Tina Brown: End the Damn Dickmanship!
When middle-aged libido meets a whiff of power, chaos strikes our political process.
Carlos Danger was one blockbuster sequel that hasn’t been welcomed (except by all of us in the news biz). “Maybe we should take another look at Christine Quinn” is the unilateral embarrassed mumble from New Yorkers I have talked to in the last three days. Not because anyone is especially blown away by the speaker of the City Council’s caustic mediocrity, but because at least we would be safe from her private parts flying around the Internet.
In this insane political season in New York, I have the same reaction every time I see a picture of Eliot Spitzer: He looks demented. The scimitar mouth pulled back in a mad crow of triumph, the face sweating with guilty pleasure. It’s as if he knows what he’s doing is wrong, knows it’s the last straw for his wife, knows it’s a new round of mortification for his daughters, but he doesn’t care. The comptroller of New York City ought to have all the characteristics of a major corporation’s CFO—quiet rigor, obsessive care for detail, incorruptible judgment, an ability to work assiduously behind the scenes with the key stakeholders.
Nothing could be more nightmarish than having Spitzer in that role, leaping into the news headlines every day in his black socks, making enemies where we didn’t need them, running a noisy, rival soapbox.
The no-secrets era of social media makes one consider the built-in risk factor of nominating high-testosterone men to positions of power at all. Everyone is under too much scrutiny now to take a chance on candidates who suddenly blow up into a comic meme, a punchline, a ribald hashtag.
Think about some of our prominent women in Washington right now. Can you ever even imagine—forgive me, Secretary—Kathleen Sebelius uploading a crotch shot of herself on Instagram? Or Janet Yellen ordering up male hookers during downtime at the Federal Reserve? It’s preposterous. Perhaps we need some kind of sexual DUI test developed to tell us what is likely to happen when middle-aged libido meets a whiff of power.
And politics is not the only arena to require this test. The banker who killed a bride-to-be and her best man when he slammed his boat into a construction barge last weekend during a moonlight cruise down the Hudson had a history of dopey party-boy machismo. Francesco Schettino, the drunk captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia (death toll: 32 drowned passengers) and Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, the speed-freak driver in last week’s Spanish train crash (death toll: 79 passengers), were both crimes of dickmanship that ended in disaster.
The Concordia's Captain Schettino, 52, was carousing with a blonde and had revved the ship’s speed up to a dangerous 16 knots before it foundered off the coast of Tuscany. And the out-of-control 52-year-old Spanish train driver guffawed on Facebook in March 2012, “What a blast it would be to go parallel with the Guardia Civil [Spanish police] and go past them triggering the radar. Haha what a fine for Renfe [the Spanish rail operator] haha.”
Haha. Right. Or as Weiner would say, two or three sextings after he resigned from Congress, whatever. When I read that he took Saturday off from campaigning, I thought he might be behind closed doors repairing the wounds of his family. But no, it turns out he was shooting an ad in his apartment. No wonder his campaign manager quit.
The trouble with Carlos and his ilk is they’re not just a danger to themselves, but a danger to everyone else. One look at the humiliated face of the elegant Huma Abedin, spear-carrier for Hillary Clinton’s women’s-empowerment message, will tell you that.