As of my writing this, it takes less than two-tenths of a second for Google News to register 15,500 hits for the name "Anthony Weiner." Those are the kind of rare numbers that come along only when the media and political establishment is expressing full-blown Howard Beale Outrage -- the kind of scandal-addled rage that was once reserved for break-ins at Washington office buildings and arms-for-hostages deals.
But, of course, after those controversies created constitutional crises and almost brought down presidencies -- well, then came the real scandals: Bill Clinton staining that blue dress, Larry Craig's wide stance in the Minneapolis Airport, Mark Foley's instant messages, Chris Lee showing off his chest ... and now, of course, Anthony Weiner. These are scandals that come with made-for-24-hour-cable-news visuals and require no investigative reporting whatsoever. These are scandals, in short, that are better sculpted for the 21st century Idiocracy that we call America circa 2011 -- so they are presented as even more important than anything that might actually affect the future of the nation or the planet.
Still, for some odd reason -- I don't know, call me old-fashioned or crazy or both -- an irrelevant congressman's bizarre behavior in a silly 140-character-limited medium strikes me as a tad less offensive and less worthy of media focus than at number of other less-covered stories that broke at the same time as the Weiner Scandal. I think these 10 stories from this week are far more offensive -- and involve what should be considered more egregious infractions -- than Anthony Weiner's half-naked sexts.
10. Obama Considering Appointing Banker to Be Top Bank Regulator: Quoting "a person briefed on the process," Bloomberg News was one of a tiny handful of business publications reporting that President Obama "is considering nominating Raj Date, a former banker with Capital One Financial Corp. and Deutsche Bank AG, as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau." After the biggest economic emergency in contemporary American history, I'd say an administration appointing a banker to head up bank regulation is a bigger outrage than a Queens congressman's crotch photos.
9. Top Senators Become Big-Time Corporate Shills: Former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh signed up to become the mouthpiece of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce while former Republican Sen. Judd Gregg got a gig with Goldman Sachs. I'd say lawmakers selling themselves to the corporations they used to regulate is more offensive than a lawmaker trolling the Internet for sex.
8. Top Republican Calls for Elimination of 250,000 Jobs -- Says They Aren't "Real": ThinkProgress reports that Republican Rep. Paul Broun took to the public airwaves this week to endorse the immediate elimination of 250,000 jobs in the midst of an unemployment crisis. Further, Broun insisted that because the workers affected by such layoffs are government employees like police officers, firefighters and teachers, those layoffs are totally acceptable because those workers "need to go find a real job." I'd say that's more offensive than a photograph of Anthony Weiner's pecks.
7. State Legislature Moves to Overturn Roe v. Wade: A woman's right to have an abortion had been one of the most important and contentious issues in American history -- that is, until Anthony Weiner's underpants came along. That's right, those gray boxer briefs somehow got more attention than the Louisiana Legislature's potential attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade -- the Supreme Court case that protects a woman's right to choose. I'd say a major state's legislature attempting to overturn women's basic rights is more newsworthy, outrageous and offensive than a congressman's undergarments.
6. U.S. Government Accused of Crushing Corporate Whistle-blower: The Department of Justice colluding with a big private corporation to stop a massive antitrust case -- this is offensive to the very idea of "equal protection" under the law, and in a Hollywood movie, this would be a story that the American media took really seriously, especially after another country's government cried foul. But hey, Hollywood isn't the real world -- in the real world, that kind of thing happens, and not a single major American media outlet covers it because they are too busy making sure we have moment-to-moment analysis of a back-bench congressman's Twitter feed.
5. President Declares Himself a Monarch: This week, the U.S. Congress cast a series of votes trying to force President Obama to fulfill his constitutional obligation to get congressional authorization for the Libya War. The votes came after the president ignored the Constitution's War Powers Clause and then subsequently ignored the War Powers Act -- and even after the vote the president has continued the war, effectively declaring himself a king. I'd say Obama's actions are more offensive than Anthony Weiner saying he couldn't positively identify his own private parts.
4. Defense Secretary Suggests We're Not Leaving Afghanistan: A decade-long war used to be called a "quagmire" -- but in the age of sexting congressmen, it's barely a story. Yes, somehow, Defense Secretary Robert Gates' comments that the Afghan War might continue on indefinitely generated far less buzz than Weinergate -- even though I'm guessing most Americans think a never-ending land war in Asia is more important and offensive than a lawmaker's sexual deviance.
3. World Leaders Declare Drug War an Abject Failure: After hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, after tens of thousands of people have been incarcerated or killed, the Global Commission on Drug Policy this week declared the War on Drugs a failure. The commission, reports Alternet, "includes three former heads of state -- from Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, former U.N. secretary-general Kofi-Annan, former Reagan cabinet official George P. Schultz [and] former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker" -- so this should be big news, and a moment to feel offended that so much blood and treasure has been invested in such a counterproductive endeavor. But if media coverage is any indication, the atrocities and waste in the War on Drugs is less offensive and less of a story than the Weiner Scandal.
2. Senate Obstruction Becomes Worst in U.S. History: A new report by the Alliance for Justice proves that Republican obstructionism against President Obama's judiciary nominees became the worst level of obstructionism in our nation's history. Indeed, the Senate confirmed a smaller percentage of the president's judicial nominees than any other president's. I'd say that's more offensive than any sexual escapades of a New York congressman.
1. World Hits Record High Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Global apocalypse, shmogal shmapocalypse! What's a huge step toward the end of the world compared to a story involving a congressman's penis -- especially when that congressman's surname is a phallic reference? Sure, while a few news outlets made passing reference to the International Energy Agency's report that climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions have reached record highs, the story was basically a blotter item compared to Weiner's wiener.