The other shoe dropped for Rep. Anthony Weiner, who admitted Monday that he indeed is the man in the bulging-boxers photo, and that he had carried on online relationships with six women over the years. Strange, yes, but will it cost him his job? The Beast's top contributors weigh in on what the future looks like for the New York Democrat, and his tattered reputation.
We can't simply throw away leaders
By Michelle Goldberg
Being creepy is not a crime. Until recently, we’ve usually had a fig leaf of public interest to justify turning private indiscretion into public scandals. There were issues of hypocrisy, coverups, harassment, or illegality. Here, there’s none of that. Anthony Weiner had consensual sexual flirtations on the Internet. He was wildly reckless, but harmed no one but himself and his wife. Yes, he lied to the media, but who wouldn’t when confronted with questions about secret, humiliating vices? He’s come clean now. His apology was fulsome and sincere. He shouldn’t resign, and he doesn’t deserve the gleeful public shaming he’s now enduring.
I don’t particularly like Weiner. He deserves to be vilified for his cozy relationship with the hideously revanchist Zionist Organization of America, and for his record of bullying his staff. But this salacious virtual pile-on is grotesque. All of us have parts of our lives we wouldn’t want to own up to on national television. There used to be zones of privacy where people, even public people, could reveal those aspects of themselves. As those zones atrophy, as we live more and more of our lives in public, we’ll have to figure out different ways to deal with people’s strangeness and fallibility without simply throwing them away.
Seventeen months is a lifetime in politics
By Paul Begala
Perhaps the best crisis-management advice of all time came from Winston Churchill. "If you're going through hell," Churchill said, "keep on going."
Rep. Anthony Weiner needs to keep going. He has to find a way to move from the three-ring circus of the politico-media scandal machine and focus his attention on three concentric circles within which he must make amends. First, of course, he must somehow mend his marriage. That is between him and his amazing, accomplished wife. In his come-clean press conference, he seemed open to therapy. Whatever it takes, he needs to do.
The second circle is his congressional colleagues. There will be an Ethics Committee investigation. The congressman must be fully cooperative. So far no Republican congressman has been foolish enough to cast himself as the Ken Starr figure, prude, proud and prurient. Can it be that Republicans have finally learned not to interrupt your adversary when he is destroying himself?
The third circle centers on Brooklyn and part of Queens. Rep. Weiner works for the people of the 9th District of New York. He let them down when he lied to them. He has 17 months —a lifetime in politics—to repair the damage.
Any one of those three circles can be the place where Rep. Weiner's career dies. But can he survive this? Of course he can. David Vitter, the "family values" conservative Republican senator, found himself exposed as an alleged client of the D.C. madam. He was reelected in a landslide. (Full disclosure, I wrote a stump speech for his Democratic opponent.) Of course, the road more taken is resignation, (see Spitzer, Eliot), but if no new negative facts emerge, if the cyberrelationships were with consenting adults, if congressional property was not used, if Rep. Weiner can repair his frayed relationships at home, in Congress and in his district, he can survive.
That's a whole lot of "ifs" for one sentence—but it's the best chance Anthony Weiner has to keep going.
He's not going anywhere
By Michael Medved
The chief political impact of Weinergate (who ever expected this word would become part of our national vocabulary?) will be an increase in cynicism toward our political class in general and to discourage voters from participating in upcoming elections. With the economy teetering on the verge of the dreaded double-dip and the debt-ceiling deadline only weeks away, one of the more dynamic House liberals invests his time in photographing his private parts to send images to strangers. Along with recent headlines about Schwarzenegger, Edwards, Ensign, Strauss-Kahn and countless other self-destructive hound-dogs, the scandal may convince some voters that men can’t be trusted with positions of power, providing a potential boost to female candidates—who seem less prone to sexual shenanigans. The backlash may also provide a lift to Barack Obama and... Mitt Romney. Conservatives loathe the president, but the public respects him as a devoted husband and father, while the Romney family looks like an example of squeaky-clean marital rectitude offering a refreshing antidote to the unspeakable sleaze of Weiner World. Whether the congressman should resign his office counts as beside the point: It’s obvious that he won’t and his reflexively Democratic district will reelect him as long as he chooses to serve.
Yes, he did it. But look at what he didn't.
By Howard Kurtz
No politician resigns unless he has to. Anthony Weiner made the obvious move in waiting to see whether his Brooklyn constituents will forgive him.
What the congressman did was monumentally dumb, as he is the first to admit. He lied about having tweeted the original underwear photo to a 21-year-old student, again and again, on national television.
But let’s review what Weiner didn’t do. He didn’t, if he can now be believed, have an affair with any of the women he flirted with online. He didn’t send sexually explicit messages to underage House pages. He didn’t solicit sex in an airport men’s room. He didn’t pay high-priced call girls. He didn’t show up in the phone records of a D.C. madam. He didn’t carry on with the wife of his top congressional aide. He didn’t have a love child with his campaign videographer, or, for that matter, a member of his household staff. He didn’t disappear from government service with a tale about hiking the Appalachian Trail. He didn’t put his gay lover on the state payroll. He didn’t have sex with an intern who delivered the pizza. He didn’t have an affair with a House staffer while leading the impeachment drive against the president who had sex with the intern.
In short, some politicians have survived doing far worse things. Weiner may still have to quit for covering up his online stupidity. But then again, he may not.