Anthony Weiner, Anti-Hero

June 13, 2011 11:00 a.m.

For years I’ve made it a habit not to say people should resign their offices or not resign their offices. Not because it’s a line I don’t want to cross but because really at a basic level I don’t care. It’s just not on my menu of my concerns. But at this point, I think I need to make a confession: I don’t want Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to resign.

There, I said it. It’s off my chest.Quite a few readers have written in saying that Weiner is a strong or perhaps rather an aggressive voice for the Democratic policy agenda and it’s not worth losing him over something relatively trivial like a sex scandal. I guess I get that. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with my thinking on this.

Others make a distinct point. Christian conservative Sen. David Vitter was revealed to be a serial user of prostitutes and he wasn’t forced to resign and he’s still in office. And sure that’s true. And similar arguments could be made about a lot of other sex scandal survivors. But c’mon, there’s no equal protection clause for male politicians with poor impulse control. It is what it is.

On another front, Peter Beinart has a column I liked in the Daily Beast this morning saying that Weiner shouldn’t resign because the bum’s rush he’s getting out of Congress is based on an outdated rulebook of sexual etiquette. Basically, unless coercion or harassment or some other clear kind of lawbreaking is involved it’s really nobody’s business and everybody should just shut up. In a lot of ways I agree with that. But that’s not really why I feel this way either.

And it’s not like I disagree with Pelosi et al.’s political judgment. Yes, the Weiner story embarrasses his caucus and every day they’re talking about his latest pictures takes them away from talking about Republican plans to end Medicare. And more from that they can’t really know what’s coming next and they don’t want that hanging over them. Yep, I get that. Too true. But luckily that’s not my problem. So it doesn’t really matter for my calculation.

And beside all this I don’t want anyone to think I’m a scold. We’ve hardly ignored the Weiner story. We’ve written a bunch of pieces about it. And I’ll even share with you a guidance memo I wrote to our staff back on June 6th about how I wanted to approach it, once the story really started to heat up …

Obviously this is a story. And in some ways a great story. And we want to keep our readers up on every detail of whether he’s going to resign, what factual claims he makes, etc. But key to all of our coverage of every story like this that we’ve ever been on is this. We cover the story, cover every last detail without ever losing site of the fact or letting our readers lose site of the fact that this is fundamentally a moronic story. There’s no deeper issues. No broader anything it gets to. This is a congressman with serious impulse control who’s sending muscle shot and maybe penis shot pictures to women on the internet.

It’s just part and parcel of the ridiculousness of politics and public life in America. We can cover every part of it and not ever lose site of that basic fact. Which a lot of people will.

And that’s kind of where I still am. I don’t have any real brief for Rep. Weiner. I didn’t really have strong feelings one way or another about him before this erupted, though I did find him entertaining. He certainly has some serious impulse control issues and he’s just reckless sending these possibly career-ending pictures to perfect strangers over the Internet. And he’s hurt his wife and possibly his unborn child through his recklessness — but that’s his and his wife’s business. Not mine.

But c’mon. At heart it’s still a BS story. I see a Member of Congress who’s totally embarrassed himself. But as I tried to make clear to staff last week it’s hardly a federal case. And his own constituents seem clear that they don’t want him to resign. So somehow the apparently unprecedented simultaneous demands for his resignation from the Minority Leader (Pelosi), the head of the DNC (Wasserman-Schultz) and the head of the House campaign committee (Israel) just strikes me as a degree of pomposity and over-serious high dudgeon that has somehow managed the improbable effect of making his dogged desire to hold on to his office in the face of seemingly daily humiliation look better to me than their stern-minded and ‘oh please!’ inducing calls for him to cough it up.

So I’m not pro-Weiner but I’m definitely increasingly anti-resignation caller.

And I say this with full realization that today or tomorrow or a month from now something dramatically new may emerge that forces me to change my take on this and even feel a bit chagrined about sticking my neck out. But I’m not a time traveler. And based on what I know now, that’s what I think.

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