FIELDS: The peril in ‘children’ playing politics

‘Carlos Underpants’ is good for a laugh but he distracts a serious society

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Anthony Weiner is the comic relief the culture has been waiting for, sexualized politics without a moral message. Salacious texting, a parody of sensual touching, doesn’t depend on the meaning of “is” or “was.” Vice in virtual reality is sexuality-lite, superficial fantasy, timorous titillation, shadows cast across the shallows of the Internet.

Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinski is so yesteryear, leaving the former president an aging adulterer from an earlier century. He broke ground by getting a public pass on misbehavior, but he — and Hillary Rodham Clinton — can’t let Huma and Anthony sweep them into a satirical comedy they can’t direct. Bubba did his bit for Cupid, officiating at the Abedin-Weiner wedding, but the Weiners bounced a check on the unlimited checking account the Clintons gave them. If Huma thought she could get away with standing by her man, like Hillary did, she was deluded. Now she’s taking a “vacation” from her job with the former first lady, who wants a little distance. Mr. Weiner is no “comeback kid” and as fashionable as Huma may be, making Vogue magazine is not a political strategy.

The man who would be mayor is a court clown in a jester’s hat with bells next to the former president, a senior statesman, a philanthropist and a Bubba with gravitas. Huma’s “ups and downs” are roller-coaster rides in an amusement park compared to Hillary’s attempted climb up Mount Rushmore.

The feminists are furious now at male mismanagement of the gender wars. Tina Brown writes in the Daily Beast about how the high-tech, high-testosterone high-rollers in Washington threaten to mess up decades of carefully crafted gender negotiations, giving men the edge with genital exposure that shades Hillary’s message of female empowerment. Standing by your man is reduced to falling on your face.

She asks whether anyone could imagine a woman in Washington politics uploading “a crotch shot of herself on Instagram.”

Electing Mr. Weiner’s female opponent, Ms. Brown suggests, would keep everyone safe from the “private parts” racing around the Internet. This has to be the most bizarre feminist reason yet to vote for a woman.

The sexes are supposed to be equal, but when the middle-aged male libido enjoys revitalized power his loud, lewd and laughable lust can be forgivable. That’s what Eliot Spitzer thinks. Five years after getting caught out with a high-priced hooker in a Washington hotel room, he thinks he’s paid the piper of penance. New Yorkers, he says, should now let him manage cash payments of another kind as controller of New York City, and he feels secure enough to criticize Mr. Weiner as a bad choice for mayor without inviting comparisons. (The polls support this assessment.)

Mr. Spitzer has been able to limit his liabilities to drawing-room comedy, which titillates and draws in an audience with intellectually understandable foibles of people they know. The clown in cap and bells stars in his own farce, the American beyond ugly who embarrasses everyone watching, bringing nothing but shame down on the cultural capital. He chose the Internet nom de plume “Carlos Danger” only because “Carlos Underpants” was not available.

“It’s almost as if a little child were playing at being a politician and trying to hide something,” Dr. Richard C. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, tells The New York Times. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to write a diagnosis when someone aiming for an office of responsibility reveals himself to be a total jerk. Sins that once invited moral judgment in a religious age have been replaced with excuses for “root causes.” Therapy replaces self-discipline.

We’ve come a long way from Sigmund Freud’s world of repressed inhibitions. If privacy once camouflaged a multitude of sins, the new yen for public exposure desensitizes everyone to abnormal behavior. Varieties of Internet exhibitionism pass as normal behavior, just as the collective fixation on physical fitness obscures obsession. A hedonistic, permissive society is slow to judge aberrant behavior because there are no longer fixed standards, so we overlook the dangerous side of misbehaving.

Politicians, like entertainers, can often find professional outlets to hide serious symptoms until they crash and burn in front of us. The narcissistic attitudes that take people into these celebrity fields finally morph into the aberrations that take them out of the game.

Elections can be decisive, but often only for the moment. Campaigns aren’t the most precise tools to illuminate the character traits we expect from leaders. Comic interludes, such as the Anthony Weiner carnival, distract from the larger problems of society. In the final act, we’re pretty much left with Puck’s perception, when he turned to Oberon and said simply, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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