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Friday, June 17, 2011

All it takes is one small, small man

Now that Congressman Anthony Weiner has been hounded from office over the stupidest sex scandal ever, let us pause to reflect upon the classic tale in this genre.

If you visit the Capitol Building, ask a tour guide to show you the bloodstains on the east steps. The blood, which has resisted all attempts at cleaning, once belonged to Representative William Taulbee of Kentucky, who was shot on those steps on February 28, 1890.

A former minister and lawyer, Taulbee was elected to the House in 1884. He left office in 1889, after journalists divulged what was then called "the Patent Office scandal."

Taulbee was a tall, burly, good-looking fellow in his later 30s, married to a woman named Lou Emma. In one photo (no longer on the net), he somewhat resembles a young Tom Selleck. The journalist who ended his career, and his life, was named Charles Kincaid. To visualize him, imagine Wally Shawn -- or maybe "Frohike" from the X-Files -- compacted to a size under five feet and less than 100 pounds.

He had it in for William Taulbee.

Kincaid discovered that Taulbee had developed a strong affection for a plump, blue-eyed brunette named Laura Louisa Dodge. (Back then, "plump" was a good adjective. One source calls her a blonde.) She was 17 -- probably 16 when they first met.

Nowadays, Taulbee would be called a pedophile. No-one would believe his protestations that Laura had lied about her age, even though she had. In 1890, people were a little more sensible about these matters.

Taulbee found Laura a cozy position (so to speak) in the patent office, where he visited her nearly every day. The affair first came to light with these words, published in the Washington Post:
The model-room of the Patent Office is known as "Lovers Retreat" at the Interior Department, because at the lunch hour all the flirting clerks repair to it to carry on their little schemes and designs. The cases which contain the models are so thickly placed that they offer protection from prying eyes. One day last week Attendant Gill, of the model-room, was passing along, when his attention was attracted by seeing a man and a girl behind one of the cases in a very compromising position.
That story appeared in December, 1887. Taulbee's name did not appear in print, although the article indicated a congressman from Kentucky. D.C. insiders snickered. This was an amusing anecdote, not a matter for serious investigation.

The story would have soon disappeared from memory if not for the efforts of Charles Kincaid, a Louisville reporter (who, like his target, had once passed the bar). Kincaid kept pursuing the case, divulging the names and all the sordid details to the folks back home in Kentucky.

In those days, polling agencies could not reveal whether the constituents were in a forgiving mood. Taulbee decided to serve out his term without offering his name for renomination. History does not record what he told Lou Emma, but one can guess.

Taulbee became a lobbyist and continued to work on Capitol Hill, which also remained Kincaid's beat. The two ran into each other on several occasions. Kincaid could not resist verbally taunting the physically imposing former congressman. Eventually, Taulbee took to picking up Kincaid by the nose or the ear, as a way of expressing disdain.

Accounts vary as to what really happened on February 28, 1890. We know that the two men met twice on that day.

It is said that during the first encounter, in the morning, Taulbee picked up his diminutive taunter on the pretext that he could not otherwise see him. At some point, Kincaid blurted out: "I am not armed."

"Then you had better be," replied Taulbee.

Later that day, Taulbee met up with Kincaid again, on the marble eastern staircase, which is Y-shaped: Two opposing stairways converge at a landing. When I checked contemporary reports (remember microfiche?), I found odd disagreements as to details. In a version published by the New York Times, Kincaid insulted Taulbee, who responded by trying to lift the smaller man by his ears.

Spurred by the congressman's earlier warning, Kincaid had carried a concealed weapon into the Capitol Building. He shot Taulbee in the face. The bullet lodged in his brain.

In another version, Kincaid stood some ways away on the opposing staircase. He shouted "Can you see me now?" before firing.

Obviously, the latter scenario (which I consider the likeliest) places Kincaid in a far more precarious position from a legal standpoint. If Taulbee had physically assaulted him, Kincaid could claim self-defense. Either way, I believe the journalist had concocted a scheme to exact vengeance for his earlier humiliations.

The contemporary New York Times coverage surprised me. All sympathy went to fellow journalist Charles Kincaid, who collapsed in a nervous fit and spent days in a sick bed. Reporters barely mentioned Taulbee, who did not die instantly. He was taken to a hospital, where he managed to hang on for a remarkable 11 days. One of the doctors attending him was his own brother. When William Taulbee finally died, the NYT gave his passing only a perfunctory mention.

At trial, Kincaid was declared innocent on the grounds of self-defense. I think he was guilty. Obviously, one cannot speak with certainty about his motives at this historical remove. He died in 1906.

Laura married well, became a society matron, and lived until 1959.

