News cycle: British royals vs. Anthony Weiner

  • Article by: GAIL COLLINS , New York Times
  • Updated: July 25, 2013 - 1:31 PM
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Anthony Weiner

Photo: Jason Decrow, Associated Press

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I am beginning to think a royal family might come in handy.

True, the endless, action-deprived run-up to the birth of George, Prince of Cambridge, might have reminded the dispassionate observer of the wait for the arrival of a new baby panda. (What do you think they’ll name him? Do you want to buy a souvenir T-shirt?)

But while Britain was waiting for the newest Windsor to pop, here in New York, we were waiting for the other shoe of the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal to drop. The British got a way better deal.

“I said there were more things out there,” the fallen congressman turned mayoral candidate told reporters rather petulantly, when word got out that he had been having Internet sex long after his alleged rehabilitation was supposed to have begun. The basic message was that since Weiner had never specifically denied the possibility of more scandals, this one didn’t count. (“It doesn’t represent all that much that is new.”)

The revelation did have its moments of perverse fascination. Weiner’s nom de porn was Carlos Danger. We have never had a mayor with an official alter ego. Would it need a separate office? Maybe this is something other mayors would want to consider. Michael Bloomberg would probably want to be something like Horatio Health.

Also, it appears that Weiner’s long speeches in Congress about the single-payer plan might also have been a kind of mating call. “Your health care rants were a huge turn-on,” wrote the woman who reputedly talked dirty with him online.

You have to wonder whether there’s a right-wing equivalent currently texting some House Republican about how she gets hot and bothered every time he votes to cut entitlements.

Still, there is a point in political scandals when bad behavior stops being a joke and just becomes sad and depressing. We have reached that point with Anthony Weiner. Who decided to run for mayor while knowing this was the almost inevitable outcome: new humiliation, public uproar, tragic wife. All because he cannot imagine life outside the limelight.

This is where the advantage of a royal family comes in. If we had some famous figureheads at the top of the government, maybe politics would become less about celebrity and attract fewer needy egos.

The great thing about the British royals is that they manage to be both glamorous and dull at the same time. (Kate’s hair and Will’s lack thereof. The bad-boy brother and the 87-year-old grandmother.) Every milepost of their lives is a cause for endless burbling. And it’s all good. Even the overexposed three-week media campout at the hospital’s maternity ward had a kind of train-wreck fascination.

There is something inherently compelling in watching commentators forced to comment day after day without a single piece of information. Or a thought more exciting than whether Lupo the family spaniel would welcome the new arrival. (The British magazine Tatler named Lupo one of the “fifty most fascinating people in the country” earlier this year. Everybody works in that family.)

The closest thing we have to a royal family is the one belonging to the president, and presidents tend to be middle-aged men who produce very few family milestones. Even when they do, the country’s reaction is sometimes remarkably surly.

Only one president has ever gotten married or welcomed a new child in the White House. And that was - yes! - Grover Cleveland, one of the most unexciting personalities ever to hold the job. He married his much-younger wife, Frances, early in his first term. By the end of his second, they had three daughters. The country loved the first lady. But it responded to the president’s glad tidings with wild, dark rumors, one of which was that his daughters had been born with deformities because Grover had beaten his wife while she was pregnant. During one of her last public receptions, Frances Cleveland told the nanny to bring in her daughter Ruth so the public could see that she “was not minus legs, arms or fingers.”

John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson got married while they were president, without the White House ceremony. The public thought Wilson should have spent more time mourning his deceased first wife. Tyler couldn’t even get renominated by his party.

Right now on television, the president and first lady on the hyper-popular “Scandal” have announced the arrival of “America’s baby.” The nation seems pleased. But nobody is going to live happily ever after.

It really does make sense to breed a totally separate group of people just for the purpose of creating feel-good news and enough bad behavior for diverting gossip. Then maybe the attention-starved guys who are looking for love in all the wrong places would stick to hedge funds or football.

It’s a win-win. Except for the price, although a monarchy would still be way cheaper than cotton subsidies.

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