June 06, 2011

The Unbearable Lightness of Weiner

“I don’t believe that I did anything that violates any law or any rule.”

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has finally come clean and admitted, albeit vaguely, that he engaged in what is commonly known as “sexting” for years, prior to and after his recent marriage, with multiple young women, apparently around the nation. In the furtherance of his “social intercourse,” Weiner sent multiple photographs of himself, including various body parts, to these women. However, unlike former Rep. Christopher Lee (R-NY), who was recently caught up in a similarly self-generated predicament, Weiner will not resign. Note his quote, which appeared on the June 6th edition of The O’Reilly Factor. While by the standards of DC sex scandals, Weiner’s serial transgressions are relatively tame, the situation does raise many interesting questions about not just Rep. Weiner, but us.

Just as they were anxious to defend and absolve Weiner of any and all guilt, many—including elements of the Lamestream Media—are equally anxious to put the affair behind them. Some have already observed that he did apologize and admit wrongdoing. He said that he took responsibility for his acts. Indeed, we all sin. We all behave foolishly from time to time. Americans do tend to be a forgiving people, particularly when those seeking forgiveness do so sincerely and with genuine contrition.

Unfortunately, Rep. Weiner, for more than a week, lied to the nation, his wife, his constituents and his Congressional colleagues. For more than a week, he not only attacked Andrew Brietbart, actually accusing him of nefarious deeds and lying, but he encouraged others—by his example--to do the same. As it turns out, Mr. Brietbart reported only the facts. Everything he reported has been proven true, and he actually withheld particularly damaging and sexually graphic photos that Rep. Weiner sent to women. Yes, he did apologize to Mr. Brietbart, but was it sincere? Did he show contrition? What responsibility, exactly, did he take?

Rep. Weiner apologized because he had no choice. The story expanded far beyond a single college girl in Seattle and a vague photograph of a semi-erect Congressional “member” in nondescript gray undies. It was going to expand—explosively--even further. Even ABC News was about to run an interview with one of the women involved. If Rep. Weiner admitted his wrongdoing and apologized as soon as the matter became public, he would have a reasonable claim to sincerity. So much for sincerity; how about contrition?

There is little doubt that Rep. Weiner feels sincerely badly that he was caught. Who wouldn’t have such feelings in his place? But his press conference seemed less an act of contrition than an act of justification and lawyerly weaseling around the rules and the Law. Rep. Weiner observed that he didn’t violate his oath to uphold the Constitution and that he didn’t violate any rule of the House of Representatives. What about the trust of the people? What about the trust of his colleagues? What about upholding the honor of the Institution? What about setting an example of rectitude and dignity for the nation and the world? As a member of the party of the President determined to make America liked and respected around the world above all else--even our relationships with our allies--doesn’t this sort of thing make American look just a bit smaller, less dignified and worthy of respect?

What responsibility did Rep. Weiner take? Is he planning to volunteer at the Nubile Twitter-Addicted Home For Easily Visually Stimulated Girls? Has he promised not to do it again, or to at least send pictures of himself in better taste? Former Rep. Christopher Lee actually took responsibility. He recognized the damage he did to the Institution, to those he loved, to those who supported him, to the public’s respect for Congressmen, and to his party, which lost his seat because of his lack of self-control. As far as we know, he engaged in a single incident rather than many incidents involving many women over several years. He resigned, and by so doing, limited the damage to everyone involved, and demonstrated real sincerity and contrition. He demonstrated that he understood that it really wasn’t all about him, that politics does not, cannot, take precedence over honor and genuine personal responsibility.

Some are also suggesting—as some will in such situations—that it’s all a matter of Rep. Weiner’s personal life, and as such, it’s not the public’s business. Bill and Hillary Clinton used this tactic with notable success on “60 Minutes,” and the public bought it. But Mr. Clinton, by himself, burned out a great many such tactics, tactics no longer available to politicians. Not, that is, unless character and sound judgment in our elected federal representatives matters not at all.

Without a doubt, there are many areas of a politician’s life that should always remain out of bounds. The sexual thoughts or private—as in within the walls of their own homes with their consenting spouse—behaviors of any of our representatives (or co-workers, for that matter) might well shock at least some portion of the population, but unless there is a clearly demonstrable harmful link between them and that person’s official actions, it really isn’t the business of the public. That is not the case here.

Wouldn’t any reasonably intelligent person know that putting multiple photographs of themselves and their body parts out on the Internet—over years—to women he did not really know, would inevitably be exposed? Imagine further that the reasonably intelligent person was a Congressman, and not just any one of hundreds of Congressman, but an abrasive mouthpiece used on a regular basis to attack anyone and anything opposing the Democrat agenda, an image regularly plastered across American TV screens. Wouldn’t that reasonably intelligent person understand that as a Congressman, his life and behavior were under a powerful and omnipresent microscope? Wouldn’t he understand that he not only would be held to a higher standard, but that he should be held to a higher standard? Or, like all too many politicians of all political affiliations, would he serve as yet another pedestrian, sordid proof of Lord Acton’s aphorism that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely?

Rep. Weiner’s judgment was, to put it kindly, faulty. There is also a kind of cruel irony in this situation in that he married, and not long ago, an aide to Hillary Clinton. She and Mrs. Clinton will certainly not lack for topics of mutual concern and sympathy in their future conversations. I bring this up not to be cruel, but to point out the wreckage Mr. Weiner’s actions has caused.

