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sábado, junio 11, 2011

Time To Change The Channel On The Weiner Affair

Rangel said Weiner "wasn't going with prostitutes. He wasn't going out with little boys."

Now there’s one eloquent, highroad defense of Anthony Weiner. Those of us in the peanut gallery might even wish he had done both of those things. Then we could understand on a basic level what Weiner thought he was up to. As it stands now, there is some difficulty in understanding what he thought he was doing. And he's busy turning it into even crappier reality television.

MSNBC reports that Anthony Weiner isn’t resigning, he’s taking a leave of absence from Congress, and, an this is the important and, he’s going to be receiving “treatment.” Treatment for what? You might well ask. Treatment for being misogynistic? Treatment for being an egomaniac? Treatment for being stupid? Treatment for having some kind of OCD? Treatment for treating women as objects? What is it?

A spokeswoman for the Democrat said he has left for professional treatment and will focus on "becoming a better husband and healthier person."

Spokeswoman Risa Heller said Weiner wanted the leave of absence so he could be evaluated and work out a course of treatment. The statement did not say what Weiner would be treated for.

I have nothing at all against becoming “a better husband and healthier person.” Really I don’t. I wish more husbands would be better at husbanding, and that more people would be healthier. Hell, I wish I had been a better husband and a healthier person. But there’s something nevertheless profoundly dishonest and manipulative about Weiner’s latest attention grabbing maneuver.

In my work as a criminal defense attorney, I frequently hear alleged perpetrators of crimes explain that actually they are really victims. Of their addictions. Like this: “I burglarized this house so I could steal money so I could buy drugs.” Or of their mental health issues. Like this: “I stopped taking my medication, and when she said that, I just snapped so I punched her.” Or of provocations, real or imagined. Like this: “She disrespected me and I just went off because this has happened before.” Or of broken homes, or institutionalization, or of disease. Or of something else. The list is extensive. And ever expanding. And the reason they are telling me these things isn’t that I’m a therapist. No. It’s because they know that they’d rather take responsibility for their perceived, inherent defects than their actions and the consequences of those actions, and anyway, IF they go into treatment, and IF they are directed to stay in treatment, the penalties for their alleged criminal conduct will probably be less severe.

There is a model here in which treatment is the answer for all bad conduct. Especially when the bad conduct cannot be denied.

If somebody assaults someone else, maybe s/he should have mental health counseling and anger management and parenting classes and a batterers group and on and on and on. And if s/he does these things, the case comes out better for the accused. The Judge, who may think that treatment is better than locking somebody up, and the DA, who may think that treatment might prevent more serious bloodletting in the future, and defense counsel and the accused, who just want leniency no matter what, all get together and mandate treatment and more moderate punishment. This is how the system works.

Leave aside whether any of this treatment really works, whether it has any demonstrable rate of success. And forget, if you can, that it has become a permanent industry with job security for treatment providers. Just forget all of that. Focus instead, if you can, on the fact that in some cases (nobody can argue this is true for all cases or even for a majority of cases) treatment for drug and alcohol addictions will be of enormous worth and it will make behavioral changes and it will succeed.

Succeeding in treatment is not easy. Far from it. It is a life challenge of extraordinary magnitude. It is extremely difficult. But despite the obstacles to success, there are nevertheless successes. People do succeed. People do overcome all of the hurdles. And these brave, persistent, courageous souls who succeed have made such a strong impression on our society with their fortitude and persistence that virtually everyone whose life is in shambles might think that treatment is the answer to whatever might have caused the problem.

Forget that the first step is acknowledging the problem. Just leave out that uncomfortable part. The part that says, “I am an alcoholic.” Or a drug addict. Or a batterer. Or something else.

And now Congressman Anthony Weiner has joined the cavalcade of people who claim to be victims of something (in his case it is undisclosed what that might be) and who seek to appropriate some of the benefits earned by those persistent souls who have actually succeeded in treatment. It was inevitable. And the reason he’s telling you this? So he won’t have to resign. So he can continue. So he can put some whip cream on this ever growing pile of manure and tell you it’s dessert after all.

If Weiner were serious about this, he’d just go and do what he has to do. No more press releases. No more press conferences. No more gaping lacunae in his narrations. None of that. He’d just go and get going on what he needs. We don’t need to know what that is specifically.

But that’s not what he’s done. Yet again, he’s sought the spotlight. Yet again, he’s made it be all about him. And he’s done that, I fear, to manipulate us into sympathy for him and his behavior. In this guy’s case the first step to recovery isn’t to manipulate us further. No. It’s to STFU and get started on what needs to be done.

The entire affair continues to scan as a bad reality television show. I’m now going to change the channel. Perhaps you’ll join me.

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