Weiner roast

    Was Anthony Weiner, the liberal congressman and pithy partisan pugilist, really stupid enough to tweet a photo of his aroused underwear-clad torso to a college girl in Washington state? Or was he framed by right-wing cyber-terrorists who have long been jonesing for a chance to take him down? Or is there a more sensible explanation?I’m only certain about three elements, in ascending order of importance:1. In the annals of civic discourse, we sank to a new low yesterday when a news anchorman (Wolf Blitzer) asked a sitting member of Congress and New York City mayoral hopeful (Weiner) whether he is familiar with his own underpants.2. Conservative con man Andrew Breitbart and his smear-artist allies have been working this story hard, which by definition suggests that Weiner may well be innocent.3. Weiner is arguably the worst public relations disaster since the ostensibly innocent O.J. Simpson wandered the L.A. freeways with a gun in his lap and the cops in pursuit.Weiner has oxygenated this story (or non-story, or whatever it is) by offering a slew of vague and contradictory explanations. This alone is perplexing, because Weiner is a veteran smash-mouth New York politician who knows how to play the media. He knows from long experience that stonewalling the media is akin to waving a red cape at a bull. Nevertheless, he has been doing it all week.He said last Saturday that his Twitter account had been hacked, and on Monday he suggested he would say no more about being hacked. (“It happens to people. You move on.”) On Tuesday, he stonewalled for seven minutes at an impromptu press conference, and refused to explain why he had not requested an FBI or Capitol Police investigation. (More on that press conference in a moment). Also that day, he said through a spokesman that he had “retained counsel,” but wouldn’t identify the lawyer or specify what civil or criminal issues were being discussed.Then, yesterday, Weiner got weirder. He told MSNBC, “I didn’t send that picture out,” but he added, “I can’t say with certitude” whether or not the aroused underwear genitalia in the picture are his.(Tell me I didn’t write that sentence. This is enough to make me pine for the debt ceiling. OK, let’s keep going.)So, if he couldn’t “say with certitude” that it wasn’t his torso in the photo, does that mean there are real Weiner photos floating around somewhere? Is that what he was suggesting? This is where Wolf Blizter comes into the narrative; late yesterday, in a reference to the tweeted photo, the CNN anchor prodded Weiner for a more specific response. Surely, said Blitzer, “you would know if this was your underpants.” To which Weiner replied, “It certainly doesn’t look familiar to me.” But then, moments later Weiner added, “I don’t know what photographs are out there in the world of me.” And he subsequently told Rachel Maddow, “I don’t want to cast this net wider by saying it’s someone else.”Wait a second…Is he leaving open the possibility that he collects lewd crotch shots of himself, or poses for such pics? Is he perhaps suggesting that maybe it was his torso in the tweeted photo, but that some prankster got hold of it and used Weiner’s address to tweet the college girl (who has since stated that “there have never been any inappropriate exchanges between Anthony Weiner and myself”)? The problem is, Weiner won’t answer the basics. As he said the other day, “I’m not going to keep drilling into further details and further details…even the easy questions, even the obvious questions.”Which brings us to that Tuesday press scrum, broadcast in its entirety on CNN. To quote Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, “My my my. What a mess.” In all my years of watching politicians spar with the press, I hadn’t seen such petulant behavior since Richard Nixon.Weiner was asked, did he tweet that photo or not? He replied: “I’m not going to give out anything more today, I think I’ve been very responsive in the past.”He was told that all he had to do was to “say no to the question.” He replied: “I’ll not permit myself to be distracted by this issue any longer.”He repeatedly complained that he was not being allowed to answer the questions, whereas in reality his non-answers were being interrupted by reporters who wanted him to answer the questions…such as why he has refused to call for a federal investigation of the alleged hack.During a sparring round with a CNN producer and a CNN reporter, he scoffed: “You do the questions, I do the answers, and this jackass interrupts me. How about that as the new rule of the game.” (The “jackass” was the CNN producer.) “I’m not going to allow this thing to dominate what I talk about anymore.”But yesterday he was back talking about it anyway, belching out new clouds of vapor on six TV networks. My favorite moment – I think it was on MSNBC – was when he defended his decision not to call for a federal probe of the incident: “I’m not really sure it rises, no pun intended, to that level.”It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that Andrew Breitbart and his pals orchestrated a cyber-prank – they’re the ones who “broke” the news, publicized the name of the college girl, detailed her schooling and her studies…the usual slime tactics. It’s quite possible that they worked a plan to ruin Weiner – much like Breitbart’s failed attempt to ruin Shirley Sherrod – by turning him into a joke. If so, they apparently pranked the right guy. At this point, we’re laughing at him – not with him. And we can say that with certitude.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.