Weiner-mania has taken the media by the…uh…horns for the past week. I reserved judgment on whether Congressman Weiner should resign until further details surfaced. After weeding through the details of this scandal I have come to the conclusion that I really cannot say whether Anthony Weiner should step down.
From a moral and ethical point of view this man should go. If I were advising Congressman Weiner I would most certainly tell him to excuse himself from public service and apologize for disgracing his family, his name and the office he was fortunate enough to have held. Then I would instruct him to disappear from the political scene.
Obviously Congressman Weiner has his own moral code that he lives by, but the question now is not whether what he did was right or wrong, but whether he should be required to step down? In order to answer this political and legal question I find myself examining past scandals. The two incidents that come to mind are the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the ethics trial of New York Congressman Charlie Rangel.
Bill Clinton served as President from 1993-2001, and began a sexual relationship with an intern by the name Monica Lewinsky in 1995, according to audiotapes secretly recorded by Linda Tripp. In early 1998 the scandal broke and several news organizations reported the sexual relationship between Lewinsky and Clinton. Clinton denied having an affair stating the now infamous and often repeated “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
While Clinton initially denied these allegations he was later confronted with stained blue dresses, audio recordings, more mistresses, and graphic stories involving cigars. Likewise Anthony Weiner came out swinging, saying his computer was hacked and vehemently denying that he took or posted the lewd photos. Since his initial denial the Congressman has been caught in a very tangled web of lies and deceit.
You can’t help but draw comparisons between Weiner and Clinton, but there is an important and obvious difference between the two. Bill Clinton had physical contact of a sexual nature with an intern in the Oval Office of the White House. This man (Bill Clinton) held the highest office in the United States yet he received sexual favors in one of the most historic rooms in the White House. Despite the many women and embarrassing details Bill Clinton remained the President of the United States of America. If he was able to keep the honor bestowed upon him, how can I possibly say Anthony Weiner should be forced to step down for producing and sending explicit photos to consenting adults?
Is Weiner a pervert? Yes. Should he have to resign from political office for being a pervert? Apparently it depends on the situation.
So it appears the Democrats won’t oust Weiner for his appalling sexual conduct, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t use a different form of pressure. This week House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether Weiner violated any of the chamber's rules. Hearing Pelosi sound the alarm for possible ethics violations makes me want to laugh out loud due to the ongoing and widespread violations by members from both political parties that fore the most part go unanswered (as evidenced in the Charlie Rangel scandal).
The House Ethics Committee brought 13 serious charges against Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York.
See the list of charges in its entirety here.
The panel found that among other things Rangel had improperly used congressional resources to solicit donations to the Charles Rangel Center for Public Policy at City College of New York. He had also solicited donations from businesses with interests before the Ways and Means Committee, leaving the impression that money could influence official actions. Rangel also failed to list at least $600,000 in assets in a series of wealth disclosure forms, and failed to report cash earned by renting out his Dominican Republic beach villa as income.
In the end Rangel received a large helping of humiliation and a letter of reprimand. Again when I compare Rangel’s numerous and serious abuses to Weiner I am at a loss. Weiner reportedly used congressional phones to conduct inappropriate conversations with numerous women. He also allegedly sent lewd photos of himself while on the public’s dime using government owned computers.
According news reports, House members have taken the drastic action of kicking out one of their own only a handful of times in US history – most often for disloyalty to the US government or violation of criminal law.
The bar for tolerance when it comes to politicians is too lax. They are clearly held to a different standard that you, me, teachers and nearly every other hardworking, taxpaying American. If I were a judge forced to pass judgment on whether or not Anthony Weiner should resign I would first look to case precedent. Where has the tolerance bar been set in the past? After refreshing my memory of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and the Charlie Rangel incident I have to give the edge to Anthony Weiner – morally corrupt politicians, not just Clinton and Rangel, have given him a fighting chance.
To reiterate I am in no way condoning what Anthony Weiner did, but when I compare his behavior to other bad political apples I can understand why the Congressman chose to try and weather the storm. On the bright side for Congressman Weiner should he ultimately decide to step down he may have a shot at becoming the spokesman for Oscar Meyer.
(Sorry, but there has to be at least one joke about the name.)