Note: Blog post written prior to Rep. Anthony Weiner’s June 16, 2011 resignation from the U.S. Congress.
It’s been a little over week since a tweeted photo of Rep. Anthony Weiner‘s (New York, 9th Dist.) penis became a news and media sensation. Subsequent photos of Weiner shirtless, flexing his pecs close-up and in the Congressional locker room has popped up as well. Some members of Congress, the media and the general public have asked him to resign, but Weiner has been steadfast in holding onto his seat.
The hysteria over the photos has been ridiculous, though he brought it on himself by posting the photos and then lying about it. However, I still believe he should resign. Not because of the photos, which I found to be more laughable and slightly narcissistic than lewd. He should resign because he is no longer an effective representative for his constituents or the Democratic Party.
Yet, I understand why he has not resigned. Weiner is probably thinking ‘Well, I haven’t spent time with prostitutes (Sen.Barney Frank, Sen. David Vitter, Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer); hit on underage Congressional pages (Rep. Mark Foley); tried to pick up an undercover male cop in an airport bathroom (Sen. Larry Craig); left my wife to go hitchhiking with my Argentinian mistress (Gov. Mark Sanford); cheated on my cancer-ridden wife with a campaign worker whom I knocked up (Former Sen. John Edwards); had an affair with my political treasurer who was the wife of my administrative assistant (Sen. John Ensign) or fathered a 10-year old lovechild with my housekeeper while I was governor of California (Arnold Schwarzenegger) or left ejaculation on an intern’s dress (Former U.S. President Bill Clinton). Hell, I just sent some photos which was a HUGE mistake!’
Though America has come a long way in redefining what it deems to be immoral, it’s puritanical streak still exists. In Europe, Weiner’s transgression would’ve moved to the backpages of most newspapers by now with a nod and wink to his silliness and that would’ve been it. However in the U.S. he is fighting to keep his job and his marriage.
The Weiner scandal is an example of the fact that many of us live a different life online. We say and do things online that we probably wouldn’t do face-to-face. When you’re online it can cause you not to filter things as well as you would in-person. The Internet makes it so easy to type, point, click and send anything to anyone. As a result, you sometimes forget to think ‘Should I have done that?’ or ‘What would person X think about that?’ By the time you wonder about your online action–if ever–it’s too late. Information such as a Facebook photo posted by a friend of your drunken wife at a strip club, your ex texting a naked photo of you to her friends and neighbors or a tweet in which you called your boss a dick is out there for all to find, read and see. You can never take it back.
Yet the question remains – Is what Weiner did so wrong? He showed an extreme lack of judgement in using his work-related social media accounts to send photos of himself to women who weren’t his wife. He also showed his technological cluelessness in not understanding the online ramifications for his postings. That’s it in a nutshell. The wrongfulness of his actions will be decided by his wife, Huma Abedin, not the general public or Congress since Weiner embarrassed himself and humiliated her with his quasi-adulterous online life.
Weiner should resign because he will no longer be taken seriously by his colleagues, the public or the people he represents. Whenever he opens his mouth to speak on anything his online photos will be mentioned over and over again. Whenever he attempts to take the high moral ground on anything he will have to deal with questions regarding his own morality. Whenever he runs for election candidate X will throw his photos in his political face and everything else will be drowned out. He will, in effect be neutered, pun intended.
All that being said, there is a possibility that he could hold onto his job, but at what cost? He will be a shadow of his former political self. Maybe that is the ultimate and real reason why he should resign.
I have been watching CNN’s ‘In the Arena‘ the past few weeks just to take a look at Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. I didn’t watch the show in its previous incarnation ‘Parker & Spitzer‘ which never made much sense to me. CNN hired Spitzer because of his take-no-prisoners attitude then showed its fear (aka potential loss of advertiser dollars and the female audience) by adding Washington Post Columnist Kathleen Parker to soften him up. Watching those two banter was like witnessing one of those horrible, awkwardly scripted conversations you normally see while watching the Academy Awards. ‘Parker & Spitzer’ was a painful, eye scrape-inducing endeavor, therefore I chose not to watch it. Thank goodness CNN saw the error in its logic and shuttled Parker off into ‘media-fail’ outer space. I felt a tad sorry for her, but that’s life in the big city, especially when you’re dealing with the Spitzer.
My reasons for not watching ‘Parker & Spitzer’ were definitely different than most people. Potential viewers boycotted the show because they thought Spitzer was/is an immoral, adulterous asshole. Spitzer has never claimed not to be any of these things. Yes, he enjoyed kicking ass and taking names on behalf of the state of New York as Attorney General then Governor. Yes, he cheated on his wife with a prostitute. Yes, he showed an amazing lack of judgment which led to him resigning his governorship. Yes, he is like a heat-seeking missile when it comes to the limelight. But these are traits and actions he has never tried to hide post-being-caught-with-his-pants-down. He obviously believes that he still has much to contribute to the political and legal conversation, that his career and life are not over because of his transgressions, which is why I watch his show. He’s an asshole, but he’s smart, savvy and a fighter.
He deserves kudos for not laying down or walking away with his dick between his legs. Most people would never have been able to recover from such a public humiliation and supposed career downfall. Yet he found his way back, career-wise. And somehow him and his wife have made amends, so to speak, with each other and moved on. If his wife can do this, then who are we, the general public, to condemn him to pushing boulders uphill like Sisyphus or living in perpetual shame like his philanderer-in-arms, Former 2004 Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate John Edwards. Spitzer does not act like someone who has been permanently shamed and that is why some people just can’t stand him.
I am not justifying the fact he cheated on his wife nor the fact that he put the state of New York in a politically and financially-precarious position. However, he does not need the public’s forgiveness for his actions. He knows he’s an asshole. He knows that we know he’s an asshole. He seems to be okay with that, though he probably doesn’t give a shit what we think about him, which is as it should be.
Update: On July 6, 2011 CNN canceled Spiter’s talk show ‘In the Arena.’ In 2012 Spitzer became a host of his own show ‘Viewpoint with Elitot Spitzer’ on Current TV which was cancelled that same year. On July 8, 2013 Spitzer announced that he was a candidate to be New York City’s next ‘City Comptroller. He ended up losing the Democratic primary in September 2013 to Scott Stringer (Manhattan Borough President) who eventually was elected Comptroller. On January 13, 2014 Eliot Spitzer and Silda Wall filed divorced papers. The divorce was finalized in April 2014 with Ms. Wall receiving a $7.5 million divorce settlement. In February 2016 a woman accused Spitzer of assault, an allegation which he denied. The woman, Svetlana Travis, later stated that she fabricated the accusation. The New York Police Department’s (NYPD) investigation is ongoing.