The news media has gone from obsessively asking when Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) would resign his House seat to obsessively extracting "lessons" from the weeks-long sex scandal that involved no sex. In fact, says Kathy Riordan in Salon, "if you were inclined to Google 'lessons' and 'Weinergate' this week you'd find enough to complete your summer reading." To make it easier, here are just five key takeaways from Weinergate:
1. The media has hit a new low
Weinergate "demanded so much media oxygen," says Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post, that "virtually every other political story shrunk in comparison." I'd go further, says Brian Beutler in Talking Points Memo: The "media's jaw-dropping obsession" with this minor scandal smothered all real news. In some ways, that's Weiner's fault, says Ezra Klein in The Washington Post. He's paying the price for "how media-friendly his indiscretions were...[and] how little goodwill he had among his fellow Democrats." He was always better than his colleagues at "making himself, his work, and his comments interesting for the media to cover."
2. Sex scandals are still diverting
The extent of the coverage is not that mysterious. Though partisans on both sides get "pious and prissy" when one of their own gets caught with his pants down, says Gene Healy in Reason, "a good old-fashioned political sex scandal" is still a guilty pleasure. Weinergate, with its "thousand puns," was especially delicious, but the GOP camp has been providing some great diversion. too. Sex scandals provide a useful reminder that the "clowns" in Washington are often "more venal" and "dumber than those they seek to rule."
3. Beware the tweets
Weiner is "Twitter's first major political casualty," says Greg Sargent in The Washington Post. As such, the next politicians busted "over a wayward Tweet" may learn from his mistakes. Weinergate shows there are only four rules guiding the internet, says Alexandra Petri, also in The Post: "There is no context. There is no privacy. There is no forgetfulness. And there is no mercy." And it's also possible, says Nicole Ciandella in Open Market, that Weinergate will prove a "cautionary tale for future generations of camera-happy teens," who currently see no downside to sexting.
4. The bar for "sex scandals" just got very low
"I've been following congressional scandals for 15 years," says Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo. "And my God, in the grand scheme of things, this is pretty silly." Worse, it sets a "dangerous" precedent, says Eric Alterman in The Daily Beast. Weiner broke no law, hurt only his family, and his constituents didn't want him to quit. Nobody in Washington should be cheering this dumbing-down of scandal: Hounding Weiner from office "can only result in an orgy of such stories, each one more personally invasive and less relevant to the actual practice of politics than the first one."
5. Lying has real consequences
The biggest "teachable moment" from the Weiner scandal is tailor-made for our kids, says Penny Young Nance in Fox News: "Liars get caught," and our actions — online, particularly — have consequences. Since Weiner took "an unprecedented nearly three weeks" to accept the consequences of his choices, the scandal is a lesson in how not to behave. "People of character own up to their mistakes" right away.