As the New York Post said yesterday, “erections have consequences.”
Unless you have been living under a rock for a fortnight, you understand that nobody in the country had a Memorial Day weekend quite like New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. Shortly before the holiday, social media went all atwitter after a photograph of an erect penis shrouded in boxer briefs was disseminated to all who follow the congressman on Twitter. Just as quickly as it exploded across the Internet, the post was deleted. Shortly after that, Weiner claimed he was the victim of a hacking (a crime, by the way, especially when it is a sitting congressman’s account being hacked), only to later backtrack further and say that he was “pranked,” and that he could not “with certitude” say that the photograph was not of his package.
Over the next week-and-a-half, Weiner went on the offensive, lashing out at reporters–he called one television reporter a “jackass”–and even blaming the purported hacking on conservative media mogul Andrew Breitbart. It was only after Breitbart produced several other photos sent out by the congressman to various women showing quite clearly his bare chest and other poses that Weiner finally explained to reporters yesterday afternoon that yes, it was his penis, and that not only did he sent a photo of it to a college co-ed in Seattle, but that he had engaged in several inappropriate conversations with a half-dozen other women that he met online.
So, as erections have consequences, Weiner resigned, right? Wrong. And, personally, I’m kind of glad he didn’t. In fact, I can think of a number of reasons why Anthony Weiner should stay put.
The Media Double-Standard. You and I both know that when it comes to the misgivings and misdoings of Democrats and Republicans–or, really, any aspect of national politics in general–the mainstream media has a tendency of picking sides. A few examples:
- It took major newspapers more than a year to run a story on how former vice presidential and presidential candidate John Edwards, a Democrat, was cheating on his cancer-stricken, America’s sweetheart-type wife with a campaign worker, fathered a love child with that campaign worker, and misappropriated campaign funds to keep the whole endeavor quiet — and yet Mark Sanford, the quirky conservative Republican former governor of South Carolina, was met at the airport after flying to Argentina to visit with his mistress.
- John Ensign, the former Republican senator from Nevada, was urged to step down after news of his extramarital affair surfaced, while former New York governor and rising Democratic Party star Eliot Spitzer has his own television show on CNN after having been caught with a high-priced call girl and exposed as a regular client.
- Former New Jersey Governor and–surprise!!–gay American Jim McGreevey was urged by some to stay in Trenton, while Republican Sen. Larry Craig was pressured to resign after a lewd episode in a Minneapolis airport bathroom.
- Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can offer a simple apology after saying that candidate Barack Obama’s race–specifically that he was “light-skinned” and that he spoke with “no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one”– but former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was forced to step down as majority leader after flattering an aging senator at the late Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party.
In the matter at hand, only a few months ago we watched the mainstream media explode after another congressman from New York, Republican Chris Lee, was caught sending shirtless photos of his six-pack abs to a woman on Craigslist. Lee did not lie about it. Lee did not lash out at reporters. Chris Lee admitted that he did wrong, and stepped down so as to focus on smoothing things out with his family. What Anthony Weiner did was decidedly worse, in both content–Andrew Breitbart claims to have a “full monty” shot that Weiner sent to another woman–and conduct, and yet his treatment by the press has been jocular at best. Especially considering that so many reporters and anchors immediately gave him the benefit of the doubt, not even reporting in any depth on the scandal until after the Memorial Day holiday.
Even considering how much fun the press is having with “Weinergate,” it could be worse. If it was a Republican member in the same position–or, better yet, a Republican member named “Johnson”–the media would absolutely savage him. The cries of hypocrisy would be worse than if Rick Santorum were caught with a black prostitute. The jokes and double-entendres would be worse than if Mitt Romney were photographed fondling a stripper … with a baseball glove. Here, Weiner is certainly not getting off easily, but in the media’s eyes, the lasting damage is underwhelming.
Credibility, Or Lack Thereof. More often than I can count, I have counseled clients that credibility is extremely difficult to establish, but astonishingly easy to squander. Furthermore, as a guy who runs a blog, I am all too aware of credibility’s natural ebb and flow. It is because of the very nature of credibility, especially when dealing within the confines of national politics under the spotlight of 24-hour cable news, that I hope Anthony Weiner sticks around.
Look at that interview again with Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier. I believe that most Americans who had been paying attention up until that point knew and understood that the congressman was full of you-know-what, but it’s something else to see his arrogance and obfuscation after watching his confession a few days later.
It should be incredibly apparent that, from this day forward, one of the most outspoken, aggressive and brash young Democrats–I used to refer to him as “the new Rahm Emanuel” because of his frosty demeanor in interviews and speeches–has absolutely zero credibility on anything. If he stands up and makes the president’s argument on Medicare, for example, that argument is the lesser for his input. He is a black hole of credibility for the Democratic Party on every issue on which he weighs in, and for that reason I hope he’s around for another twenty years.
Family Values Perspective. It’s no secret that this election cycle is about the economy. You’ve read, time and time again, about how I feel that the GOP needs to shelve social issues in favor of focusing on and explaining to the American people how our current fiscal situation could spell disaster for our American way of life, but that doesn’t mean that social issues are not important. What Anthony Weiner does is stand as a walking, talking antithesis of the Family Values politician, and he ensures that a whole segment of America who might look at a Rick Santorum and roll their eyes when he starts getting preachy looks at Weiner as the alternative.
By allowing this man, an overt liar, to stand in his position after engaging for years in inappropriate contact with women whom he’s not even sure are 18 years old, the Democratic Party as a whole does damage to itself to even mildly permissive independents, people otherwise turned off by the preachiness of the social right.
Fun, Fun, Fun. Having lived up in the northeast, there is nothing quite like election year when it comes to amusing campaign ads. The ones from New Jersey were always the worst, and I can assume that New York campaigns are no less dirty. Should Weiner’s ego allow him to remain in his seat, and should he run for re-election, the advertisements themselves are enough to hope that he stays.
“Hi, I’m Johnny So-And-So,” one advertisement might go. “If Anthony Weiner has been your congressman for more than four hours, please consult a Republican.”
The possibilities are endless. The benefits are many. I hope that he stays.