So what does this story tell us about sexual and political mores, then and now?

Taulbee's indiscretion was, by any reasonable measure, far worse than Anthony Weiner's -- yet both Taulbee's fellow congressmen and the Washington press corps seemed to consider the matter worthy of no more than a few bawdy chuckles. Matters came to a head only when Kincaid fixated on Taulbee; even after exposure, the congressman was allowed to serve out his term. Although one can't psychoanalyze long-dead individuals, it seems clear that the rodent-like journalist felt an intense jealousy toward the tall congressman whom ladies considered attractive. Even after Taulbee left office, envy prodded Kincaid to keep heckling his target. Eventually, the newsman went in for the kill.

Many now wonder why Weiner -- who did not commit adultery, and whose indiscretion was more silly than sexy -- had to go, while other politicians are allowed to keep their offices even after they've been caught "hiking the Appalachian Trail" (so to speak). Perhaps the answer has to do not with the scale of the offense but the nature of the adversary.

Do not discount the role played by individual psychology. For an act of political violence, the only necessity is one vindictive little man -- "little" in the truest sense of the word -- who won't stop until he tastes blood.

Of course, smallness comes in many varieties. In recent days, I've learned that some right-wing Jews have said some ugly things about Weiner's marriage to a woman of Arab heritage. That intolerance is, in my view, very small.

Follow-up: Those who follow such matters insist that three ghosts walk the Capitol Building. One is John Quincy Adams, who died during a debate in the House in 1848. Another is the legendary Demon Cat -- affectionately known as DC -- a spectral tabby who grows, in mid leap, to the size of a saber-tooth tiger. DC supposedly shows up just before a national tragedy, although he has neglected his duties in recent decades.

The third is the shade of William Taulbee.

I once started a screenplay inspired by that bit of folklore. A woman inherits her husband's congressional seat after he dies in an absurd accident. (Think Sonny Bono.) The ghost of Taulbee, who has had the chance to observe Washington for many years, shows up to tell her how to outsmart the malign forces trying to manipulate her. The story turns into The Ghost and Mrs. Muir on Capitol Hill.

Maybe I ought to get back to that one...
What was Rep. Weiner working on before he was "gated"? (Hint: Clarence Thomas’s conflicts of interest)

-- h/t to a xymphora commentator

Kincaind is to Taulbee as any MSNBC anchor is to Bill Clinton.
to me if he was caught in bed in action with a woman I wouldn't be as disgusted. For one it wouldn't take such as long time to finish and go back to do people's work. Then when a fourty some man had this obessesion with his own body is just sick. the man can't pass a mirror without stopping and flexing and taking pictures what's up with that. Having said that since I have a deep mistrust for the democrats since 2008 I suspect that outrage has nothing to do with his alleged behavior. something else id going on
IMHO he should have resigned immediately. It's one thing to have an affair with a consenting adult, yet another to reply to your constituents' ("employees'") message about serious issues with messages about his "package" and other inappropriate language and pictures. Seems to me that any employer in this country would immediately fire anyone caught taking such actions, first time it was revealed. Also, as stated by someone else, it's weird and creepy that a man his age is so obsessed with certain of his own body parts. He was described in one article as a narcissistic exhibitionist, which sounds like an appropriate description. More colloquially, creepy pervert works too. He needs help and hopes it actually gets it -- not just say that he will, which is probably the case since he seems okay with blatantly lying. I'm all for Dems working for us middle-class working people, but there are certain lines you don't cross. Too bad his bad behavior harms so many. Perhaps his replacement will be of the same stripe.
"yet another to reply to your constituents' ("employees'") message about serious issues with messages about his "package" and other inappropriate language and pictures."

He did no such thing.

With the exception of the tweeted photo to Gennette Cordova -- which I believe (for reasons stated on many previous occasions) that he did NOT do -- his online romances began as all other online romances do. The writers who have framed the issue in terms of victimization. Well, that's very fashionable -- and very propagandistic.

The women wanted him, at least in cyber. He wanted them, at least in cyber. Nobody held a gun to the heads of those women. They did not send text messages telling him to go to hell. The woman in Vegas was the one who asked Weiner to talk on the phone, not the other way round.

