Republicans howl for Weiner’s ouster, but historically refuse to hold their own rank and file to the same standards.
Pardon my language, but there’s something driving me absolutely up the fucking wall the last couple of days with regards to the Anthony Weiner debacle, and I just can’t keep my keyboard quiet about it anymore. It’s just that I am so goddamned sick and tired of Republican hypocrisy when it comes to something like this, and they need to be held accountable.
I’m talking, of course, about NY Congressman Anthony Weiner and the deep doo-doo he’s gotten himself into. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last two weeks, here’s a brief recap: Someone used Weiner’s Twitter account to post a link to a photo of a man in his skivvies, clearly showing the outline of his manhood, to the twitter feed of a 21 year old female college student in Seattle. The photo was quickly removed (but not before right wing bloggers managed to capture screen shots of the incriminating photo). Weiner insisted that his account had been hacked.
Inexplicably, Weiner could not confirm or deny that the photo was of him, which only fueled the controversy. Meanwhile, more photos emerged from more women’s social media accounts, until finally Weiner held a press conference on Monday and admitted that yes, the photos in question were his, that he had conducted “inappropriate,” sexually explicit online conversations with several women across the country, and that he did indeed accidentally post that photo of his junk to his twitter account before realizing his mistake and quickly removing it. This after he spent an entire week prior to Monday’s presser denying that he had anything to do with it, and that he was a victim of a prank. No big deal.
At no point did he ever have any physical contact with any of the women in question.
Anthony Weiner is a married man, having very recently wed a close aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. What Anthony Weiner did was COLOSSALLY stupid! It was stupid, juvenile, perverted, and just plain asinine. There is no excuse for it. He embarrassed himself, his wife, his constituents, his Congressional staff, the Democratic Party………In short, he’s an idiot! He’s going to have to deal with the personal consequences of his behavior, starting with his wife who is reportedly pregnant. He’s going to have to deal with the shame that goes along with such egregious douchebaggery.
But Anthony Weiner has done nothing illegal, or even necessarily wrong. Disgusting sure. Perhaps even morally repugnant depending on your point of view, but really the only people he’s hurt are himself and his wife. He hasn’t broken any laws, and to the best of our knowledge he hasn’t broken any House ethics rules (though that may change, as Nancy Pelosi has called for an investigation). And it’s here that the subject has driven my blood to boil.
There are some who are calling for Weiner to resign from Congress, and that’s fine. People are entitled to their own opinion, as long as that opinion has been consistently applied to other similar circumstances. The loudest voices, however, have been coming from the Republican side of the aisle. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) has called for Weiner to resign. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has demanded Weiner’s resignation. Right wing talking head after right wing talking head have insisted that he step down. But there’s only one problem: None of these individuals called for the resignations of Republican lawmakers who’ve done worse, and the talking heads unanimously flounder all over the airwaves attempting to reconcile their stance that it’s ok for Republicans to break the law; to actually, physically cheat on their wives, cover up affairs, etc. and yet remain in office, but Weiner deserves none of the same consideration.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow did a great piece to open her show the other night, enumerating several instances where a Republican member of Congress has done worse than what Weiner has done, and yet were allowed by their Republican colleagues to keep their jobs. It’s a double standard that she says tells us “It’s OK if you’re a Republican.”
Case in point: Republican Senator from Louisiana David Vitter. In 2007, Vitter’s phone number was found in the address book of the D.C. Madame, the woman who ran a prostitution ring and had several prominent clients, including Vitter. He later admitted that he had enjoyed the company of hookers both in Washington and back home in Louisiana, which correct me if I’m wrong, is still illegal.
Vitter is married with four children. He ran for office on a “family values” platform, espousing his religious virtue and his moral superiority. But Republicans circled the wagons around Vitter, protected him, and allowed him to win reelection to the Senate. No one on the Republican side called for Vitter’s resignation.
Because when a Republican does it, it’s okay.
Case #2: John Ensign, Republican Senator from Nevada. Ensign, who is married, conducted a lengthy affair with one of his staffers, who also happened to be married to his chief of staff. To make matters worse, Ensign arranged for a cushy job for his mistress’ teenage son, and once the affair became public, both his mistress and his chief of staff left his employ with a nice $96,000 payoff courtesy of Ensign’s parents. Topping it all off, Ensign then immediately facilitated a lobbying job for his former chief, which is against the law (Congressional staffers are forbidden from lobbying for one year after they leave their Congressional post). Ensign’s actions triggered a Senate ethics investigation that spanned the better part of two years, yet Ensign refused to step down, and was not pressured to do so by his Republican colleagues. In fact, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn played a prominent role in counseling Ensign, and allegedly helped to broker the payoff.
