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Hearst-New York Times Column

(As usual, per the arrangement with syndicators, this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)


^(For use by New York Times News Service clients.)@<


^c.2011 Hearst Newspapers@=

It's called "Chinese Water Torture", even though it apparently has nothing to do with the Chinese. Instead, the term came, for unexplained reasons, from escape artist Harry Houdini. We all know it refers to the slow dripping of water on the head of an unfortunate, which eventually drives him crazy.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., couldn't escape. He has been driven from Congress by the Chinese Water Torture of new Twitter escapade revelations. Why is it that these situations inevitably end up featuring some porno movie actress? This time, her name is Ginger Lee.

And why are they invariably represented by Gloria Allred, the prominent attorney and preeminent self promoter? In comparison to Allred, the always available Anthony Weiner was a media recluse.

We all knew how this would end after the steady erosion of support from most of his "friends" in politics, to say nothing of his foes.

Yes "friends" is in quotes. The cliche is if you want one in Washington, "get a dog." In this case, except for a few diehards, everyone else here was snapping at his heels as he fled to rehab. He had requested and been granted a two week leave from the House, but the clamor for Weiner to simply "LEAVE" grew too loud to ignore. So he disconsolately trudged to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn _ where he first declared himself a candidate for city council in 1991 _ to tell the world he was stepping down.

The announcement came in a tumultuous news event that could only happen in New York. The screaming made mincemeat of any hope by Weiner that he could have made a graceful exit. He had tried to hang on, but "The distraction that I have created has made that impossible"

He had infuriated his fellow Democrats, who were about to meet in Washington and take action to strip him (pardon the expression) of his committee assignments, which would render him ineffective. Now Governor Andrew Cuomo will schedule a special election


There are many examples of those who have ridden out these storms _ Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, a Republican, comes to mind. But as juvenile as this all was, WeinerÆs case was still worse than so many others. First of all, nowadays it's almost impossible to get ahead of such damaging revelations. The facts and the fiction all instantaneously speed across the Internet.

Secondly, whatever the sins, the one that was unpardonable was the coverup. It wasnÆt that he lied to try and get out of his mess _ that's commonplace. The sin was that he did it in such a clumsy way. So finally, he succumbed to being consumed.

Less than three weeks after the first embarrassing Twitter photos appeared on conservative Andrew Beibart's website and less than two since he abandoned the claim he had been hacked, he administered his own final hacking from the House of Representatives. He pledged to "look for other ways to contribute my talent" Given the ridiculously inept way he handled this crisis, it probably won't be in PR.

His political career has capsized, which doesn't mean it can't be righted at some point. In any case, he gets to keep the word "Honorable" as a former member of Congress. That's a holdover from the distant past, long before the social media could expose pecadillos at, uh, warp speed.

Anthony Weiner is just the latest example but he won't be the last to dishonor our institutions. In the case of Congress, no help is needed in that department. Various polls show an approval rating somewhere around 10 just per cent.

That problem goes far beyond such trifling affairs, or in this case, cyber affairs. It has much more to do with the relentless drip-drip-drip of pure folly that that is pure torture for those yearning for effective government.


(Email: bob(at)hearstdc.com; on the Web: www.bobfranken.tv)


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