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Worse than Weiner

An article in ABC News points out the hypocrisy of how our political system deals with scandals. Representative Anthony Weiner has resigned, but what was strange about this whole episode was that both Democratic and Republican leaders immediately called for Weiner to resign. Nancy Pelosi has never called for a fellow Democrat to resign, until Weiner. Even President Obama said he should resign, which is pretty much unprecedented.

According to political historian Julian Zelizer “I can’t remember a comparable scandal when a president did that. … The irony of the Weiner situation is that there have been scandals when the leadership has been much more quiet in both parties.”

And Weiner didn’t even do anything illegal. In 2007, Representative William Jefferson of Louisiana was indicted on 16 federal counts, not to mention numerous ethics violations, but served out his term (he was later found guilty and sent to prison). But the Democratic leadership, including Pelosi, never told him to step down. And Representative Charles Rangel of New York was found guilty of violating eleven House ethics rules; the House censured him, but didn’t force him to resign.

And Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor called on Weiner to resign, even though they hypocritically didn’t do the same thing for Senator David Vitter (who solicited a prostitute, which is a crime) or for Senator John Ensign (who lied to the Federal Election Commission in order to cover up an affair with a former top aide).

So why did everyone jump on Weiner to resign? Maybe it had nothing to do with his sex scandal (even though there was no actual sex). Maybe it has more to do with his crusades against wrongdoing corporations.



  1. Laurie wrote:

    I think it has more to do with his last name… in two ways.

    > ‘Weiner’ lends itself to the sophomoric humor that Americans respond to so easily these days. Even the usually more staid talking heads appeared to have difficulty keeping straight faces when reporting on this story. Since humans love to giggle, the story stayed alive longer than it would have had his last name been, lets say… Vitter. Simply a matter of too much attention to an otherwise (sadly) typical event.

    > Mr. Weiner has stated that as a young man, he was teased mercilessly about his last name. In spite of the fact that he had ‘grown up’ & become a very successful member of society, he still carries emotional scars from those years of torment. I suspect, in the deepest recesses of his soul, he feels he is not worthy of that success.

    Unfortunately, most humans have these scars that they live with everyday. Some can maintain their integrity in spite of the pain & others find ways to self destruct.

    Oh, and…
    The (R) party screams much louder & longer than the (D)s when there might be some payoff for them.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  2. Patricia wrote:

    This was a convenient way to gey rid of a more vocal progressive voice — someone who didn’t always march in lock-step. Right now, I’m not sure that anyone who is not a corporate-mind clone can succeed (if you can really call it that!) in politics.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  3. Bard wrote:

    Agree wit Patricia. Just look at the popularity of Weiner’s rants on Youtube. He was an up and comer for the Democrats who wasn’t lock step with everyone else. If someone is going to be a rabble rouser, crush him when he’s small is the lesson.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink
  4. Rob wrote:

    I’ve followed this blog for a little while now (I think via StumbleUpon) but never commented.

    As far as Rep. Weiner is concerned, his being called upon to resign had nothing to do with the details of the scandal itself and everything to do with his lying about it. For a week or so. Sure, there are other examples of politicos lying without having to quit, but in Weiner’s case, his attack dog methodologies lose all credibility once he’s a known liar.

    He panicked and he made the wrong choice. If he had simply owned up – “Yes, that’s my picture and yes I sent it to that female student.” – he would still be in Congress today. The lying and cover up attempts are what sank his rising star. Too bad, probably. I don’t agree with his behaviour, though. Someone in his position should know better.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
  5. Bobbo wrote:

    Weiner was an embarrassment and had to go. Who in their right minds wants to be represented by a perv like that?

    How effective of a legislator would he have been in the future?

    Every one of the liberals called on Diaper Dave Vitter and Widestance Larry Craig to quit.

    Don’t be a hypocrite. Weiner had to go.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  6. Dave TN wrote:

    To answer your question Bobbo,Louisiana , Nevada , and South Carolina apparantly.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  7. Sammy wrote:

    And Bobbo, those same liberals called on Weiner to resign. What hypocrisy are you referring to?

    Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Permalink
  8. Jason Ray wrote:

    @Bobbo – actually, the majority of his constituents wanted him to stay. I do agree, however, he needed to resign for two reasons:

    1) As you say, under the circumstances and after the failed cover-up, there was no possibility that he would be an effective legislator. Lying about it and trying to get his supporters to cover for him before revealing the lie destroyed his credibility.

    2) The Democratic Party needed to stop having him as a distraction from the real problems of the country (and the Republicans) and resignation was the only way to make that happen.

    That said, he did not do anything illegal, and in fact his actions merely lewd, not perverted – and all of the recipients were consensual. If we had every Congressman resign who displayed lewd behavior (or had lost their credibility) I suspect you’d find the halls pretty empty on both sides – and who is the judge of what is over the line?

