Sunday, June 05, 2011


I've been avoiding the controversy currently surrounding Anthony Weiner, a Democrat in the US House of Representatives who serves New York's 9th congressional district. The basic facts of the case are summarized here; Jon Stewart's hilarious "defenses" of Weiner, a personal friend, are now all over the Net (visit Comedy Central to see some of the vids).

But because I'm rereading Tom Wolfe's 1998 novel A Man in Full, I can't help viewing the Weinergate scandal through a Wolfian lens. A Man in Full is primarily the story of Charles Earl Croker, a hotshot, good ol' boy real estate developer who goes beyond his means when he builds Croker Concourse, a phallic monument to himself located on the outskirts of Atlanta. The building's location makes it unappealing to many investors and businesspeople; its sheer size makes it difficult to fill. Croker Concourse is hemorrhaging money, and Croker himself is facing financial ruin as his debt soars to the billion-dollar mark.

The novel isn't Wolfe's best work. His The Bonfire of the Vanities, a New York-based story published in 1987, was far superior. A Man in Full feels, ultimately, like a repeat of the same story, but with an older protagonist and a Southern setting. What makes both novels interesting, however, is that they both explore and lampoon male hubris. Charlie Croker, much like Sherman McCoy in the previous novel, isn't happy with his first wife, Martha, after she becomes too old and "handsome" for him, so he tosses her aside and marries twenty-something Serena. Like Croker Concourse, Serena is on display as a sign of Charlie's virility-- a reminder to the world that, although Charlie's sixty, he's still a Big Swingin' Dick.

While the facts of the Weinergate scandal don't clearly point to Congressman Weiner's guilt, one gets the impression that the man is well on his way to a hubris-fueled implosion of his own. Although he's clearly denied sending the underwear photo to a young lady who is one of his Twitter feed followers, he hasn't been clear as to whether the penis featured in the picture is his own. As Jon Stewart rightly points out in his various spiels on the topic, this is a bad move: it serves only to make the congressman appear guilty, whether he is or not.

I happen to agree with the conservatives who say Weiner should have called for a formal investigation: if his Twitter account truly was hacked, as he's claimed, then this would have any number of security implications. In the days following the outbreak of this scandal, Weiner apparently did hire some sort of security firm to "investigate" what might have happened, but this firm wasn't a neutral third party, and the investigation hasn't been as objective or rigorous as an actual, formal investigation would have been. My intuition is that Congressman Weiner is doing what he can to save face-- denying everything until the lies out themselves and he's left with no choice but to crash and burn. It's not going to be pretty, even if he manages to survive the scandal. Pride goeth before the fall.

Much of the world's trouble can be traced back to men with power and authority. These things are easy to misuse; a person with means may feel he can escape the sorts of consequences that normally befall the rest of us when we try to be naughty. Tom Wolfe's novels and the current scandal (in the end, it doesn't make a bit of difference whether the man is a Democrat or a Republican) show that male hubris is alive and well, even in these latter days.



  1. If what he did doesn't bother you then going to Walmart shouldn't either. Hell, it's good enough for Tom Hanks and Jamie Foxx.

  2. Loved the video, and the wildlife it featured (especially "Fart Now Loading"), but can't say the same about Congressman Weiner and the picture with which he will now always be associated.



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