The only people who matter in Weinergate -- New York voters -- have spoken. Their verdict?
An informal poll on Weinergate published Saturday in The Daily Beast asked 100 New Yorkers -- including some in Rep. Weiner's district -- what they thought of it. The poll found most of the people asked said they didn't care about it one way or another, haven't changed their opinion of Weiner, would vote for him again, don't think he sent the picture, and that it isn't of him.
The bottom line? Anthony Weiner (D-NY) may have botched the media strategy and embarrassed himself hugely; but he's still in Congress, he isn't going anyplace and, assuming he's the same guy he was before this attempt was made on his political life, he'll live to fight another day.
And when the time comes, I'm guessing the people who attacked him, and the people behind it, can expect something in return. After all; Anthony Weiner is from Brooklyn.
At this point, the details of this manufactured scandal, or Rep. Weiner's missteps handling it, don't really need much repeating. We all know somebody hacked into his Twitter account and sent a link to a picture of some guy's underpants to a Seattle student; that Andrew Breitbart put it on his web site, took it right down, and proceeded to flog the story; and that the media treated this sliming like the assassination of Lincoln -- probably because it was timed for a Memorial Day weekend, when there was nothing else to report. People paying attention -- and who could look away -- know that the more Weiner talked about it, the worse it got for him.
What's gone largely unremarked is that the tactics used against Rep. Weiner are the ones at the top of the Right Wing toolkit. At a minimum, the Right Wing displays a fondness for tactics, and a willingness to stoop, that I think have no place in the public sphere.
Politics may not be beanbag, and America's witnessed nasty politics since the election of 1800; but to the extent there a direct line between the infamous Willie Horton ad for Bush the Elder in 1988 and the attack on Rep. Weiner, that line has been going downhill at 45 degrees.
How much lower it can go is beyond me, but I have confidence in the Right Wing; they'll find a way. After all, they believe the ends justify the means, even though in politics, there are no ends -- only means. And if a politician uses means like the ones thrown at Rep. Weiner, people willing to vote for him or her need to ask; if this is what they're made of, what'll they do to the country?
The Right Wing seems addicted to conducting business at gunpoint, with the safety off and the barrel in their target's ear -- most recently, in the country's ear. Sure, all politics and much of business is conducted at gunpoint. Extortion and blackmail are all part of it. And every negotiation has an "or" in it.
But usually, people know the guns are there; they don't need to be waved about. And people who don't care how they get somebody, and don't care how much collateral damage they cause doing it, are like terrorists willing to blow up a loaded airliner to kill one man.
But since the Right Wing we've come to know is full of fronts for the John Birch Society -- the two main figures behind it are Richard Mellon Scaife and the Koch brothers, all sons of JBS founders -- maybe we shouldn't be surprised.
After all, in the 1970s the JBS, through its future chairman, Dr. Larry McDonald, promoted and profited from the laetrile fraud. Treating patients with laetrile was murder and you can't tell me McDonald, an internist, didn't know it.
Laetrile, for those of you who don't know, was pushed as a miracle cure for cancer. But it was made from apricot pits and full of cyanide. Cyanide attacks the central nervous system. So people "treated" with laetrile felt better because they didn't feel the cancer. Then they died. And then the people behind it all said they could have saved their victims, if only they'd come to them earlier.
William F. Buckley, Jr. and his allies marginalized the JBS in the 1960s. But unlike its victims, it didn't die. Fifty years later, the sons of people willing to finance their politics with murder are a huge influence on the Republican Party.
So are we amazed to find their operatives are perfectly willing to make penis jokes if they think it'll help them smear their enemies? Out an undercover CIA agent to punish her husband? Or risk provoking a global depression by defaulting on the national debt to get their way?
The question is more like what have they been doing we don't know about yet.
Update: Well, I was wrong to say Rep. Weiner was innocent and that the Right Wing was using baseless allegations to destroy him.
In today's political world, these tactics have unfortunately become much the norm, and since I find them distasteful and think they have no place in the public sphere, I was willing to defend a man I admired against something few people would call an admirable journalistic exercise -- factual or not.
I wrote based on the facts as I knew them at the time, and based both on the fact that no one would call Mr. Breitbart a half-hearted advocate of his political opinions, and that Rep. Weiner's habit of taking on Republicans head on gave me and so many others some satisfaction.
However, I still find this entire way of conducting the People's business to be a disservice to the nation, and I hope I always will. As for everything else I said, including that based on past and current performance, I find such behavior on the Right to be unsurprising; Well, I stand by it, and I hope I always will stand by it.
Visit me at my web site, Reinbach's Observer