    As for the idea that the cry for his ouster was because of his crusades or his effectiveness, I can only say that my personal opinion is that the Republicans would have screamed for the resignation of any Democrat they think they can get, regardless of their effectiveness. The fact Wiener was a Democrat was at least as important (if not more so) than anything he was actually doing. And yes, the Republicans are hypocritical about how and who they choose to attack, but that’s not exactly a news bulletin.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 2:47 am | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    Jason, you’re missing the whole point! Why did he become such a distraction? Why did he get singled out, when there are plenty of examples of Representatives (and Senators) who did things that were actually illegal and also lied about it, but remained in office.

    Saying that the Dems needed to stop having him as a distraction is a terrible argument. So are you saying that any time the Republicans (and the media) jump on some Democrat unfairly, the Dems should just roll over and get rid of him? That’s exactly the kind of spinelessness that you have objected to in the past.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink
  10. Jason Ray wrote:

    IK – I am saying I don’t think he was singled out at all. I think with the current political climate, any Democrat that had that kind of front page news and lied about it would be attacked by the Republicans, lose their credibility, become ineffective, and that the Democratic Party leadership doesn’t want to let the Republicans use those kinds of smoke screens to obfuscate things that the Democrats can use to oust them – or use their energy defending something that can not help them regain control.

    So – I don’t think Weiner was singled out for any reason, I think he was just an opportunistic target.

    As for spinelessness and unfairness, I don’t think the criticism of Weiner is unfair. I don’t think his actual actions were that bad, but his very public lying about it was, and the fact that other politicians have gotten away with similar things is also a bad argument – they should all be pushed out.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    I will agree with you that when the sexting reports first surfaced, Weiner should have said the same thing that Dubya did when asked about his drug use (“that’s private and none of your business”). (How Dubya got away with that, when drug use is illegal, is beyond me). It was dumb of him to lie.

    But other than that, we disagree. I don’t think people’s sex lives should count for anything, unless they make it count by being hypocritical (i.e., anti-gay crusaders who turn out to be gay, or politicians like Gingrich who condemned Clinton while himself having an affair). I’m much more worried about people who purposely and repeatedly lie for political gain.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink
  12. Jason Ray wrote:

    IK – We don’t disagree about that (people’s sex lives shouldn’t count for anything). Again, I don’t think Weiner’s actual actions were that bad. And we CERTAINLY don’t disagree that those politicians that lie for political (or personal) gain are far, far worse and worrisome.

    Here is the core issue – is it OK for an elected representative to blatantly and repeatedly lie to their constituents and to the public at large? I say it’s not. And I don’t think the issue about which they are lying excuses them from lying, whether it’s personal peccadilloes or outright theft. The only “wiggle room”, I believe, that should be allowed is if the representative did not know they were lying – it is often the case that they are just quoting someone else without researching.

    Maybe you don’t agree with that position, IK, or maybe you do, but that’s the issue with Weiner – not his actions before the news broke, but his lying about it afterwards. And as an elected official once you have lost your credibility and support, it should be time to go.

    Monday, June 20, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink
  13. Iron Knee wrote:

    I think the problem with that view is that it is like loitering laws. You look at PolitiFact and pretty much every politician who has been checked has been caught in a “Pants on Fire” lie (yes, including Obama). I think the real problem is that we idiotic voters won’t vote for someone who doesn’t tell us exactly what we want to hear. So the rule against lying can only be selectively enforced. And that turns it into a political weapon, which is not a good thing.

    So I will say it again. I don’t think Weiner should have been forced to resign. In fact, I think the real problem was that he made too many powerful enemies because he told the truth.

    And I definitely don’t like the excuse of “I didn’t know I was lying because I was too lazy to check it out”. If that were allowed as an excuse then politicians would have carte blanche to lie, since the Supreme Court has already declared that the media (in that case Fox News) has the right to lie (even if they are lying on purpose).

    I do have a small solution to this (I’ve mentioned it before). If someone is caught in a lie, they should have to apologize publicly, in a similar venue to the one where they lied. So if they lie in a political ad, they should have to run another ad explaining the lie and apologizing for it. Doesn’t matter if they didn’t know — they can claim that in the apology, but they still have to apologize for being lazy.

    Monday, June 20, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink
  14. Dan wrote:

    The News media acted like a bunch of sith graders, but what can you expect, it’s all about ratings and making happen what the people who write their paycheck want to happen. Welcome to the Plutocracy.

    Monday, June 20, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  15. Iron Knee wrote:

    And apparently it doesn’t just work for the media, it works for political candidates as well. See

    So now there are actual incentives for politicians to lie (rather than just disincentives for them to tell the truth).

    Monday, June 20, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  16. starluna wrote:

    I think you all are correct. Weiner was a convenient target by the media because of his name and because of his reputation for his sometimes over-the-top speaking truth to power and because he was considered to be one of the more sophisticated users of social media in Congress. Republicans were going to attack him regardless because he is a Democrat and because they were one of his frequent and easiest targets. Democrats eat their own as a matter of course these days and was facilitated by the fact that he did lie publicly about it. But I am not convinced that if he had admitted that the tweets were his early on that the outcome have been different because he was an easy target, etc. and because the Democrats have a tendency to eat their own.

    I too support Weiner and wish he hadn’t given in to the pressure to resign. I do wish that he had come clean earlier and used his well honed wit to point out that others have done much worse and we have other things to deal with.

    Monday, June 20, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

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