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A British Sex Scandal Hops Across the Pond

Fleet Street is once again in an uproar over yet another one of those fancy-schmantzy British sex scandals they get over there, this one involving a billionaire investor and convicted sex criminal who hosted orgies full of nubile teenaged girls on his yacht and at his Caribbean mansion, and allegations that Prince Andrew was among the participants, but the American press has thus been far more restrained about the possible political ramifications back here.
Fleet Street has also gone over the flight logs and other libel-proof evidence and gleefully reported that former President Bill Clinton, who is the husband of president-in-waiting Hillary Clinton, was also a frequent flyer on the billionaire investor and convicted sex criminal’s private jet and a frequent guest at that scandalous Caribbean mansion. The young woman making the allegations against Prince Andrew has not alleged that Clinton was involved in any sexual escapades while the guest of his billionaire investor and convicted sex criminal friend, but it’s enough to put fresh material on “Bill Clinton” and “sex scandal” on your search engine results, and to remind the public of all the previous sordid tales that will also pop up, and to prompt a few think pieces about a lingering problem for Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions.
During a post-holiday and pre-congressional session news lull this should be enough generate some speculation. There are private jets and Caribbean mansions and underage girls involved, all of them rather attractive judging by the photos that Fleet Street has unearthed, and one can only imagine the media feeding frenzy that would ensue if a Republican’s various phone numbers and e-mail addresses had been found among documents seized from a billionaire investor and convicted criminal uncovered during a lawsuit with his former attorneys which has lately become the talk of the British press. The Clintons can count on more circumspect coverage, as they always have, but whatever does seep through will have no upside for the anticipated Hillary Clinton campaign. The part about billionaire investors and private jets and Caribbean mansions and private access to the former president won’t play well with a Democratic party that likes to think itself at war with the One Percent, and the part about underage girls won’t work well with the “Republican war on women” theme that the presumptive first woman presidential nominee no doubt hopes to revive, and almost everyone is unsettled when the word “pedophile” starts showing up in the search engine results along with a candidate’s last name. Fleet Street prefers the more elegantly Romanesque original English spelling of “paedophile,” and the girls involved are all post-pubescent so the more accrued accurate term would be “ephebophile,” but in any terms it is not good politics.
One would prefer to believe that neither a British prince nor a past American president is guilty of any scandalous doings with underaged girls, but neither have reputations that preclude any thought of the possibility, at least on Fleet Street. The woman making the allegations against Prince Andrew, who it should be noted will soon be cashing in with a tell-all book, says she only met Clinton twice and reports nothing more than that, but is quoted as saying the circumstances of the meeting were such that she was surprised someone in his position wouldn’t be more careful.

Voters considering a Hillary Clinton candidacy, even Democrats, might consider the possibility that further such surprises will be a feature of her presidency. When the ancient Romans weren’t wasting time putting an “a” and an “e” together for no particular reason they were fond of saying Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion, and that’s still practical advice regarding a president’s husband.

— Bud Norman

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You May Already Be a Weiner

There are more important things going on in the world, especially if you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere other than New York City, but there’s simply no resisting the temptation to write about a sex scandal involving someone named Anthony Weiner. All the good double entendres have been used by this point, but Weiner is such an absurd fellow that that we feel obliged to add a few more snickers to the ridicule that is once again being heaped on him.
As even the most determinedly apolitical people already know, Weiner is the former New York congressman who was forced to resign from office after it was revealed that he had been sending lewd photographs of underwear-clad nether regions to various young women. Modern American society being what it is Weiner was widely forgiven and quickly forgotten after offering a profuse public apology and a promise to refrain from such behavior in the future, and modern New York City society being what it is Weiner decided to run for mayor. So forgiving and forgetful is the city that Weiner was actually leading in all the polls on Tuesday, but the Big Apple’s patience might finally be running after revelations of even more lewd photos and salacious messages sent long after Weiner’s public apologies and promises.
Weiner was joined at a hastily arranged press conference by his semi-famous-in-her-own-right wife, a former aide to Hillary Clinton whose patience for male misbehavior is apparently as boundless as her past employer’s, but his renewed apologies and promises ran into predictable difficulties. The brilliant Mark Steyn dropped in on the conference, and quotes Weiner saying “This was something in front of us that we knew might come up” and “I’m not going to get into a back and forth,” both of which surely had the assembled press corps chuckling even more than they do at the mention of Weiner’s name. A New York politician can apparently be seen as a pervert without suffering any political harm, but even in the big city it is hard to overcome being seen as ridiculous.
There aren’t many old-fashioned prudes left in New York City, but there are plenty of newfangled ones who object to Weiner’s behavior on feminist and other fashionable grounds. The New York Times quotes the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, which seems to still exist there, as declaring that Weiner is “clearly and compellingly unfit for office.” Even by the degraded standards of our national politics taking pictures of one’s private parts and sharing them with strangers is odd behavior, and even the most dedicated Democrats who are inclined to overlook it will be reluctant to give up the right to look down on the next Republican caught up in some more understandable sex scandal. Moral and political considerations aside, there’s also something unsettlingly narcissistic about Weiner’s hobby that suggests he’d be a troublesome mayor.
The current mayor has established a precedent that the office carries the power to dictate all sorts of the citizenry’s behavior, from how much salt a diner can put on his French fries to the size of his soda pop, so surely the citizenry can expect better behavior of a mayor. There are many reasons that Weiner shouldn’t hold a position of public responsibility, most having to do with his bossy brand of liberalism, but his strange hobby should be enough to convince even a New Yorker.

