A Further Perspective

Clinton’s Precedent

The Weiner scandal and the left.

By 6.9.11

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According to the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, "we'd be better off if lawmakers gambled more with their private parts and less with the public good."

For Milbank, the Ryan plan is a greater scandal than Congressman Weiner sending lewd pictures of himself to young women. Milbank tries to be bipartisan in his odd point, throwing in some Democratic policies he considers reckless, but it is Congressman Ryan who gets the most ink. Ryan is a more dangerous figure than Anthony Weiner by Milbank's lights for having proposed a plan to restructure Medicare without drawing upon "bipartisan solutions." Apparently there is nothing more sinister than that, for these "behaviors" have very dire "consequences" for the country, according to Milbank.

Over at MSNBC, liberals also strained hard to spin the scandal against Republicans and expressed disappointment with Nancy Pelosi for throwing Weiner "under the bus" by launching an ethics investigation against him. Weiner was clearly a valued guest on the network and will be badly missed. It should be noted, however, that MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell did a retrospective segment on the Gennifer Flowers scandal, with one liberal guest grudgingly admitting that she was more than an "acquaintance" of Bill Clinton. Now that Clinton occupies a protected position in the pantheon of the world elite, it is acceptable for liberals to make such concessions. At the same time, they are not going to blame Clinton for debasing American politics and making it safe for the likes of Anthony Weiner. The liberal elite is more comfortable comparing the "reckless" Congressman Ryan to Weiner than comparing Bill Clinton to him.   

Were Weiner a Republican, no "debate" over whether or not he should resign would even occur. He would have been gone by the end of his press conference. But since he is a Democrat who is "right on the issues," media liberals have accorded his fate several days of debate. Unfortunately for him, he is not as valuable to the left as Bill Clinton, so he won't survive. At the end of the day Weiner is just a useful but expendable attack dog for Democrats, some of whom resent his barking at them for compromises they'd made. 

Most in the media had complacently accepted Weiner's story of being hacked, though it was clear from his evasive self-investigation (he said he had hired a lawyer and private security firm to look into the matter) that he was fibbing. One knows a pol is guilty when he announces that he is conducting a self-investigation. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried that one too (and got away with it) after a series of women accused him of groping them. Once ensconced in the governorship, he promised to get to the bottom of his own scandal.

The liberal discussion about Weiner, as Milbank's column suggests, still borrows from the fallacies and sophistries of the Clinton years. Weiner's problem is that he doesn't hold a powerful enough position for liberals to feel the need to use them as tenaciously as they did during the impeachment. "Lying about sex" is no big deal, they said about Clinton, who lied not just to the media and public like Wiener did but to a grand jury. "One's private life is irrelevant to one's public duties," they said of Clinton who had exploited an intern in the White House.

In all the post-mortems searching out reasons for why Weiner felt invincible, one would think these corrupting notions from the Clinton years would loom larger than Milbank's culture of recklessness thesis. Weiner, in fact, apologized to Clinton, who had officiated at his wedding. The halo on Clinton's head grows brighter as the Al Gores and Anthony Weiners around him bite the dust. But perhaps Clinton should have apologized to Weiner for setting a precedent that made pols think they could take similar risks and get away with it.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.