Anyone who frames the matter in terms of victimization is using the argot of feminism to justify a bullshit schema in which women are forevermore absolved from responsibility for their own desires and choices.
Weiner is a scumbag who was caught displaying his true character. Those that insist on continuing to defend and label him a victim show their character as well.
Wait, I didn't get to the part of the Taulbee story where he lied directly to his constituents about his involvement in the affair, and then concocted a theory that some grand conspiracy of right wing journalists had created the whole scandal out of thin air. Also, I guess I missed the part where representative Taulbee's penis was available for the whole nation to see. You are right though, I mean, aside from those minor, inconsequential points, the story of Taulbee is EXACTLY like the story of Weiner. Up to and including the part where Breitbart murdered Weiner.
One of the AM wackos is going off about Weiner being unbalanced because he sent out naughty pics while having consensual cyber sex or what ever.
What then is the mental state of republican men that have gay sex with strangers in public restrooms?
What about the wife when she contracts an STD from her GOP hubby?
Yeah jay is right we much prefer the GOP hidden pervasive character. So much better to give an 8 year old boy a Dirty Sanchez. The only problem with weened is that it's kinda a lame way to be a perv. Too bad victor ash couldn't turn tony
Party doesn't matter -- when a perv misacts and crosses the line, that perv deserves the consequences. Further, none of us commenters, as far as I can tell, were recipients of Weiner's messages so there's no way to know for sure who said what, but from what I have read and heard, the women did not pursue him and, in fact, thought that his messages & pics were totally inapproprite. Perhaps one woman did join-in on his little cyber-excitement (although I have not heard this), but that doesn't take away from the fact that the majority of the women did not ask for his sexting; they wanted serious texting about contemporary issues. So, a) Why did Weiner think it was okay to do what he did? b)Why would he think no one would disclose it (does "exhibionist" come to mind here)? c) Why was he so smug and arrogant the whole time he was lying about it? d) Why did he think there wouldn't be consequences? Seems like he was very angry that this story took the turn that it did, but not that he did anything wrong. He obviously singled out women - clearly meant as sexual misconduct. The guy has problems and needs some serious help. Hope NY can elect a decent one this time. I know this will "fry" Joseph, who seems to have problems with women: how about a female? :)
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IowaHope, I will allow no further lying comments like yours through.

"when a perv misacts and crosses the line, that perv deserves the consequences."

The line is set by the law. No laws were broken. And I see no perversion, as that word is traditionally defined.

"the women did not pursue him and, in fact, thought that his messages & pics were totally inapproprite."

You're either a lying fuck, or you haven't been reading.

"Why did Weiner think it was okay to do what he did?"

Because it was none of your fucking business. For the same reason, it is perfectly okay for a woman to send photos of herself to any man who expresses a sexual interest in her. (As I demonstrated in a previous post, I could amass quite a large collection of such photos in the space of three hours, if challenged to do so.)

"Perhaps one woman did join-in on his little cyber-excitement (although I have not heard this), but that doesn't take away from the fact that the majority of the women did not ask for his sexting; they wanted serious texting about contemporary issues."

Total fabrication. Intolerable.

"Why was he so smug and arrogant..."

I saw a man who was nervous as hell. You're out of your mind.

"Why did he think there wouldn't be consequences?"

Because he presumed that his online partners would respect his privacy. A million other online lovers make the same presumption.

"Seems like he was very angry that this story took the turn that it did, but not that he did anything wrong."

In a legal sense, he did nothing wrong. In a moral sense, what does it come to? An unmarried man hounded by gossip mongers sought a little cyber-romance in his off hours. Then he married a woman who spends most of her time away from home. In his lonely hours he retreated to old habits. I find that moral lapse forgivable, compared to (say) the legalized bribery that is standard operating procedure in Washington.

"I know this will "fry" Joseph, who seems to have problems with women:"

Republicans are never more appalling than when they pretend to be feminists.

I agree entirely with your reply to "Iowa Hope". Well said. If I could add one last point. Here in NYC, there are plenty of Weiner's constituents who are appearing in local media and asking where Nancy Pelosi gets off telling their representative that he has to resign? Its not her call. Its their call as the voters of that constituency. Same's true of any assh*le from Iowa. It aint your call. I know you have an opinion (and like assh*les, eveyones got them) but you don't have a vote.

Its seems to me that a very large proportion of New Yorkers seem to think its none of their business if he likes to jerk off with new friends he has met online. Many made the point that he was quite a good Congressman. And they are not amused that this will be used as an excuse to get rid of their constituency. One which is very heavily Jewish, and has a big focus on Jewish issues. Hence Weiner's absurdly pro-Israel statements.

Me personally, I would never vote for anyone who waxes. But, its none of my business. I dont have a vote.

Harry, I wax. I even mop.

So no-one thought my script pitch was any good? I thought it was a solid idea...

If there is one thing that recent events in this country have taught me, it is that no one is interested in politics here.

On the other hand, maybe its the job of artists to awaken the public's interest. But I don't fancy your chances. How about a congressional reality tv show? "The Rep" perhaps. Fly on the walling a bunch of congressional candidates for office. I think it would be big, and think of the opportunities for product placement?

