Every once in awhile there is a seminal moment that puts into sharp focus everything that is wrong with the news media, the people in it and their values ( or lack of them) and why they contribute so greatly to everything that is wrong with the country. And to a great extent the same can be said of the Democratic leadership, or lack of, and why Democrats have such a hard time with everything even when they had huge majorities in congress ( which they promptly lost and lost big after only two years).
This seminal moment was the Anthony Weiner fiasco and how the press turned something trivial into the single biggest national issue of the moment and how the leadership of the Democratic party ran like rabbits and caved in which always seems to be their instinct when they could have shown strength and strength of purpose.
Only two months before the Weiner fiasco, Marilyn Davenport, a Republican party official in California sent out a political email to her constituents and others in the Republican party showing Barrack Obama as the product of a mating between two chimpanzees with the line " now you know why no birth certificate."
Compared to the absolute frenzy over Weiner, this was barely noticed and while it made the news in a small way, it was, compared to Weiner, treated as a minor story and a local one, not a big national story. Barely anyone showed up on Davenport's lawn and when a local TV station did, this is what she said:
"I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth. ( Amusing
?) In no way did I even consider the fact he's half black (no, of course not
) when I sent out the email. In fact, the thought never entered my mind (why would it
?) until one or two other people tried to make this about race.(imagine that).
"That being said, I will NOT resign my central (Republican) committee position over this matter that the average person knows and agrees is much to do about nothing."
Apparently the press and people like Wolf Blitzer and the congressional Democratic leadership agreed that, unlike Weiner's underwear, it was much to do about nothing.
Based on the reaction of those both in the media and in the Democratic party who went into an absolute frenzy over Weiner, sending out an email to Republicans depicting Obama as the product of a mating of chimpanzees, insulting not just Obama, his parents and African Americans but every black person in the world and repeating as a joke the lie that was at the root of all racism perpetrated against blacks was, in the end, much to do about nothing. "Amusing" as Davenport said. On the other hand, Weiner sending a picture of his underwear to a willing recipient with whom he had an ongoing relationship and which accidentally became public, shook the very foundations of our democracy, undermining American values (except in Salt Lake City Utah, the biggest consumer of pay per view pornography in the country) and meant, unlike Davenport, Weiner had to resign from congress.
Even Obama apparently agreed,having had nothing to say about Davenport and her very public racist insult but publicly letting Weiner know he wanted him to resign.
CNN and Wolf Blitzer who decided the Weiner fiasco was the most important national issue of the moment, even made a special editorial comment about Weiner having lied to him about the underwear photo. Two months earlier Blitzer had nothing to say about a Republican official comparing Obama and his parents to chimpanzees and also clearly lying when she said it never entered her mind that Obama was half black when she sent out the email.
When it came to a Republican party official sending out one of the most repugnant racist messages since the civil rights era, did Davenport have hundreds of press and cameras following her everywhere? No. Were national Republican party officials put on the spot and asked if they would demand she resign? No. And while there were some tepid calls for her to resign by local party officials she was also defended by local Republcians and her response was that she will not resign because she had the support of her constituents.Sound familiar?
"[They] have told me ... they want me not to resign," Davenport reported to the local news station.
Weiner's constituents also didn't want him to resign as polls showed in overwhelming numbers. Pelosi, Reid, Obama and Debby Wasserman Schultz were not impressed and felt that Weiner's constituents just didnt have the same rights as Davenport's.
The reason for it all has been stated here many times before. The press is spineless and gutless and have been for at least the last 15 years, and unfortunately, going back to Clinton's impeachment, so is the Democratic leadership who, while right on just about every issue of policy are led by the most politically incompetent and gutless collection of political nincompoops, including what passes for "strategists" in American political history.
Pelosi and others complained bitterly that the frenzied press coverage of Weiner was overshadowing their message. And whose fault was that? Weiner's? Who did the Democrats complain to? The media? No, to Weiner. Having been very successful in the advertising business and having written prime time television, I know a little something about strategy, message and attracting an audience and the Democrats problem on all counts wasn't Weiner. It was their own inability to focus on the real problem and take the media to task for wasting everyone's time with such triviality instead on focusing on things that matter and bringing up the contrast with how the media handled Davenport's racist email and Weiner's underpants photo. Instead they threw Weiner over the side, one of the few Democrats who demonstrated he had the guts to stand up to Republicans( the other most prominent being Barney Frank) because most of their leadership didnt have the guts to do otherwise.
Marilyn Davenport never resigned and was even defended by some in the Republican party. And she is still there. There was no outcry by the media or national Democrats over what she did. But.it was Anthony Weiner who Wolf Blitzer said was a "dishonest politician" for lying to him about something that was none of Blitzer's business and meant absolutely nothing.
Journalists were willing and able to get tough and brave ("where's your wife? Where's your wife"?) with Weiner. It was Weiner who had to go because it was about sex. And it was Weiner over whom congressional Democrats caved in, the same way they caved in over the public option, financial reform and the Bush tax cuts.
Based on how both stories were handled, Weiner's meant- to- be- private underpants photo was more offensive than a racist photo insulting president Obama, his parents and black people all over the world, a photo intentionally sent by a Republican party official to other Republicans who she clearly believed would appreciate it's message.
But Davenport didnt have to resign. And neither did Vitter, the Republican senator from Lousiana caught cheating on his wife with Washington D.C. prostitutes. No Republican demanded he resign. And he was re-elected by his constitutents, something Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barrack Obama felt Weiner's constituents didn't have the right to do.
The Weiner fiasco was both the media and the Democrats playing to a phony morality, the press because it was their chance to get tough over nothing because they are nothing when things really get tough, and Democrats because they never stand up and fight even when they know its right. What both really did was throw morality out the window to play politics and pander and in the end, there will always be a price to pay, maybe bigger than the price paid by Weiner.
In a sane world inhabited by sane journalists and a sane Democratic Party leadership, Davenport's email would have ended her political career and Weiner would have ended up a little embarrassed and red faced and gone back to work. But for now in Washington, in the halls of congress and in the halls of journalism, the inmates are running the asylum.