An Anthony Weiner by any other name would still be a member of Congress. That, at any rate, is the contention of a world authority on the phenomenon of scapegoating.
“Classic case of scapegoating,” said Stanley Goat of the famous Goat Brothers, the ruminant mammals out of Tabiona who offer their services as surrogate scapegoats for humans who ordinarily would be hounded into exile, banished to the desert or even stoned to death by a salivating mob.
“There might have been some scapegoating of a minor sort if Mr. Weiner were named Jones or Smith. Even ‘Johnson’ would have been a problem, if you get my drift, since like ‘Weiner’ it is used in some linguistic sub-groups to designate the notorious trouser worm. You’d think he or his family would have changed his name to Winer or Viner or Winner. But stuck with a name like Weiner, Mr. Weiner never had a chance. He became the perfect scapegoat for those legions in the Tweetosphere who feel way guilty about their nasty sexting. And they are plenty embarrassed that someone called attention to the practice. It’s like, oh-oh, now because of Weiner, God is going to punish all of us. Quick, let’s punish Weiner before God punishes all of us.
“And not just the Tweeters! Sex is the No. 1 guilt producer among you human types. And you call yourselves Homo sapiens! Wise humans, my ass! You don’t see us goats sacrificing one of our own to expiate so-called sins of the flesh, sins only according to infantile religious superstitions. And another thing—”
Stanley was off on one of his wild goat chases, so I interrupted before he got too carried away.
“So, Mr. Goat—may I call you Stanley? So, Stanley, I gather you don’t think the unfortunate Mr. Weiner should have resigned? Weren’t the photos, to quote Sarah Palin, ‘kinda yucky’?”
“Well, sure, but I couldn’t believe how everyone, except maybe Barbara Walters, God bless her, kept piling on. Mob psychology of the worst sort and, by the way, at the very heart of scapegoating. Easiest thing in the world. Punish other folks for your own sins. The whole thing is nuts! And the most outrageous thing is that Mr. Weiner had to apologize to Bill Clinton, of all people! Weiner got even less sex, if you can even call it sex, than Mr. I-Didn’t-Have-Sex-With-That-Woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”
“OK. But what about the lying? Mr. Weiner lied.”
“And that gets you kicked out of Congress? Give me a freakin’ break, as we say up here in Tabiona. And good old Bubba Clinton looked into the camera and wagged his finger at the nation and lied in our collective face!”
“But he paid the price. He got impeached.”
“Big deal. He stayed in office and continued to screw things up—his banking deregulation did more than Bush’s tax cuts for the rich to crash the economy—and is now more popular than ever. It was politics, not scapegoating. But I’ll tell you one thing. If his name was Bill Weiner, or even Dick Clinton, he might have been run out of office.”
“So it’s just Mr. Weiner’s name that made him a scapegoat?”
“No one’s brought this up, but no one wants to admit how much anti-Semitism is still out there. Look at Weiner. He’s a brash, ambitious wise-ass, aggressive, pushy, etc.—all the usual stereotypes. If he were some Waspy-looking guy like what’s-his-name in Nevada—Ensign, with silver hair and a straight nose—well, I think it would be a different story.”
“Where do we go from here?”
“Hard to say. But it’s not good for representative democracy—Weiner’s constituents wanted him to stay in office, and after all, they should have the final say, just as the voters did with that family-values guy named Vitter. He was re-elected to the Senate from Louisiana even though he was paying ladies to let him put his weiner into their private parts, which is actually against the law, unlike tweeting Mr. Winkie to Twitter pals.”
“Can we expect any more Weiners to rise into prominence and then suffer a humiliating fall?”
“Well, there’s Speaker of the House Boehner, who had an even funnier name until he changed the pronunciation to Bayner instead of Boner. Scuttlebutt is that the well-tanned, smoking golfer has been getting it up and in with a leggy lobbyist or two. If that’s the case, he’ll go from bone-head to boner, and so long, Speaker!”