No story exemplifies the dominance of new media in our cultural conversation more than the saga of Rep. Anthony Weiner.
He sent pictures over Twitpic. He texted over his BlackBerry. He was outed by a blog.
Rep. Weiner told journalists Monday that he used "Twitter, Facebook and occasionally the phone" in talking with women "I have met online."
Notice he only used the phone "occasionally." Twitter, Facebook ... he used those more than occasionally.
Back in the olden days of Bill Clinton and John Edwards, you had to meet a woman in person to get in trouble. If you did err, it was considered outside the mainstream to be busted by The National Enquirer. That is so ... two years ago.
Now you can get in trouble virtually, and your sins can be revealed by anyone with a cellphone. The mainstream media is almost always a step behind.
The fallout may be different now as well. Is Rep. Weiner ruined?
"If he'd had an affair, he'd probably survive it," one person told me, "but this is just stupid." Stupid, yes, but Weiner is not resigning. For one thing, he says there was no affair. "I have never met any of these women or had physical relationships at any time."
We'll have to take his word for now, but given the means of communication he used, his statement is more plausible than Pres. Clinton saying, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Jimmy Carter admitted to Playboy that he had committed adultery in his heart. This is a couple steps beyond that, but Anthony Weiner — while a self-admitted idiot — was smart enough not to lie under oath to anyone.
Still, for all that's changed, two things have not. First, for some politicians, desire will trump judgment no matter how dearly others have paid for it — impeachment (Clinton), resignation (Eliot Spitzer, John Ensign, I could go on and on), criminal charges (John Edwards).
Second, the cover up is always worst than the crime (though Rep. Weiner should have covered up in a different way, if you get my meaning). Richard Nixon learned this, yet in this age of camera phones, texts, and instant everything, covering up may be impossible.
Will he stop using Twitter? "I don't believe I'll use it the same way, that's for sure."
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