Some thoughts on why the caged politician Tweets.
Anthony Weiner wanted to get caught.
To understand why, let's imagine you're a hard-driving, media-savvy, up-and-coming congressman. We pick up your daily routine in a mid-day press interview, as you display the intelligence and personal rectitude that are the hallmarks of your budding career:
"We need to cut down on soft drinks in schools, invest in alternative energy, take a hard look at Medicare, revitalize our national infrastructure, negotiate a cease-fire to whatever civil war is happening in Africa [unspoken thought: then table the Africa issue because it's too complicated and dangerous], and pass a campaign-finance law [unspoken thought: that will be inevitably be rejected by the goons on the Supreme Court]. So, that's where I stand, Bob, and that's where the people in my district stand, and we're workin' real hard down here to try and get this stuff done… Oh, my pleasure…"
Then you race back to the office, get a briefing in the car about some bill, navigate the House office building without being shanghaied by a reporter or another member or, God forbid, a constituent, get to the office, read the bill, get bored of reading the bill, ask an aide what it says, debate whether to support it, maybe go to the floor for a vote, race to a fundraiser, stay late to glad-hand the donors, tape another press piece, catch the late flight to New York, review polling numbers on the plane, get home late, jerk off if you're not too tired, wake up at 7:00 the next morning and do it again.
Oh, and for God's sake: don't appear in public without your red necktie on straight and your flag pin, because if Fox doesn't catch you then C-SPAN will, and if they miss it, you still won't escape TMZ.
Wash, rinse, and repeat. Every day. Forever.
There is a side to human nature that is simply antithetical to this kind of impossibly peevish, uptight routine. There is an id, a base impulse, that makes Anthony Weiner and every other male would-be paragon of public virtue want to run down the hallways of congress screaming with his cock out. It's not the most admirable part of human nature, but it's in there, and when you don't find some way to express it, it breaks out. And that's when you get a stupid, incomprehensible episode like this Twitter-gate nonsense.
That's what Hunter Thompson was talking about when he wrote about jackrabbits in the seminal Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72:
"People who claim to know jackrabbits will tell you they are primarily motivated by Fear, Stupidity, and Craziness. But I have spent enough time in jackrabbit country to know that most of them lead pretty dull lives; they are bored with their daily routines: eat, fuck, sleep, hop around a bush now and then… No wonder some of them drift over the line into cheap thrills once in a while; there has to be a powerful adrenalin rush in crouching by the side of a road, waiting for the next set of headlights to come along, then streaking out of the bushes with split-second timing and making it across to the other side just inches in front of the speeding front tires."
The thrill Weiner gets from Twittering girls is the same thrill that the jackrabbit gets from running across the highway: they're both toying with their fear of death. When you talk to people about a political sex scandal, they all say the same thing: "He had so much — a career, a family, a bright future. Why would he risk all of that?" But the risk is the whole point. The risk is what makes it thrilling — that's the fun of the game. It's a death wish. And you push it further and further towards the edge until getting caught is the only thrill left.
Anthony Weiner sent pictures of his genitals — from his official Twitter account? Why? He could have set up a second account in two minutes at a cost of zero dollars. That way, when he inevitably made the mistake he made — sending a picture as a public message instead of a private one — it wouldn't have been seen by a million people! Why wouldn't he set up a separate, extra-curricular Twitter account? Because, on some level, he wanted to get caught.
Consider a few other famous examples from recent history.
Eliot Spitzer cracked down on prostitution and prosecuted banks as attorney general, and toughened prostitution laws as governor. Then he got busted for having sex with prostitutes by running afoul of federal banking laws. And not just having sex with prostitutes, but having sex with prostitutes, without wearing a condom. That's a death wish.
Likewise, Jerry Springer. In his younger days, Springer, as a Cincinnati City Councilman, was busted for having sex with a prostitute. How did he get caught? He paid with a personal check. Let's imagine Councilman Springer accepting the services in question, putting his pants on, opening his wallet, and realizing — oops! — he's got no cash. How hard could it have been for him to talk his way out of that? He'd never eaten at a cash-only restaurant and then realized that he had no cash? How about: "For God's sake, I'm a City Councilman — it's not like I'm going to disappear. I'll bring you the money tomorrow." (In fairness, the Talmud says that all workers must be paid by sunset on the day when the work was performed, and in general, I agree with that. But maybe there was room for an exception in this case.)
But no, Springer decided that the prudent course of action was to pay with a personal check: full name in block letters at the top, signature at the bottom.
We hear these stories, and it's always the same chorus: "How could he be so stupid?" The answer is: he's not. Jerry Springer has a B.A. from Tulane and a law degree from Northwestern. Eliot Spitzer went to Princeton for undergrad and then Harvard law. Anthony Weiner graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh… all right, well, he's still, by all accounts, a bright guy. The point is, these men aren't stupid. There's something else going on. The jackrabbit keeps racing in front of cars, getting closer and closer to the wheels, until once, just once, the jackrabbit doesn't make it. And once is all it takes.
So, I don't condone what Anthony Weiner (or Eliot Spitzer or Jerry Springer) did, but, as Chris Rock put it: I understand.
Adam Bloom is a writer and lives in New York City. He is online at www.kadambloom.com and on twitter at @ZakAlroy.