If you were inclined to Google "lessons" and "Weinergate" this week you'd find enough to complete your summer reading. Even before the semi-disgraced politician's late Monday confession that yes, he had irresponsibly tweeted a crotch shot to a young woman not his wife and then failed to take responsibility for it, people were writing about the lessons, the lessons they'd learned, the lessons they hadn't learned, and they hadn't even had full disclosure.
Some were quick to give the congressman the benefit of the doubt given the source of the initial scandal, while others assumed it was just another big man gone down, with possibly more late night giggle factor.
Whether they took to Facebook, Twitter, blogs or the late night air, the lessons were there along with the jokes, stirring in the middle of the bigger sex and power scandals of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Edwards. It seems to be summer camp for the bad boys.
We've had enough examples of politicians gone awry in recent years to be giving too much benefit of the doubt despite the source. While the "innocent until proven guilty" serves well in a court of law, in the court of public opinion in the Twitter age it's relatively meaningless. I generally take as rule of thumb the guideline I follow when standing in line at the supermarket: if it's on one tabloid, it's questionable--two or three, and it's going to the bank.
Whether Anthony Weiner's tearful confession was prompted by genuine guilt, family conflict or other factors, it follows a pattern well crafted by others--deny, deflect, dissemble, and then ultimately, seek redemption. That these people deny at the outset or place the blame elsewhere seems to hearken back to childhood and broken cookie jars, a gambit for buying time with mom before dad comes home and gets out the belt.
We are not likely to suddenly get a new breed of politicians honest at the core or invulnerable to flirtations with the irresponsible. We are not likely to slow down the speed that news, opinion and rumor are delivered to us. We are not likely to see personal standards in Internet communication raised to the level of dress codes at the Vatican. Everyone from teenagers to world leaders is tweeting and TwitPicking, FourSquaring and Facebooking, without regard to the consequences. (Note to Congressman Weiner: You are not Adrianne Curry, or a Calvin Klein model.)
In the grander sweep of political scandal, Weiner is small potatoes, but reminds us that the lessons are these: there are no lessons we didn't already know. Don't do anything you don't want to see on a billboard or read as a headline the next day. Take responsibility for your actions. Don't assume.
And for the sake of all things holy: If you're going to tweet your underwear, make it worth our while.
On the Web:
Lessons I Won't Learn From Weinergate - Joan Walsh, Salon
What I Still Haven't Learned from Weinergate - Joan Walsh, Salon
Chest in Show - John Stewart, The Daily Show (video)
(image credit of Anthony Weiner, D-NY: Getty)