Some very smart people do some very stupid things.
Exhibit A this week is Anthony Weiner, the talented and pugnacious New York Congressman whose triple-X twitter messages (and pictures) to on-line "fans" have now been plastered all over the tabloids. An emotional apology has not kept the vultures from hovering over the carcass, even as Weiner himself claims not to be dead yet.
NY pols are already angling for his job, and in as much as the state itself is slated to lose two Congressional seats to redistricting in 2012, his is now the downstate seat most likely to be eliminated by the politicians who get to draw the lines. The same thing happened to New York's scandal-plagued Rep. Stephen Solarz in the early 1990s. Before the voters get a chance to kick you out, your erstwhile friends do.
Weiner's idiocy, of course, didn't kill anyone. He hasn't started a war, destroyed a career (other, perhaps, than his own), or polluted the planet (non-metaphorically, that is). The tweets were supposedly consensual (though I am not sure all his "friends" knew what was coming before it got there). And they were meant to be private (a big stretch in the Internet Age but one in which my kids' generation swears it still believes; their facebook accounts are all private, at least insofar as access by the parents is concerned).
So why do we care?
Everyone I ask tells me "it's not about the sex."
This reminded me of those famous lines from Sen. Dale Bumpers' impassioned defense of President Clinton during the latter's impeachment trial -- "When you hear somebody say, 'This is not about the money -- it's about money'. And when you hear somebody say, This is not about sex -- it's about sex." So maybe, probably, that's exactly what it's about.
But maybe not.
Sen. Bumpers was quoting H.L. Mencken when he made those comments. And the famous Mencken also famously said that "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." Mencken, of course, was talking about us. He was noticing our repeated penchant for stupidity. When the "thems" of the world mess up, we like to think they are not "us." But in a democracy, we lose that cover. Because the "thems" we elect are "us."
Sometimes stupid is endearing, even not so stupid.
The whole point of Forrest Gump was that the bright guys didn't get it. Not the bright guys in the White House who started an unnecessary war. Or the smart Lieutenant Dan, tied to a war hero's needless destiny of death passed down through a familial psychosis that the "dumb" guy first saved him from but was only later thanked for. Or the liberal counter-cultural Jenny, who finally accepted the love that had been there from the beginning.
The mindless runner turned out to be not so mindless after all. While everyone else was trying to figure him out, he was noticing a sunrise. And couldn't tell "where earth stopped and heaven began." That sort of poetry is hardly stupid.
Unfortunately, Anthony Weiner is no Forrest Gump.
He's just one of us.