There once was an America that cared about great things, important things that affected people's lives. We once believed that selling arms to a hostile nation so as to funnel money to Central American death squads was at least as important as whether or not a president lied about an affair.
Once upon a time, there had to be some actual wrongdoing before we declared something to be a scandal. Some moral or ethical lapse, some illegal behavior. Maybe even a victim, if it wasn't asking too much. That was before our taste for scandal grew so insatiable that we started seeing scandals that weren't even there.
Is it scandalous that Anthony "Carlos Danger" Weiner seems incapable of replying to a text message without sticking the phone in his pants at some point? Yes, by any definition. There are victims of his behavior. Not every woman he has sent pictures to consented to receive them, making him the high-tech version of the creepy guy wearing a trench coat in the park on a warm, sunny day.
The woman in the most recent scandal has said that she always thought of Weiner as one of her heroes. Did this inspire him to redeem himself and become the man, the leader that she deserved? No, he asked if she wanted a picture of his penis. On a side note, I've never been so glad not to be on someone's Christmas card list. I can't imagine what the holiday tidings would look like.
Mayor Bob Filner of San Diego is a fast worker. Despite only having become mayor in January, he has managed to sexually harass three women to the point that they are suing him, and four more have come forward to say that he harassed them during his tenure in Congress. They tell stories of unwanted advances, involuntary kisses, groped bottoms and breasts. But it's all okay, because he plans on getting two weeks of therapy — two whole weeks — that he believes will make him a changed man worthy of the office he refuses to resign from.
Filner lives in a fantasy world where women see groping and sexual advances as just a routine day in the office. It's all in good fun. They come back to work every day not because they need to earn a living but because he's just such a charming guy. That is a scandal.
No less than Gail Collins of The New York Times dropped the recent events in the life of our own Representative Steve Cohen into her July 20th column about sex scandals, even while admitting it wasn't much of a scandal.
Here's the summary of events, in Reader's Digest form: Cohen's former girlfriend tells her daughter that Cohen is her biological father. The former girlfriend then tells Cohen the same thing. Cohen bonds with the young woman in question and is "caught" sending her messages from the State of the Union address via Twitter. The man who always believed he was her father does not know about Cohen, so Cohen has to wait a few days to tell the whole story, during which time he is portrayed in the media as a dirty old man, usually while a slideshow of the young woman in a bikini played in the background.
Cohen announces what he believes to be true at the time, that he is her father. The media runs the story. (And reruns the bikini pictures.) A recent DNA test says that he is not the young woman's father after all. The media runs the story (along with the bikini pictures) again.
If you're looking for a victim in this and not finding one, you are not alone. A private family drama was unfortunately played out in the public eye. It is not scandalous. It is sad. There is neither victim nor villain nor vice in this story. Collins even points this out in the Times, writing, "Now, Representative Cohen's constituents in Memphis no doubt had a lot to discuss over the dinner table. Otherwise, their lives went on exactly the same as they did before."
There is no impropriety, no illegal behavior, and no victim. Which begs the question: Did Collins just add it to pad her word count? Would that this nation had so few real problems and real scandals that a gossip item like the Cohen saga could be worthy of the attention it has already received.
Have we Kardashianed our politics enough for this year?
Rick Maynard is a political consultant and communications specialist.