Three thoughts on the Mark Halperin scandal.
I knew Mark Halperin, the political reporter and pervert, when he was a kid in my Hebrew School at Beth El in the mid-seventies. We were in the same class for a few years and he really really didn’t like me at all.
I do remember that Mark was intelligent, witty, well-spoken, confident, self-assured and polished, and mean, when he wanted to be mean. I distinctly recall that the girls liked him. A colleague of mine who was his friend as of a couple of years ago told me that, as an adult, he is exactly the same.
Some of the terrible things we read about men in the last few years are at least explainable. President HW Bush seems to have done his inexcusable stuff because he incorrectly thought he was being funny. Senator Packwood was a really awkward idiot who incorrectly thought he was seducing women in an appropriate way. Kevin Spacey wanted sex with an underage boy. You see? This is a motive. To recognize a motive is not to excuse or condone the crime. A motiveless crime is perplexing. I’ve heard some people suggest that motive is unimportant, that even asking the question normalizes the behavior. But seeking a motive is not the same as seeking to justify what is clearly inescusable behavior.
Yet the Halperin story is not understandable or explainable at all; there is no apparent motive. Someone as savvy and tactical as Mark clearly could not have thought that the particular thing that he did over and over again would be funny, successful or appreciated. He had to know he was bothering women just to bother them, that the stuff he was doing was not going to lead to any kind of relationship. He would do the thing, the woman would run out of the room, and then he would do the thing to another woman. It seems completely inexplicable that he wanted to bother women just to bother them, even if it might mean the end of career and public humiliation. He is definitely smart enough to have figured out the repercussions. Why would he do it?
In the days since this scandal unspooled, I’ve heard a few suggested explanations. The most believable is that he was driven by some sort of amorphous hostility and misogyny, and he enjoyed the discomfort and fear that he caused. (Look what he did to Elizabeth Edwards, as she was dying.) The extreme nature of his sexual behavior was his built-in alibi: she said I did what? Are you kidding? Why would I do that? It didn’t matter exactly what he did, so long as it was unbelievable, and caused fear.
Regardless of motive, it’s good that these guys are getting caught now.
Another thought on this. Each of these weird guys has one specific weird thing that he does. Weiner with the internet. Cosby with the tranquilizer. Weinstein with the bathrobe and backrub. Halperin with you-know. These guys never try anything new, they never just mix it up. Weiner never tried the bathrobe approach. Cosby never asked for a backrub. Toback never used the internet. For perverts who are supposedly creative guys, it’s surprising that they never tried any new perverted thing.
A third thought: I feel bad for Mark HELPRIN, the author of Winter’s Tale and Memoir from Antproof Case. He is not Mark HALPERIN, the political reporter and pervert, but now people won’t buy his books. And some of his books are good.