Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has appropriately called for an ethics investigation. His mentor and predecessor, Senator Chuck Schumer has let Rep. Anthony Weiner deal with his own crisis management. The normally wooden Harry Reid dissed Weiner the hardest:
“I know Congressman Weiner,” Reid said. “I wish there was someway I could defend him but I can’t.”
Reid declined repeated questions about whether or not Weiner should resign. Reid again dodged when asked by TPM what he tell Weiner to do if he asked him.
“Call somebody else,” Reid said.
DCCC officials and a former DNC chair have called for Weiner to resign ASAP. About the only guy in House leadership who initially defended Weiner in this whole saga of lewd tweets had this to say June 3rd:
Rep. Weiner is definitely in some political trouble. What it seems like to me is that Weiner lied to everyone who would have his back after his mis-tweet (wtf) resulted in him being caught sex-ting while representing. Sources say that the Clintons are furious with Weiner for his behavior and exceedingly awkward attempts to cover up his behavior. Both Clintons are close to his wife Huma Abedin who is a long time aide (since the 1990’s) for Secretary Clinton. I would hope Bill is able to temper his anger with some humility borne of his own numerous public infidelities, ill-advised denials and fumbling admissions from his time as Governor of Arkansas, Presidential candidate and President. Secretary Clinton seems to be fully supportive of her aide while Abedin deals with her husbands extra-martial sexual exhibitionism. Also, Weiner seems to be without much political capital. (Unlike many members of congress, Weiner is not rolling the dough nor is he on the power committees).
Weiner’s wife is staying with him and expecting their first child. His constituents, overall, value his continued representation as polls show. He still has the mandate of the majority of the people who elected him to office. He can probably win some back over the remainder of his term. So despite assertions that sex-ting while married constitutes an irreparable violation of what the Atlantic’s Josh Green and now James Fallows call the “fiduciary duty” to staff and supporters or a loss of “respect of [his] constituents” (as asserted by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa)), the political career of Rep. Anthony Weiner is not dead yet.
Weiner’s behavior, however embarrassing, is not illegal nor did he neglect his professional duties (he didn’t go AWOL on his constituency like former SC Governor Mark Sanford or use illegal lobby connections to cover up his infidelities like former NV Senator John Ensign). Of course some heavy handed, tasteless political hacks have put out a web ad against Weiner and the RNC has sent fundraising e-mails lambasting Weiner and goading Democrats who have received money from Weiner’s campaign to turn the funds over to charity (some have complied). Representatives Dumping Weiner’s campaign contributions is a step that is too pious for my tastes. Did Weiner trade nude photos and sext women for those monies? Does the cash have cooties on it now? Have Rep. Eric Cantor and other Republicans unequivocally demanded the same of anyone who received money from Ensign, Schwarzaneger, Craig, Vitter, Foley or Sanford?
The real and unresolved issues with Weiner are three fold in my opinion:
- Referral for Prosecution: If the results of ethics investigation result in a referral to the Department of Justice if the panel reveals him to have broken the law (which seems very unlikely)
- Unintentional Sexual Harassment Allegations: If in the process of sexting from his capital hill office or community office he unintentionally sexual harassed his staff or House staff (say they witnessed him engaging in said activities or had access to his online accounts and saw certain messages) then that could result in real damages being sought.
- House Ethics Rules violation: The House rules do allow for some sort of reprimand or censure based upon decorum not fitting of a member of congress, so some sort of penalty will be added to his record.
The 1st seems unlikely in my opinion. The second, who knows. The last seems to be very likely.
On the left, disappointingly, reactionary behavior has ruled the day.
Cenk Uygur was on MSNBC yesterday proposing that Democrats should follow his 3 step “Fight Back” plan for crisis management:
- defend (protect Rep. Weiner at all costs),
- attack (eg they should have jumped on the John Ensign or Larry Craig scandals and demanded immediate resignation), and
- counter attack (say look, his was illegal and point at Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) still holding office).
This is a generally a bad strategy when someone actually did something wrong all by their lonesome. Anthony Weiner’s a grown man who made some very personal adult mistakes. He can defend himself even though he shouldn’t. He appropriately (finally) came clean and apologized to everyone publicly. His behavior is indefensible, but it is not unforgivable.
Democrats who are quick to demand Weiner’s resignation are foolishly setting a harsh precedent when it comes to scandals. People don’t usually demand the janitor, travelling salesperson, engineer or accountant who’ve been caught cheating on their spouse to resign. In addition, Democrats have learned nothing from Gary Hart, Bill Clinton and others: the best guy for your politics may not be the best guy to his wife. I would definitely bet there are some more folks in their caucus who may be cheating on their spouses or engaging in sexual behavior that is embarrassing when brought to light. Pro golfer Tiger Wood’s mistresses and Weiner’s sexting counterparts Megan Broussard and Lisa Weiss prove that it doesn’t take much to get an ex-lover to open up and tell their side of the story complete with the artifacts (clothing, emails, images and texts) of their dalliances. There will probably be more humans who happen to be members of congress who get caught in perfectly legal, lewd and adulterous behavior. It may not be so convenient for them to cast aside more prominent members of their caucus the next time a scandal arises, but now they will be judged as hypocrites if they do not react to future scandals in the same way. If Weiner weathers this, which I believe he will, and stays out of trouble (time will tell) will Rep. Schwartz never work with him again because she thinks he should have resigned?
Censured Rep. Charlie Rangel is the only Dem to publicly rebuf calls from Democrats and Republicans for Weiner to resign. I guess you got the friends you got.
On Monday, Weiner returns to the Hill and some of the circus will return with him. At least he will have no illusions about who his allies really are. Instead of currying favor with members of his caucus who are quick to discard him, he can focus on the people who still support him: his wife, his family, his constituency and his staffers. He has three down and one to go: don’t quit, say sorry, come clean and work hard.
UPDATED: Beginning a private social conversation with a 17 year old girl is completely out of bounds. Weiner is taking a leave of absence.It seems he didn’t truly come clean at his last presser so each time he holds a presser and more info comes out, the less people will trust him.