Rep. Weiner, like far too many before him, has trivialized the Congress, if such a thing is any longer possible. He has confirmed, if any confirmation was required, that a moral double standard exists. Republicans doing what he has done are through, and justly so. But it would appear that no one expects Democrats to behave with dignity and honor. I wish that were not true, for what it says about us all—not just Democrats—bodes ill for our survival as a people and a nation. I have little doubt that, like Charles Rangel and other Democrats before him, Rep. Weiner will be re-elected by his very liberal New York Congressional District. Most will not waste a second reflecting on what that says about them.

Absent new revelations, it does appear that Rep. Weiner did not violate the law or the rules of the House of Representatives, but that’s not the most important consideration. A mere lack of rule or law breaking are not what define us as individuals or as a nation. Ultimately, we all, Conservative and Liberal alike, might want to reflect on the perilous times that surround us, times that might very well see an end to the America and the American ideals so many have bled to build and maintain. And in reflecting on them, we might want to honestly ask, is Anthony Weiner—or anyone like him--the best we can do?

Posted by MikeM at June 6, 2011 09:47 PM

Actually, while the actual activities may not technically violate any laws or House rules, I think he defamed Breitbart. And, I think the defamation may well pass the higher standard required for public figures, because Rep. Weiner certainly knew he was not speaking the truth, and certainly acted with malicious intent.

Posted by: Tom J at June 7, 2011 12:32 AM

Moral double standard, eh? What about Mark Sanford?

Posted by: Erin O'Brien at June 7, 2011 02:02 PM

Dear Erin:

Thanks for commenting! I thought I made relatively plain in the article that I would expect anyone behaving this way, Republican or Democrat to do the right thing and resign. That some have not, over the years is unacceptable. I think we can both agree that recently, Republicans in this situation--Christopher Lee being the most recent and to the point example--have resigned, while Democrats such as Charlie Rangel, and to extend the example a bit, Timothy Geithner who actually broke the law on at least two occasions (actually, so did Rangel, didn't he?) did not resign. The double standard does indeed exist; the occasional exception does not invalidate its existence.

Indeed, when Republicans are in trouble--real or invented--the Legacy media rises up in righteous indignation. Democrats don't get the same treatment, and virtually never to the same degree. Again, the occasional exception doesn't invalidate the premise. Ask Juan Williams about that.

Posted by: Mike Mc at June 7, 2011 03:25 PM

Sanford, The Terminator, Ensign, Gingrich all cheated on their wives and are still in position or still running for office. Go ask them to resign first as they did the deeds first. After they resign, then ask Weiner to resign. Fair enough? No double standards.

Posted by: Lily at June 7, 2011 11:59 PM

Dear Lily:

Hi there and thanks for your comment, but I believe I've said just that, at least twice. But for the record, one more time, my points apply equally to any politician of any political party.

Posted by: Mike Mc at June 8, 2011 01:20 AM

"Indeed, when Republicans are in trouble--real or invented--the Legacy media rises up in righteous indignation. Democrats don't get the same treatment, and virtually never to the same degree."

Weinergate has been on the front page of CNN for days and he's made the ABC evening news at least twice. Sanford got similar treatment, but I don't think I can say the same for Ensign.

John Edwards got skewered by the press.

Now then, let's get personal. You boys have posted plenty on Weiner these past couple of days, but how much wind did you put into the Ensign or Sanford scandals?

Hm ....

Of course, why bother with these pesky questions? After all. I'm just another liberal in a persistent vegetative state.

Posted by: Erin O'Brien at June 8, 2011 04:40 AM

Dear Erin:

Thanks, as always, for commenting. It's great to have you! Erin, are you really saying that the Mainstream Media isn't biased to the left? Are you actually saying that it does not tend to go more easily on Democrats then Republicans? I'm not suggesting for a moment that they never report on liberals, or that they are biased to the left in all of their reporting and commentary, but when they are biased, it's always to the left. I'd be delighted to be shown examples of Mainstream Media right wing bias, if only for its novelty value. By the way, if you don't think the media is biased to the left, just Google "Obama Halo Photos." You'll be amazed, and I suspect, as appalled as I was with what you find.

Regarding John Edwards, as you may recall, the MSM avoided real reporting on his sexual indiscretions for as long as possible. It was in fact the National Enquirer that broke and followed the story until it was so blatant that the MSM could no longer ignore it. The blogosphere, of course, followed quite well all along. Why are they reporting on him now? Again, it's too big to ignore and his usefulness as a Democrat politician is gone.

Regarding the Ensign and Sanford scandals, I've only been blogging since last August, so I'm afraid I haven't reported much--if anything, on those scandals simply because my focus has been elsewhere as I've been getting up to steam, so to speak, but by all means, keep reading. You'll see no inconsistency based on party in my reporting or commentary on such matters. In fact, I recently took to task Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney for some of their idiotic comments.

As for mainstream media treatment of Ensign, I just goggled his name and for the first ten entries alone I found stories regarding his scandal by the NY Times, the LA Times, ABC News, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, so it would seem that the MSM did, in fact, report his difficulties pretty effectively.

We don't find your questions to be pesky at all, Erin. In fact, you're our favorite persistent vegetable in any state. :)

Posted by: Mike Mc at June 8, 2011 10:36 AM