"Stupid is as stupid does," or so the saying goes. But stupid -- like anything else in life -- is less an on-off switch than a rainbow of grey areas. There are levels of stupid which make us laugh, gasp, and want to throw things at the TV/computer screen. You couldn't ask for a better news cycle than the current one to illustrate the thousand-and-one forms of stupid that range from "simple error" stupid to "what the hell were you thinking?" stupid. You probably already realize where this is going. Right to this week's headlines involving Sarah Palin and Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Sarah Palin's reimagining of history and Paul Revere's actions on his iconic ride is silly stupid. Hers is the simple-error type of stupidity, but in typical maverick fashion she won't admit she got it wrong and is digging in and standing her ground. Although I disagree with her, I can't help but admire her tenaciousness. Women are often accused of rolling over...capitulating too easily...taking the blame even when they're right. Palin's political wardrobe is entirely Teflon-coated. She takes no blame and won't acknowledge flashes of ignorance. She fights with a smile on her face and is never at a loss for words, even when they don't come together in complete sentences. Those qualities may not make for a great presidential candidate, but she's one strong woman -- a trait I have to give her credit for.
Silly stupid is not a crime. It's more entertaining than harmful.
In comparison, Rep. Anthony Weiner and his "sharing" of photos of various parts of his body with women online is crazy stupid. Crazy as in "hello, are you looking to end your political career in an epic sustained bout of self-delusional behavior that can only result in a major episode of crash and burn?" stupidity.
Like former New York governor Eliot Spitzer before him, we're asking, "What was he thinking?" (And like Spitzer and NY Rep. Chris Lee who also photographed himself and sent out inappropriate photos, Weiner truly seemed to believe he could get away with this nonsense.)
Let's be frank here. Men in public office appear to cheat...a lot. Women in public office don't...or rarely do...or are almost never caught. I'd like to believe it's because elected women don't possess the time, interest, inclination, or stupidity to cheat at the same level with the same impunity. Maybe that's because only 16% of Congress is female. But I'd hazard a guess that even if Congress were 50% women, the majority of infidelity would involve male members. (Don't say anything about that pun. Let it lie.)
So if stupid is as stupid does, does that make all stupidity the same in terms of cause and effect? Not in my book. I don't love that Palin is rewriting history, but it's not hurting anyone other than herself. Weiner is hurting people - his wife, his family, his constituents, the Democratic Party if he remains in office and election time rolls around.
He says he committed no crime, but when initially confronted with the evidence he lied, dodged questions and avoided giving direct answers when asked "Was that underwear photo of you?" That, my friends, is a on-off switch. Yes or no. Didja do it, or dincha?
Did he really think he could squirm away from this one? That's stupid. That's breaking the people's trust. That's belittling us by assuming we're as stupid as you and that we'll believe your song and dance.
Maybe sexting isn't "cheating" in his book. But any man (or woman) who does stupid stuff and knows full well when he skirts what's legal and what's acceptable is clearly looking to get away with everything he can, and that's not a platform I've seen any candidate successfully run on. If a no-confidence vote were held tomorrow, you don't have to be a Mensa candidate to know that Weiner would lose his seat.
The fact that his stupidity is non-criminal is no excuse for him to continue to hold office. He needs to "man up" and acknowledge that chatting up 6 women and photographing himself and parts of his body in various stages of undress is proof he's not doing the people's business. He needs to step down.
You know what's the stupidest thing of all in this carnival sideshow of stupidity? That it has become a partisan issue with each side pointing fingers and saying how debauched the other side is. Full disclosure -- I'm a Democrat -- but when my 17-year-old daughter Em and I were watching last week's interview with Rep. Weiner, we were stunned by his refusal to acknowledge whether or not the "underwear photo" was of him.
And when Em asked, "Why doesn't he just say it's not him? If he were innocent, that's what he'd say, wouldn't he?" I couldn't disagree with her. It was obvious something was going on.
Infidelity exists on both sides of the aisle, as does a poor grasp of US history. It would be stupid to blame party politics for the actions of either individual, just as it would be stupid to see Palin's error as being on par with Weiner's internet dalliance with six different women. He may have kept it in his pants, but we all saw the party that was going on down there.
And one's political party affiliation shouldn't be a reason to demonize her and give a pass to him.
Let's back off of Palin and keep the pressure on Weiner, who seems to have confused the concepts of "election" and "erection" and exposed us to far more than any of us wanted to see. I for one would be happy to see his behind, fully clothed, exiting Congress and walking away from a political career that is already down to smoke and ash.