Ensign left office only after it had become clear that the Senate ethics committee had gathered enough evidence to make his expulsion from the Senate imminent, something that hasn’t happened since 1862. And oh-by-the-way, Ensign ran for office on a “family values” platform.
Because, you know, when it’s a Republican that does it, apparently it’s okay.
Case in point #3: Republican Senator Larry Craig from Idaho was arrested by Minneapolis police for allegedly soliciting homosexual sex in a men’s room at the Minneapolis airport (you remember the ‘ol case of the “wide stance” in the bathroom stall?). There were no calls from the right wing for him to resign, and to their credit, Idaho voters decided not to send him back to Washington in 2008. Craig was an anti-gay rights, family values Republican.
Case in point #4: Republican Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford. Sanford is the guy who told everyone he was on vacation “hiking the Appalachian Trail,” but he was really in Argentina visiting his mistress. Sanford too was married with children, and ran on a “family values” platform (do we sense a theme?). Despite the fact that he lied about his whereabouts, and the fact that he potentially committed fraud against the people of South Carolina, the former member of Congress was not forced to resign, and was not pressured to do so by his Republican contemporaries. He was allowed to remain in office and finish his term (due to term limits, he wasn’t able to run for reelection anyway).
After all, if a Republican does it, it’s no problemo. Completely forgivable.
Sure, there have been Democrats who’ve committed humiliating transgressions. But the difference here is that Democratic colleagues don’t play partisan politics, look the other way and pretend that nothing happened. And this case is no different; there is a smattering of Democratic lawmakers calling for Weiner to give it up. No one is stepping to Weiner’s defense, unlike what the Republicans have done.
The fact that there’s a cacophony starting to roar calling for Weiner to leave doesn’t necessarily bother me. But it infuriates me when a guy like Eric Cantor demands Weiner’s resignation, yet he flat refused to do the same when it was a Republican in this kind of a pickle. Worse pickles, even. It’s like he forgot that everything he says to the media is recorded for direct reference at a later date. And it really rankles me when Reince Priebus, the RNC Chair, insists that you really can’t compare the Vitter and Weiner situations, and one has nothing to do with the other. Weiner should resign, but he’s cool with the guy who frequented prostitutes while in office continuing to serve in the Senate. Because, after all, David Vitter is a Republican, and Anthony Weiner is not.
I like Anthony Weiner. He has been exactly the kind of firebrand that the Democratic Party has sorely lacked in the past. The guy is a fearless advocate for Progressive issues, and is not afraid to take on Republican hypocrisy anywhere he sees it. Yet just like everyone else, I’m disgusted by what he’s done. That doesn’t necessarily mean he should resign, though I’m not sure he shouldn’t. However, legally, ethically he’s done nothing wrong. He’s done nothing to directly impugn his ability to do his job. The damage he’s done is limited to himself and his wife (and the Clintons, but that’s another, very frightening story in and of itself).
Anthony Weiner has never run for office promoting his “superior family values.” He has never put himself out there as somehow more virtuous than everyone else like his Republican counterparts have. Anthony Weiner screwed up. Royally screwed up. But if he thinks he can weather the storm and come out a better man and a better representative in Congress, then that’s his prerogative. The man has broken no laws and has not to our knowledge committed ethics violations so severe that would get him disqualified from Congress like John Ensign did. And if David Vitter—WHO COMMITTED A CRIME!!!—is allowed to have his constituents decide his fate, there’s no reason not to afford Anthony Weiner the same courtesy.
Let the voters of New York decide if he’s fit to serve in office. Because honestly, if Vitter is still qualified to serve in the Senate, then Weiner is doubly qualified to serve in Congress. But then again, Vitter is a Republican, and Weiner is not. And it’s OK if a Republican does it, but not a Democrat.
Update: Rachel Maddow with yet another EXCELLENT piece chronicling the David Vitter/Republican hypocrisy. Pay particular attention to Reince Priebus’ comments to Fox News’ Gretta Van Susteren.