Now that Representative Anthony Weiner has admitted to engaging in “inappropriate conversations” and “exchang[ing] messages and photos of an explicit nature,” the conversation is quickly turning to his wife, Huma Abedin. Rep. Weiner mentioned her by name during his press conference, “I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife, Huma.” Tonight, on Hardball, Chris Matthews said he felt for Rep. Weiner because “nobody is perfect” and then started down the “blame-the-wife” road:
Chris Matthews, MSNBC: “Yeah, but he says his wife knew. He laid it out on her.”
John Feehery, Republican strategist: “Which is a terrible, terrible mistake.”
Matthews: “Well, maybe she’s partly responsible if she knew about it?”
His panelists immediately backed away from his comment, and Matthews backtracked in the same segment. But, still, he raised the question of whether Rep. Weiner’s wife was “partly responsible.” What was Matthews trying to say?
Did Rep. Weiner’s wife cause him to send lewd pictures to young women he met online? Is she to blame for his behavior? Is she to blame for his harshly criticized cover-up?
Matthews (or anyone else) should not be blaming the wife. This story is getting a lot of media attention, and Matthews is looking to place the blame on someone or something else besides Rep. Weiner. We could easily attribute all the attention to a slow news day, but I think there is something more. This story continues to capture our attention because Rep. Weiner’s actions are not so atypical.
Rep. Weiner is a powerful, married man in his 40s, who is communicating with and sending pictures of himself to women he meets online in their 20s. We could just dismiss him as a creepy man. However, this situation and other similar situations that have emerged in the last few years reveal a disturbing cultural trend. It is not just that men are marrying later. Men are adopting traditionally boyish behavior longer and too often into their marriages. Kay Hymowitz recently published a book on the lengthening road to adulthood for men today, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women has Turned Men into Boys. This book has sparked a discussion on the NeW blog. According to Hymowitz, the behavior exhibited by Rep. Weiner has become the norm for men. Crudeness and disrespect are encouraged across mediums, and it is almost an expectation for a man to engage in such inappropriate and ungentlemanly behavior. Perhaps the most telling sign that these actions have become all too common is that the argument holding Huma partly responsible is even entertained.
Matthews mentioned the juvenile nature of Rep. Weiner’s actions on his show. I think Matthews will be getting closer at the truth by looking to our culture that cultivates a lengthening boyhood to place blame, rather than to Rep. Weiner’s wife.