Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York is a very busy man. He sits on several important committees. He’s newly married to a high-powered wife. He’s planning a run for mayor of New York City, which they call “the city that never sleeps” for a reason. In fact, he’s so busy that from 2007 to 2010, he reportedly racked up more than $2,000 in unpaid parking tickets in Washington, D.C., partly due to his penchant for parking his car — WeinerMobile, if you prefer — with expired tags at a taxi stand.
So when the busy Mr. Weiner was asked on Wednesday if he was the guy pictured in the photo of a man in tight gray briefs in a state of readiness the folks at NORAD might describe as “Defcon 1,” the congressman responded that he just couldn’t say for sure. “I don’t know what photographs are out there in the world of me,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
And, really, who can blame him? I mean, how can we expect him to be able to keep track of all his groin shots, either in his personal archives or out there “in the world”?
Can Justin Bieber account for all of his headshots and cellphone pics? Of course not. So why should we expect Weiner to know for sure whether that’s one of his pics? So what if the person in the photo also took the picture? Again, he’s a busy guy. Do you remember every time you dropped your pants and took a picture of where your codpiece goes? Weiner’s not saying it’s definitely not him. He’s just saying he can’t be sure.
And I, for one, take him at his word.
It’s the rest of his words I’m having trouble with.
Weiner insists he’s the victim of a prank. He didn’t send, via his Twitter account, a young woman the most controversial member-of-Congress photo ever.
Of course, he could be lying, but if he’s willing to lie about that, why is Weiner frank about the fact that it may be him in the bulging-landscape portrait?
If he didn’t send the picture, he must know who did. At least I hope that’s the case. How else is this prankster supposed to have gotten a picture that even Weiner admits might be of him?
Think about it. It would be one thing if the hacker inserted some crazy, random picture that was pulled off the Internet (say, Snooki of Jersey Shore eating a foot-long hot dog). But that’s not what happened. Weiner surely suspects the picture is of him, otherwise he would disavow it outright.
That suggests someone with an axe to grind got into his computer or cellphone, found one of the congressman’s pictures, and turned it into an embarrassing pubic-service announcement. That’s not a minor prank; that’s a serious invasion of privacy and — let’s not forget — a crime.
Indeed, according to Weiner’s original version of events, that’s what happened. The famously savvy darling of the mainstream media initially claimed he was hacked by someone who wanted to distract him from his important work.
Translation: He did nothing wrong, it was all the work of a right-wing villain. The lefty Internet fever swamps followed Weiner’s lead, concocting (or at least insinuating) elaborate conspiracy theories involving conservative publisher-activist Andrew Breitbart, the Koch brothers, Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, and the entire parade of horribles plaguing their imagination.
If he could have gotten away with it, Weiner would have been perfectly happy to stick with the spin that he was taking the high road, unlike his sophomoric, sex-obsessed tormenters. But within 24 hours of insisting that he wouldn’t let the digital equivalent of a “pie thrower” distract him from his heroic calling, he was inviting network after network to chat about his smaller namesake and whether he could identify it.
In each interview, he continued to claim that he’s the victim of a crime, but that he wants no investigation, save the one he or his taxpayer-funded office is paying for. O. J. Simpson–like, he will stop at nothing to find the real hackers.
By Thursday, Weiner unilaterally declared the story over. “After almost eleven hours of answering questions, any that anyone wanted to put, today I’m going to have to get back to work doing the job that I’m paid to do.” Again, that job includes overseeing an investigation better left to other, unbiased parties.
Only time will tell whether the press will let this very busy man get away with a cover-up that would have been prevented if Weiner didn’t have a problem covering up.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at JonahsColumn@aol.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO.