It seems that his enemies got a hold of some "naughty" close-up photos of a crotch they claim is his and then tried to get people to believe that Weiner was tweeting the pic to unsuspecting co-eds. It looks like the part about Weiner being the one sending the photo around turned out to be false, as did the allegation that he was sort of stalking some woman with the photos. But the media cannot get enough of this story about the congressman's weiner (sorry, I had to) in the same way my fifth-grade daughter and her classmates are obsessed with discovering all the slang terms for that part of the male anatomy.
I'm sure Congressmen Weiner is a smart guy and, at 46, I'm sure he's learned a thing or two about how things work in Washington. But I think he needs a little refresher course to get through this faux-scandal that the right will surely use through the 2012 election in one way or another to paint the Dems with some broad brush of moral inferiority. So here are five things I think Weiner should focus on as he navigates the choppy waters of of the right-wing smear machine:
1. Don't let anyone have access to the "naughty" pictures anyone took of you in college. I know that you're not saying at this point whether the photos released are of you or not. But you might want to chat with my friend Krystal Ball -- she learned the hard way that photos of youthful indiscretions will always be found by your political opponents.
2. No matter how much you try to refocus after those "naughty" pictures surface, the media will milk the story for all it's worth until the next one comes along. Remember the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy story? It took the tragedy of 9/11 to get reporters off his front porch.
3. Americans have collective adult ADD. That's what cable news shows and talk radio know and they use it to boost ratings. No one is going to tune in to hear a pithy analysis of the debt ceiling crisis or phone in to go to bat for consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren as the GOP (and it's banking lobbyist friends) try to send her back to her office at Harvard. Quick hit, easy to understand stories are the way to keep viewers engaged these days, especially if the story is a sensational one.
4. Sex sells. Always has, always will. If your opponents who found this photo have more, you can bet they'll use them. And for many on the political right, it doesn't matter how many of their own sex scandals they have, your detractors will always try to make yours look worse, even if yours pales in comparison to hiking the Appalachian trail, having an affair with a staffer's wife, or tapping some other guy's foot in an airport bathroom stall.
5. It's all about ratings. If you really want this whole story to go away, you just have to have your people find a better story that will draw more ratings and leak that to Chris Matthews or Sean Hannity. It's like tossing a nice, fresh steak into the lion's den -- they'll leave the picked over carcass for the new red meat in a flash.
So Congressman Weiner, if I were you, I'd hire someone pronto (with your own money, not the taxpayers', of course) to get some worse dirt on some other poor schlub to make this go away. Forget the lawyers and the talk show hosts. You need a good detective.
Joanne Bamberger writes the political blog, PunditMom. She is the author of the new book Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, the first book to examine the rise of the political motherhood movement through the lens of social media.
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