By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
The reasons for him to resign were loud and strong. And we remember them well…
We expect better from our elected officials. It’s a matter of character. He’s a bad role model for our children. If he can’t be trusted to keep his wedding vows, what else can he be trusted with? He lied. He betrayed those who voted for him. And the Democratic Party will never get anything done as long as he’s in office.
Sound familiar? They should. Because those were the arguments shouted out by Republicans, and some Democrats, for Bill Clinton to resign as soon as the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, back in January 1998. And they’re the very same arguments we hear today, demanding the resignation of Congressman Anthony Weiner.
They’re loud. They’re strong. And they’re wrong. Wrong then, and wrong now. Clinton was right not to resign. And today he’s more effective, and more highly respected, than ever before.
Which is not to defend Weiner’s sexting and sending lewd or nude photos over the Internet to six different women he’d only met online. It’s everything you want to call it: inappropriate, disgusting, immature, bizarre, and shockingly stupid for so smart a man. But one thing it was not. Unlike Clinton’s lying under oath, or David Vitter’s hiring of prostitutes, or John Ensign’s lining up lobbyists for his lover’s husband, Weiner’s transgressions were not illegal. Phone sex may be a strange hobby for a married man — why not just go bowling? — but it’s not against the law.
Until the congressional ethics investigation, immediately demanded by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, is completed, we also won’t know whether Weiner used a government BlackBerry or computer to reach his online girlfriends or made calls from his office phone. Even so, the result would be an official reprimand or fine, not expulsion from the House.
Weiner’s not the first, of course. He’s but the latest in a long line of politically powerful men — notice, only men! — brought down by a sex scandal. Think John Edwards and Chris Lee. And he validates the feminists’ theory that all men think with their penis instead of their brain. That’s especially true of men in political, sports, celebrity, or corporate power — think Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn — who believe they can do anything and get away with it by lying.
The wall-to-wall coverage of Weiner’s Internet compulsion also underscores the media’s neurotic obsession with sex. If Weiner were caught taking a million-dollar bribe from an insurance company, it would have been a one-day story at best. Yet, unlike Europe or Asia, America’s media pay little attention to financial misdeeds, yet can never get enough of sexual hanky-panky.
Meanwhile, reaction to “Weinergate” by members of both parties has been both predictable and disappointing. Republicans, of course — ecstatic that, for once, it’s not one of their own caught with his pants down — have responded with transparent indignation. They demand that Weiner step down immediately: a punishment they somehow never deemed necessary for Henry Hyde, Dan Burton, Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, Larry Craig, Mark Sanford, or David Vitter.
At the same time, Democrats — fearful that Weiner makes all liberals look uncontrollably horny — have been too quick to throw him under the bus. They make the mistake of thinking that average Americans care as much about this issue as cable television producers. When, in fact, most people are more interested in saving or finding a job than whatever Weiner did while his wife wasn’t looking.
Leaders of both parties forget that, in the end, they have nothing to do with whether Weiner stays or goes. His constituents are the ones who sent him to Washington — and they’ll be the ones who ultimately decide whether he keeps his job or not. In the end, as the New York Post so appropriately put it, “Erections Have Consequences.”
In Brooklyn and Queens, November 2012, voters will once again be offered a choice: between a man who fights for all the issues they care about, but happens to have a zipper problem; and a man who’s pure as the driven snow, but willingly wallows in bed with oil and tobacco lobbyists.
The choice is clear. Whatever his personal failings, Anthony Weiner has been one of the bravest, strongest, and most effective members of Congress ever. If he runs for re-election, he’ll be easily re-elected.
© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.