In 2011, Hollywood will be releasing a record of 27 sequels, the most in a single year in history. This includes Part IVs of Mission: Impossible and Pirates of the Caribbean; this includes 5 fifth sequels, like X-Men V; this includes 2 seventh sequels, like Planet of the Apes; and this includes 1 eighth sequel starring Harry Potter. It seems that no one like a sequel better than Hollywood, although our political ruling class enjoys re-running the same tired scandal script every few weeks.
The plot is always the same. Boy meets girl, boy wins an election, boy becomes drunk with power, boy suffers from ‘personal failings’, public scours Internet for lewd pictures of the women who tempted the weak politician. There are only 8 Harry Potter movies, but this political sex scandal movie has been retold hundreds of times. From Sally Hemings to Fannie Fox to Donna Rice to Monica, boys have been behaving badly for centuries in America, and Rep. Anthony Weiner’s most recent personal travails represent a shoddy remake of a storyline that should have run its course long ago.
Rep. Weiner’s troubles are damaging to be sure, but recent sequels to this age-old story have been much more salacious and frankly, much worse. At least Weiner didn’t father a child with his housekeeper and hide the facts for 10 years while allowing his wife to publicly defend him against charges that were actually true (like Arnold). At least Weiner didn’t hire prostitutes to satisfy his ‘failings’ (like Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Congressman David Vitter). At least Weiner didn’t solicit gay sex in a public restroom, and then blame the entire affair on his “wide stance” and involuntarily habit of tapping his foot under the stall wall (like Sen. Larry Craig). At least Weiner didn’t leave the country, and lie about his whereabouts for several days in order to be with his Argentinean soul mate (like Gov. Mark Sanford). At least Weiner didn’t cheat on his wife once she got sick (like current presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and past presidential candidate Edwards), and at least he didn’t pay hush money to cover up the affair and the existence of the love child (Edwards).
At least Weiner’s indiscretion did not involve a cigar or lying during a disposition (like Bill). At least Weiner didn’t pretend to be someone else while trolling Craigslist for dates (like Rep. Chris Lee). At least Weiner didn’t commit adultery and pay off the family to keep things quiet (like Sen. John Ensign). At least Weiner didn’t go on public dates with his mistress while his wife was still living under his roof (like Mayor Giuliani). At least Weiner didn’t ask his wife to stand next to him at the podium while he confessed to a gay love affair (like Gov. Jim McGreevey). In fact, given the history of this sordid franchise, Weiner-gate is rated G in comparison…OK, PG-13.
His conduct, without question, is embarrassing and demeans the office he holds, not to mention his marital vows. At least Weiner was frank with the public after only a day or two (get it – ‘weiner’ and ‘frank’ in the same sentence? Clever.). At least Weiner never demagogued about family values, or used his religious faith to protect himself from reproach. At least this remake might be over quickly, before the empty popcorn bucket hits the floor. That would be a pleasant and welcome surprise.
Someday, Stallone will give up on the Rambo and the Rocky franchises, and Pixar will stop making Toy Story movies. Can’t we give up on these sex scandal sequels in American politics? I guess we won’t, as long as there is still an audience and willing cast members (and I use the word ‘members’, pun intended).
This season truly represents The Weiner of Our Discontent.