Understanding Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner is not a pig. Anthony Weiner is a perfectly healthy and fairly typical man.

Men have evolved over millions of years to put their sperm in as many welcoming receptacles as possible. It is the smartest move for us genetically; that why male promiscuity is natural in the extreme. If there's anything that's unnatural, it's fidelity.

I'm a big supporter of consenting adults doing whatever they want to do with each other, and that includes being loyal to one partner if they so choose. Bravo to the men who make that commitment and stick to it. But can we stop pretending that monogamy is not an enormous effort for almost all men? And that difficulty is a male thing. (Quick, name one Congresswoman involved in a sex scandal. I rest my case.)

One thing I find sad about the present state of our sexual culture is how many men think something is wrong with them because they have so much trouble confining their sexual interest to one partner. What rank nonsense that because a preacher says a few words that somehow the groom is going to lose sexual interest in all but his mate. Newsflash to brides who are hurt by this revelation: a man can genuinely and truly be madly in love with you and find the desire to give and get sexual attention from other women extraordinarily potent. It has nothing to do with you, really. It is sheer biology.

Does that mean what Anthony Weiner did was okay? No. But not because there was anything inherently abhorrent in his desire for erotic titillation with someone other than his wife. It was wrong because it was an act of political malfeasance. The country is going to hell in a hand basket because of the right wing, and giving ammo to a scuzzbucket like Andrew Breitbart is a move so dunderheaded it's almost beyond comprehension. Really, Anthony? Your libido just had to be tickled one more time? Was it worth the firebrand of the left being practically silenced for the rest of his term in office?

With so much at stake, this points to another layer of explanation beyond the dictates of evolution and testosterone. For some people, the camera might as well be crack. Intelligence -- of which Anthony Weiner has been blessed -- seems to provide little or no defense. I don't know why it causes megalomania in some (Sarah Palin) and not in others (Bernie Sanders), but it seems clear enough that the congressman was mainlining attention. One would think legislative power and MSNBC -- not to mention a beautiful wife -- would be enough. Sadly, the opposite was true. All of that stimulated rather than satiated him.

Given the aphrodisiacal realities of power and fame, it seems that America is facing a future where genuine public service is increasingly inimical to a high public profile. In order to get things done, one requires clout; and increasingly, that requires celebrity. But real life ends up not mixing too well with two-dimensional reality. The more attention you get, the more attention you need. And strangely, it's strangers whose interest counts the most. Men may understand they are loved for who they are; but they are desired for who they appear to be. The unfairer sex finds the two gratifications extremely competitive -- at least when they think equally with the brains above the neck and below the belt.

Social media can be just as lethal as old-fashioned TV -- all the more because of the appearance of reciprocity, the camouflage of faux authenticity. The once sacred word "friend" applies equally to your flesh-and-blood buddy and a random Facebook acquaintance. Texting is interchangeable with real conversation. Virtual intimacy is not even considered an oxymoron.

As a Democrat, I'm furious with Anthony Weiner. As a former addict, I can only understand him. On crystal meth, I did outrageously insane things, fully cognizant I was committing felonies. But being high does not sufficiently explain my behavior. I suffered from an equally powerful addiction to getting away with things. The only cure for that was to suddenly stop getting away with things. For me, that came in the form of prison. For Anthony Weiner, a humiliating fall from grace.

The good news is that the worst thing that ever happened to you often turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. In my case, I have used my experience to help hundreds of addicts stay clean. For Weiner, I can imagine that he is forever broken of an attitude of self-righteousness and arrogance that even his biggest fans (like me) sometimes thought alienated the independents who so needed to hear his argument, not his argumentativeness. I hope for all of our sake that the congressman on the other side of this mess will have learned how to draw humility from humiliation, and be a better person out in the world.