A Study In Hypocrisy

Once in a while my plans for a post are “post-poned” by something hitting the news. Once it was the kid they tazed for running across the baseball diamond (my title: “Taze the Kid?”, May 5, 2010) ; another was prompted by a death penalty story (my title: “Scumbags and the Death Penalty”, May 7, 2010).

Usually I refrain from posting on politics to my blog, leaving that to Facebook. I am a militant “centrist”. The test I took on the Internet says I am 1% to the right of dead-center; fiscal conservative, social moderate.

I posted to Facebook my indignation at NPR’s ousting of Juan Williams for having the temerity to admit that a man in full Muslim garb at an airport made him uneasy, and, ironically, later I posted a mild rant at the Republicans for voting to defund NPR.

This week’s news story is Congressman Anthony Weiner, who just resigned in disgrace, amid indignant demands that he leave. The Republicans, noting the media was after the other side’s guy for a change, were rather silent. It was his fellow Democrats who insisted he go.

The “social media” element to the Weiner story makes it relevant to several of my blog postings on that subject. Do NOT post or mail anything you would not want your spouse, mother, or minister to read.

(Note; in an ironic post script to this post, Andrew Brightbart, the fellow who orchestrated the demise of Andrew Weiner just dropped dead of a heart Attack. To my knowledge, Andrew Weiner is still alive. Brightbart was full of bile. Maybe that’s what got him. )

I didn’t like the guy. Didn’t like his looks, mannerism, or attitude. As smart as he was, his initial announcement that he was hacked caused the hair to raise on my neck. His arrogance grated, his lies offended, and his insecurity, tackiness, and deceitfulness were plastered all over cable news.

I was ready for him to resign earlier than most, and I have no doubt that we would have heard even worse if he had stayed.

Then I listened to some callers to an NPR talk show. There were those who found nothing that bad about his lying. I disagreed. Bald-faced lying to his constituents, the media, the country! It was clearly a character flaw. Another guy, rather candidly, complained that he did not keep his sexual silliness private. He seemed not to care that what the fellow did was immoral and violative of his marital vows. He just did not want to hear about it. I had to agree.

Finally, a fellow called in to suggest forgiveness and redemption. His theory. Weiner is still young, impetuous, and full of himself, which is why he managed to get himself elected. His electorate pretty much knew that when they chose him. The condemnation and humiliation is powerful. He would have to work long and hard to redeem himself. He has lots of potential. He is likely to be on his best behavior for a long time.

That caused me to remember the biggest sex scandal I can recall in American History. Alexander Hamilton, model family man, beautiful and wonderful wife to whom he was devoted, and loving father, got involved with a 20 year old married woman. They had a steamy affair.

In a contrived situation, her forty year old husband burst in on them. He was so shocked and mortified that only money could make it better. Thus Hamilton remained encoiled with these people for a rather long time. He would succumb to her, the husband would be more enraged, and more money changed hands. A political enemy leaked the news, and the press was on it, in the colonial version of CNN, FOX and the National Inquirer.

Hamilton had behaved no better during his crisis than Weiner did, although if his name had been Alexander Weiner, our country might have been much different. In fact, he wrote long, detailed account of the events for publication in the New York City newspapers. His primary focus was to show he used no public funds to pay off his blackmailers. Hmmm? Sounds like John Edwards.

Hamilton’s wife was mortified and humiliated, but stayed with him and lived until right before the U.S. Civil War. She would pull out to visitors a brace of flintlocks, personal gift to her husband by George Washington.

My colleague Pete Conley posted to Facebook his retort to my praise of Hamilton that he “probably wasn’t in the top ten”, and I promised a note in response. I guess this is it.

If Ron Chernow, author of Hamilton, is to be believed, Washington ranked Alexander Hamilton in the top three of all the founding fathers.  He was the strong right arm of the Father of Our Country.

History so far has been much kinder to Jefferson, Washington, and Adams than to Hamilton. I suggest Hamilton’s tendency to “know it all”, his obsessive personality, and this scandal, contributed to this. In that way, Hamilton was a “wiener”.

I also suggest that among our founding fathers Hamilton was second only to George Washington. Washington was the man of greater character. Hamilton came to America at age 13 from a Caribbean island, son of a single mother and absent Scottish father (a la Barack). He had only a couple of letters of reference to help him, but he managed to get a fine education.

He caught Washington’s eye early in the Revolutionary War as a young, courageous artillery officer. The young army was a rabble, but Hamilton had great courage and flair. He became Washington’s personal secretary, writing most of his dispatches, orders, and letters throughout the war. He had a great flair for writing.

Hamilton almost single handedly got the U.S. Constitution ratified by the N.Y. Legislature. Without New York, it could never have become our Constitution. He worked round the clock and virtually willed the approval to happen.

He wrote over 60% of the Federalist Papers, which are readable as the foundation of our political system even today.

He read voraciously in politics, economics, and banking, and invented the American Banking system.

When he and Washington parted, after many years, neither man was as effective apart as together. Chernow paints a picture of a complex, driven, indefatigable, flawed genius. I sensed the bio was pretty accurate, which helps explain why so many people disliked him.

And, he died from a bullet from Aaron Burr’s gun. He intentionally shot into the ground; Burr shot to kill.
Weiner also is “a wiener”. He certainly is not a Hamilton, but now we probably won’t know what he could have been. They say perhaps Mayor of New York City? It is ironic that he might have been a terrible mayor, a scandal waiting to happen, if this scandal had not happened.

But, what would he have become? He would have been sadder but wiser, having gone through this humiliating experience. Certainly, the net value of Hamilton’s services to his country is nearly incalculable, in spite of his scandal.

I am reading another book, on Kindle, “The Clockwork Universe” by Edward Dolnick. What a terrific summary of the progress of the human mind through the Age of Enlightenment. Copernicus, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz, Spinoza, a small core of brilliance; hundreds, not thousands, of superlative thinkers, similar to the outpouring of thought during the Classic era of Greece. Surprisingly, we learn that no truly great discovery comes from one person, in fact, time after time, when “the time is right”, the original ideas spring from more than one mind; thus Sir Isaac Newton, and Gotlieb Libniz invent “the calculus” and Wallace and Darwin discover evolution, and Watson and Crick and so many others regarding DNA and RNA.

The truly brilliant thinkers are so few among our population. Yet, the chance they will also be “nice guys” is slim to none. To chart truly new paths, these fellows had to be single minded to an obsessive level. And, the egos were often huge. Darwin’s, not so much, but Newton’s? No wonder he could master the concept of infinity! His ego and selfish approach were huge. He worked hard to destroy his main rival Gottfried Libniz, whose version of calculus actually caught on and spread much better than Newton’s.

I have no idea how smart Weiner is. He didn’t appear to be that bright last week as he dug his own political grave. He is a bundle of energy and ambition, and they say he is bright. Politically, I do not know much about him except that yelling rant on the floor of congress and the fact he is much too liberal for my tastes.

When my friends and acquaintances screw up, showing up in the paper for various foibles, dui arrests, troubles in their profession or family, I try to drop them a note, not to approve of their mistake, but to remind them that someone knows they are still human beings, caring about them. Weiner’s revelations were pretty hard to take last week. His friends, or those he considered friends, lay pretty low.

This country is not very grown up when it comes to sex. And we do not handle racial issues that well either. I doubt anyone can justify the amount of media time and attention Andrew Wiener’s story took up. Perhaps the fellow suggesting that we give him a second chance, a chance to redeem himself, was not that far off base.

This post was written by Burton Hunter

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