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Real 'villain' may surprise you
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Everybody loves a good sex scandal, and these days nobody's disappointed. Politicians in particular appear constitutionally incapable of keeping their intimate arrangements from public scrutiny. In the case of New York mayoral candidate Anthony D. Weiner, it appears, the more public, the better.
Breathes there a man or woman with a soul so calloused they've never thought, "I'm glad it's not me"? Pretending to be horrified at other people's sins is a sadistic activity. After all, doing foolhardy things while naked isn't exactly rare behavior among human beings.
That's pretty much why most people ended up giving Bill Clinton a pass. Among the myriad mistakes made by the clueless Kenneth Starr and his crack team of prosecutorial bedsheet sniffers, televising his grand jury testimony may have been the most telling. Making the president the protagonist of a one-man inquisition -- with faceless prosecutors barking out insultingly intimate questions -- caused all but the most hardcore Clinton-haters to empathize with the big dope.
There's a good deal less sympathy for former Rep. Weiner, although he probably deserves more than he's gotten. Weiner's transgressions invite sheer disbelief.
Meanwhile, believe it or not, the Dear Abby and Ann Landers of Washington political journalism have identified the real villain: Hillary Clinton.
Because Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, has long been the former Secretary of State's closest aide, the incomparable New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has written that "defining deviancy downward, Señor and Señora Danger are using the Clinton playbook."
This is because the Clintons supposedly "argued that if Hillary didn't object (to Bill's indiscretions), why should voters?" That this absurd claim never existed anywhere but Dowd's imagination shouldn't distract anybody from the real malefactors: "Weiner's ... grotesquerie earns him another name: the 'Rosemary's Baby' of the Clintons."
Hillary, see, made him do it.
Washington's most-celebrated trophy wife draws a similar conclusion. Why is Huma Abedin standing at her husband's side, asks the Washington Post's Sally Quinn? Why, because "as Clinton's assistant, she has seen the limos, the planes, the salutes and the flags, and that is the life she aspires to ... She saw the Clintons get away with infidelity, and she fooled herself into thinking she and Weiner could also ride this one out."
Now if I were a person like Quinn, whose famous husband, legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, devoted a chapter in his autobiography, "A Good Life," to describing exactly how she seduced him away from his wife and children, I might be more circumspect in my judgments of others.
But nobody gets anywhere in Washington being shy.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at eugenelyons2@yahoo.com.