Debate Forum Topic, 6/14/11

Weiner’s wiener: Too big to fail?

By Lisa Benson

Congressman Anthony Weiner has admitted that he has sent scores of inappropriate pictures to women that were following the congressman on his Twitter account, and the calls for his resignation are spurting in from all corners. Although some Republican leaders are suggesting that Weiner resign his office, Democrats are even harder cocked and ready to blow Weiner out of office. After defending him for almost a week, members of his own party are embarrassed, feeling betrayed and ready to poke him out.

At this moment, Weiner, who was recently married to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top assistant, Huma Abedin (who is pregnant with Weiner’s child), is still insisting he broke no laws or rules of the House of Representatives. He is, however, finally considering resignation. Weiner’s pulling out of the congressional arena hints that although he may have broken no laws, he acknowledges he is no Bill Clinton and a viral uncensored photo, unlike a dress late to the dry cleaners, is perhaps too heavy a weight for a political chair to support.

He spoke emotionally at a revealing press conference where he admitted sending the lewd pictures saying this was a personal problem between him and his wife. He failed to mention the slew of college co-eds, TMZ, Huffington Post, et al, all of which where ravaged by Weiner’s conduct and most of which contributed to the digital orgy of speculation surrounding his bulging boxer briefs and if, in fact, the 17-year-old saw it. Weiner did, however, erect a firm position to the press and the listening audience that he was sorry for his boorish behavior but despite how badly he had acted, he could not allow it to affect the hard work he was doing for his Brooklyn constituents. In one of the more surreal moments of the press conference, the New Yorker downplayed his phone sex and salacious sexting with female strangers as, “You know, almost a frivolous exchange among friends.”  The flaccid reaction of said Brooklyn constituents is perhaps what drove him to seek professional help for issues involving this “swelling controversy that has cast a lengthy shadow over [Weiner], stretching the fabric of our national discourse and throbbing like a …” as Stephen Colbert so eloquently related.

Recent years are engorged with instances where elected officials have been able to “ride out” a sex scandal and keep their post. There is a school of thought that it’s a mistake for a politician caught with his pants down to resign. For a few days the 24-hour news cycle will chew up and spit out the offending politician. It’s not that the scandal disappears, but other news stories begin to overtake it and the press begins to spend less and less time on the old news. President Bill Clinton and Sen. David Vitter both held onto office even after their exposed indiscretions became front-page news. Weiner’s early strategy seems to be hunker down and let the media storm pass.  However, many journalists have already begun to refer to this particular scandal as “Weinergate.”

It might not be that simple. While he represents a fairly safe democratic seat and would probably easily win re-election, Weiners’ lifetime ambition has been to penetrate the office of the mayor of New York City. He has used his bully pulpit as a liberal, Republican-bashing congressman to prepare for his run for mayor. That’s no longer a very strong possibility under the present cloud that Weiner finds himself.  There is also the possibility that one of the two New York congressional seats that will vanish this year as a result of redistricting, could be the seat now held by Weiner.

If he refuses to resign from Congress, his democratic friends might decide it’s easier to draw the new district without Weiner than to spend the next election cycle listening to Weiner jokes. Fear that the Republicans will use the scandal as an issue makes Congressman Weiner a man without many friends in the inside-the-beltway crowd. President Truman once remarked that if you are looking for a friend in Washington, you’d better get a dog. Anthony Weiner might be well-served by that advice.

In light of recent revelations, should Congressman Anthony Weiner resign, or keep his post?


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