— Bud Norman

The Sex Scandal Sideshow

Although it’s a most embarrassing confession to make, we must admit that we were initially just a bit pleased to learn that Gen. David Petraeus had resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency because of an extramarital affair. Not because we wished to see the previously impeccable reputation of someone who has done great service for his country destroyed, and certainly not because we relished the grief that the revelation has no doubt caused his wife of many years and the rest of their family, but only because we hoped that the addition of a titillating subplot would bring much-needed public attention to an outrageous White House scandal that the national media had been determined to ignore in the last weeks of the presidential election.
Now, however, the titillating subplot threatens to overshadow the bigger, more important story.
The press has been investigating the Petraeus affair with the same gleeful fervor it always brings to the task of piling on fallen heroes, or at least those fallen heroes suspected of certain political party affiliations, and they’ve already uncovered a slew of salacious details. There’s not just a revered married military man having illicit sex with a comely young woman, and under a desk in a war zone, no less, but also the soap operatic spectacle of an accomplished professional woman hacking into her lover’s supposedly highly secured e-mail account to send threatening letters to yet another woman, this woman even younger and comelier, and to add a twist of the sort usually only found in movies by the Coen brothers, there’s an FBI agent investigating it all who develops his own crazed crush on the other other woman and sends her a series of salacious e-communications that include shirtless pictures of himself. We have no idea what story lines are being played out on the reality shows these days, but for pure salacious tawdriness they surely can’t match the Petraeus saga.
There’s more than just a prurient interest here, of course, even if that does seem to be driving the news coverage. All of the reporters can reassure themselves that they’re exposing an appalling lapse of judgment by a man at the very top of the intelligence community, raising legitimate questions about the competence of the investigative agencies that are supposed to be safeguarding against shenanigans, and although it will go largely unmarked the journalistic and publishing establishments that once lauded a woman with such unethical research techniques and poor mental health as Petraeus’ lover has also been called into question. The public has a right to know about all of it, and a certain degree of public scrutiny and opprobrium is appropriate.
Let us hope, though, that these enticing details don’t obscure the more sobering fact of four Americans dying in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. They were sent by their government into a land that had been bombed by American air power into a state of near-anarchy, denied sufficient security after repeated pleas, denied help even as government officials watched their futile struggle for survival on live video, and then the reason for their deaths was lied about for days by numerous government, with the lie making a scapegoat of an obscure filmmaker who had exercised his constitutional right to make a low-budget video. New reports raise fresh suspicions about possible “enhanced interrogations” that the government was conducting in Libya in violation of an executive order that the president has long preened, and there’s still more investigating to be done.
Much of the country would be quite relieved if the buck were to stop with Petraeus. When the general was bringing enough to stability to Iraq to allow for a peaceful and honorable withdrawal of American troops he was pilloried by the left, with the MoveOn.org group calling him “General Betray-Us,” the New York Times giving them a discounted ad rate to do it, and the woman who is now the Secretary-of-State-in-hiding saying that his claims of success required a “suspension of disbelief.” The heroic stature that Petraeus gained when his claims were proved true only further enflamed the left’s resentment, and although the criticism somehow disappeared once he was brought onto the Obama administration it was inevitable they would turn on him again once his usefulness had ended.
The ultimate responsibility for the fiasco, however, lies with the man who appointed Petraeus. Whatever his faults, and there are apparently more of them than had previously been supposed, Petraeus was not the man who failed to provide the necessary security, he was not the man who repeatedly lied about the incident, and he was not the one man who punished an American citizen for criticizing Islam. The man responsible for these outrages was recently re-elected as the President of the United States, and although his role in this mess isn’t very sexy it deserves the greatest degree of scrutiny nonetheless.

— Bud Norman