Anthony Weiner is a politician who had chatroom conversations with women. Also, he sent sexually loaded text messages to women. In both instances, he transmitted non-pornographic images of himself to them.
So why the hell should this guy resign from elected office?
This incident only goes to show the surface puritanism and moralistic ambiguity of American political culture. The fact that Weiner is married, and in first instance lied about his actions (as if they should be subject of media attention in the first place) is unfortunate for him. But calling on him to resign, as well as getting psychiatric treatment for his actions is absurd.
Marital infidelity is a common aspect of modern American life, and considering the amount of sex scandals that frequently rock DC, even more common in American politics. Yet at the moment that some politician is discovered, the flock descends upon him to decry his immorality and thereby confirm their own high moral standards. Note: this goes from Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi all the way to president Obama. The Democrats supposedly do this to prevent damage to the party, yet turn this into a self-fulfilling prophecy by going on about it. But the worst of all are their demands that Weiner should get psychiatric treatment because he is “sick”; sick for being horny.
At first, Weiner said that he made a mistake, which to me seems the correct thing to do and then move on. But, now he apparently goes along with the diagnosis of his psychological ailments, and is forced to go into therapy. What a ridiculous spectacle. I hope he stays put and refuses to resign.
Excuse me for asking, but why exactly should Anthony Weiner resign? He flirted with women in a crude, dorky and easily traceable way. And he lied about it, which is what married men usually do in such circumstances. Who cares? As far as we know, he violated no law or congressional ethics rule. There’s been no allegation of sexual harassment. It’s entirely possible that his constituents would reelect him if given the chance. So why is he being hounded from office?
The current line among talking heads is that he must resign because he’s hurting the Democratic Party, which no longer can focus public attention on the GOP’s efforts to cut Medicare. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. The main reason the Democrats no longer can focus public attention on the GOP’s efforts to cut Medicare, after all, is that talking heads would rather focus on Anthony Weiner’s pecs. If pundits are really so upset that Weiner is distracting attention from the nation’s budgetary dilemmas, perhaps they should start discussing the nation’s budgetary dilemmas and return Weiner’s seduction strategies to the obscurity they so richly deserve.
Other critics say Weiner has shown poor judgment in his private life, which casts doubt about the judgment he’ll show in public life. But there’s no necessary connection between the two. Bill Clinton was privately reckless and publicly cautious; with George W. Bush it was the reverse. And if critics are worried about what Weiner’s texting habits portend for his behavior in Congress, why don’t they look at his behavior in Congress? I think he’s been significantly less reckless than those Republicans who continue to try to deregulate every industry they can, even after such efforts nearly wrecked the Gulf of Mexico and the global financial system.
Truth be told, I don’t think the real reason pundits are baying for Weiner’s head has anything to do with his ability to be a good congressman. It’s more primal than that. We live in a kick-them-while-they’re-down culture. We love to see the powerful humiliated because it proves that they were no better than us to begin with. Yet we simultaneously imagine that because they’re powerful and famous, they don’t need the empathy that we’d desire were we in their stead. Instead of being moved by their suffering, we revel in it.
How many of the pundits mocking Weiner have marriages that could survive the kind of scrutiny they have been giving his? The realization that everyone’s private life is messy and flawed should produce humility and compassion. Instead, pundits enter the public arena as disembodied Olympian figures, entitled to render the harshest of verdicts, secure in the knowledge that no one will ever investigate their most intimate of domains.
Columnists and talk show hosts who obsess over trivialities such as Weinergate should be called out by their peers. And politicians asked about their consensual sex lives by journalists should say that they will answer on condition that the reporters and their editors answer the same questions about theirs. I hope Anthony Weiner figures out his private life; but even more, I hope he survives in public life. Someone needs to stand up to the media mobs that are making American politics both vicious and small. If he has the courage to do so, maybe others will follow.
Here’s Glenn Greenwald in a very well-written analysis of this preposterous “scandal”. Especially note how mainstream ‘serious’ journalists forgo their duties in scrutinizing government behaviour in favour of reporting about non-items such as this:
There are few things more sickening — or revealing — to behold than a D.C. sex scandal. Huge numbers of people prance around flamboyantly condemning behavior in which they themselves routinely engage. Media stars contrive all sorts of high-minded justifications for luxuriating in every last dirty detail, when nothing is more obvious than that their only real interest is vicarious titillation. Reporters who would never dare challenge powerful political figures who torture, illegally eavesdrop, wage illegal wars or feed at the trough of sleazy legalized bribery suddenly walk upright — like proud peacocks with their feathers extended — pretending to be hard-core adversarial journalists as they collectively kick a sexually humiliated figure stripped of all importance. The ritual is as nauseating as it is predictable.
This isn’t a case of illegal sex activity or gross hypocrisy (i.e., David Vitter, Larry Craig, Mark Foley (who built their careers on Family Values) or Eliot Spitzer (who viciously prosecuted trivial prostitution cases)). There’s no lying under oath (Clinton) or allegedly illegal payments (Ensign, Edwards). From what is known, none of the women claim harassment and Weiner didn’t even have actual sex with any of them.
I’d really like to know how many journalists, pundits and activist types clucking with righteous condemnation of Weiner would be comfortable having that standard applied to them. I strongly suspect the number is very small. Ever since the advent of Internet commerce, pornography — use of the Internet for sexual gratification, real or virtual — has has been, and continues to be, a huge business. Millions upon millions of people at some point do what Weiner did. I know that’s a shocking revelation that will cause many Good People to clutch their pearls in fragile Victorian horror, but it’s nonetheless true. It’s also true that marital infidelity is incredibly common.
And finally, here’s 10 stories that are more important than Weinergate (from greenhouse gas emissions to the War on Drugs to unitary executive power).