The Anthony Weiner meltdown had all the congressional scandal points: the initial “how dare you suggest that” angry denial; the subsequent weepy confession of the act and the coverup, with meaningless “I take full responsibility” boilerplate; the hackneyed promise to seek “help” (for some sort of sexual-exhibitionism perversion?); and then the off-the-record phone campaign to congressional grandees to save his job as he publicly keeps up the tears and the contrived contrition. All that was missing was the dutiful, embarrassed wife at his side, made impossible in this case by her own high-visibility government career.
There is a hubris/nemesis theme to the entire squalor: When the story broke, Weiner was in the midst of trying to trash the fundraising efforts of Clarence Thomas’s wife in order to embarrass or censure Justice Thomas — just as the public moralist Eliot Spitzer was hectoring on the ethos of Wall Street or the socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn reputedly used force to gratify himself from a poor West African maid.
In all these incidents, from Spitzer to Schwarzenegger, the subtext is important: We have created a Versailles-like royalty in government, who enjoys too many perks and protocols, and confuses their exalted public profiles with some sort of inherited privilege. It would be wise in this era of Republican budget-cutting to start immediately reducing staff, travel, cars, etc., as a token of their commitment to reminding officials where they came from.