And here I thought with that screen name Iowa Hope was one of the O-thugs that over ran the caucuses.
Also the naughty pics aren't just limited to chat rooms unless that auction site changed their policy and got rid of their mature adult section. You know, all those female victims selling gap shots for money.
Funny, how some have selective memories.
Joseph, I *loved* your script idea. Too damned bad what passes for good script ideas these days is having yet another wedding movie, only this time it's the ladies farting and barfing!

As far as whether Weiner was a cyber-flasher or not, we really don't know how he broached the topic, so I don't see how anyone can definitively say his crotch shots were welcome or not....except with the ones who did play along. It appears from one example, he asked first...and if one's reaction wasn't an immediate EWWWW and unfriending, then it was consensual.

Here's an article on questioning the women involved. I agree. I get so tired of the excuse that the married cheater's partners aren't the ones "breaking any vows." This writer makes some good points about the behavior of women involved with Weiner....but it almost goes without saying that these would be the level of human you'd score being a married horndog on the prowl.
Happy Father's Day to readers of that status. I wasn't going to place any more comments, however, I have to have a friendly chuckle about the guessing concerning my politics. I was (am?) what used to be referred to as a yellow-dog democrat. I happen to live in Iowa but have traveled internationally and worked elsewhere, so not a bumpkin. I have voted Democratic for every office, except one time, over my many, many years of voting. So I am not a Republican and not an O-thug. No conspiracies here. In fact, I have read Cannonfire for many years except the somewhat mysterious hiatus. I followed it through the Obama/Hillary campaign fiasco. I was a Hillary supporter in volunteerism and in monetary contributions. I know we're talking politics here, but I just happen to like good ethics. With that cleared up, I will wish the readers who are fathers a Happy Fathers Day and a wonderful time with their families and everyone else a marvelous day too.
Just reading a previous entry on this blog.

"One could cite hundreds of similar examples, including this weirdly accurate 1953 prediction of the Charles Manson murders, along with the 1983 discovery of an underground Nazi encampment near Loch Ness, as predicted by issue #3 of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., published in the summer of 1968.

Sorry but what 1983 discovery of an underground Nazi encampment near Loch Ness?

Or did you put this in to check whether anyone was listening? :)
In recent days, I've learned that some right-wing Jews have said some ugly things about Weiner's marriage to a woman of Arab heritage. That intolerance is, in my view, very small.

And fucking ignorant too, given that most Jews living in the Arab world were called "Arab Jews" until mainstream Zionism said they shouldn't be.
b, about that earlier post...did you note the date? Also, did you note the post that came directly after?

Im that my comment was a little rude. I stand by my argument but I don't think I should have used the word "assh*le". I just think didn't think Weiner did anything which necessitates resignation. The decision if he did, is definitely an issue for his local constituency.

I dont happen to take shots of my "junk" and send them to strangers who ask to see them over the internet. But thats just a matter of taste rather than morality. Its not illegal so who am I to say its wrong?

Love the story about Rep. Taulbee! I had no idea!! I did not know there were patent office scandals of that type. (I assumed there were love affairs as there are in most work places, but what a story!) I think Rep. Taulbee should be declared the patron saint of the US Patent Office.

I am greatly looking forward to reading your script. Maybe the protagonist widow could be a patent attorney before she takes over her husband's position. (Creates a tie-in to the US PTO and a reason for Rep. Taulbee to come into the story.) (The idea is yours for free if you want it.)

Loved The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Most of all, Rex Harrison in the movie version, though the television series was fun, too.

You acknowledge that Taulbee repeatedly physically assaulted Kincaid, but you discount the possibility that Kincaid acted in self defense on the day of the murder. Why?
Ouch - yes - noticed the date, but only after hitting send :) Nazi stuff by Loch Ness, indeed - straight outta R A Wilson! :) (OK OK, the joke's on me...)
b -- you mean you never saw that issue of Nick Fury? Great stuff! Issue 3, I think it was... "Dark Moon Rise, Hell-Hound Kill!" All about a huge spectral dog haunting the moors, and the story had no relation whatsoever to Conan Doyle, honest. It all ended with a secret Nazi base beneath Loch Ness.

I can still recall some lines from the opening poem:

"'Tis the hound of Hell, whose firey breath
Brings nightmare, dread, despair and death
When the moon casts dark upon the moor!"

When I was eight years old, that was my idea of GREAT literature. Jim Steranko, ladies and gentleman.

If ever you're in Scotland, tell me if you find any secret Nazi bases near the Loch. "Haggis? Vas is los?"
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