Sunday, January 07, 2007

Best Lead of the Month

From James Wolcott's column in the current Vanity Fair, "Why Are British Sex Scandals So Much Better Than Ours?":

'When I read the flirty e-mails and instant messages from Congressman Mark Foley to assorted cuddle buns of the male denomination, I was embarrassed, truly embarrassed--not only for Mr. Foley, but for myself as an American. This is the best we can do, this is what it's come to? It was bad enough when the cheesy details of President Bill Clinton's and Monica Lewinsky's bobble-head ministrations leered from the pages of Ken Starr's report, and we learned that the former intern resuscitated the Commander in Chief up only to the point of release, whereupon he withdrew and furnished himself off in a bathroom sink, like some unhousebroken Martin Amis character. The president of the United States, masturbating into a sink--it doesn't get more plaintive than that. Or so I believed. But the Mark Foley congressional-page scandal took the sexcapades to its ultimate dry point of diminuendo: It was a sex scandal without any actual sex. It unfurled almost entirely in the phantom zone where fantasy and virtual reality overlap. What could be more tacky or poignant than a middle-aged sad sack quizzing a teenage page if he had spanked his Oscar Meyer that weekend--"it must feel great spirting on the towel" (further evidence of how cyberprose degrades spelling ability)--and mooching kisses from another playmate before a vote on a war-appropriations bill? When a grown man traffics in smily-face emoticons, it's time to fold up the cot. From Bill Clinton seeking body warmth in Lewinsky's pillowy embrace to Foley batting his eyelashes online, to poor old jowly chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Wilbur Mills making a ripe fool of himself with stripper Fanne Fox, "the Argentine Firecracker," the high-profile Washington sex scandal is marked by desperate lunging, not lusty abandon. A hot flash of male menopause, it's more of a cry for help and a prelude to rehab than a yelp of pleasure. Washington should steal a tabloid page from its closest and horniest ally, Great Britain. When it comes to whipping up a sex scandal into a donnybrook, the Brits have us beat--they really know how to make the bedsheets billow. British sex scandals, like ours, are often rooted in a dolor of middle-aged malaise, but they're often animated by spite, spicy details, vanity, revenge, bitter comedy and bawdy excess--the complete Jacobean pantry.'

For a look back at earlier leads of the month, go here.


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