It seems that the biggest criticism political rivals, analysts and mortified Democratic Party leaders can level against a defiant Anthony Weiner for continuing to run for mayor is that his presence is turning the race into a media circus -- but who is to blame for that? Weiner isn't the one making the bad jokes or writing juvenile headlines for the front pages of major and - supposedly -- responsible media outlets. Journalists and bloggers, like giggling, grade-school children, can't seem to contain themselves over the opportunity to make fun of the boy in the mayoral race with a name that sounds like a male body part.
In a recent interview with NBC News, mayoral hopeful Bill Thompson lamented, "Elections for mayor... should be about affordable housing, it should be about jobs. It should be about an education system that works for all of our children..." Yet, who was he talking about? Weiner has been insisting the same thing from the start. Reporters, like the one Thompson is complaining to, are the ones lobbing provoking questions at the candidates, luring Weiner campaign insiders to write tell-alls about their experiences, and generally digging for dirt that could further titillate the public. They are even breathlessly covering the burgeoning pornographic career of Weiner's latest female accuser and apparently giving more credibility to her opinions on Weiner's qualifications for the job than to some of the more respected analysts in the industry.
All the News That Gives Us Fits
The irony of Thompson's complaint, in which he suggests Weiner's to blame for the media circus, is that it can also be applied to political analysts covering the campaign. They seem to accept the concept of the media as a wild and untamed zoo animal that cannot be faulted when it mauls to death a malicious visitor who pokes it with a stick. In the same way, they blame Weiner for provoking the media by keeping himself in the race, and they insist that only he can stop their clownish behavior by accepting defeat and going into seclusion until the race concludes.
Of course, the media's juvenile handling of the Weiner sexting scandal is nothing new. It's what they do when a celebrity or public figure is unlucky enough to stumble into the ditch, where they lie in waiting. Political analysts who accept it as an immutable fact of life, however, fail to recognize that, in giving credence to the media's behavior, they undermine their own efforts to elevate the political process to more noble heights. (It never has been, but that's not the point!) The media circus that follows a scandal goes beyond insulting our intelligence: It frightens away many potentially competent people who might have made great public leaders, and whose secret "sin" might have been completely irrelevant to their ability to excel at the job.
Watching how they hound Weiner, a reasonably intelligent person would think twice about ever running for public office. They realize that, once they do, they become fair game to a rabid media. They risk humiliation and the utter destruction of their careers, should they be found to be a type of person, or to have done anything, that could be remotely controversial.