – have signed a bipartisan letter to the president initiated by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), urging ‘strong support for a shift in strategy and the beginning of a sizable and sustained reduction of US military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011′”: here.