Look, everybody’s going to be talking about Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), making weiner jokes, wondering how many 16-year old girls were among his Facebook “friends” and Tweetees, and so on. So I’m not going to. Instead, let’s start with the sickening behavior of the media, at least as I heard them on satellite radio while I was driving for an hour or so on Monday afternoon.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who had actually asked Weiner some hard questions on the topic, ended his report following the congressman’s various admissions by saying that this is basically an issue between Weiner and his wife.
Similarly, CNN’s Jeanne Moos, in a segment about an hour later, described one of the images Weiner sent to some unknown Internet acquaintance-ette as funny (or something like funny) and pointed out that a picture of him holding a sign saying “Me” had “his wedding ring in plain view.”
So now, the media isn’t just trying to save a left-winger’s job, but also his marriage?
Even Nancy Pelosi isn’t going for this, as she called for an ethics investigation into a man about whom we no longer have to ask “boxers or briefs” (not that it ever actually occurred to me to ask such a question of Weiner or any other guy).
Weiner’s going to try hard to hang on to his job. If I had to bet on it, I’d say it’s about 60% that he ends up resigning. This is for two reasons:
First, Weiner would stand a good chance of losing his seat if he runs again — his district includes many Orthodox Jews who are tending to vote more Republican. Therefore, if the Dems want to keep the seat, they need him to go and allow some other Democrat to be the 2012 candidate for New York’s 9th Congressional District.
Second, Weiner will be the poster boy for all things Democrat in ads run by third party groups on behalf of Republican candidates, even in districts thousands of miles away from Brooklyn. His presence damages the entire Democrat brand (a remarkable fact given that having Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama as the face of the party for the last few years has not done nearly the damage to the brand that they have done to the country).
It’s not inconceivable that New York, which will lose two congressional seats due to redistricting, solves their Weiner problem by eliminating his district. But Democrats really don’t like the idea of losing a New York City seat that, even while less Democrat-leaning than it used to be, is still nevertheless reasonably likely to elect a Democrat other than Weiner given the opportunity. Furthermore, redistricting Weiner out of a job leaves him in office and in the public eye through the next election cycle, thus not solving the second Democrat problem noted above.
Republicans have routinely forced out of office their House members who have made similar indiscretions, but Democrats’ standards are lower. In part, as I’ve argued many times, it’s because you can’t charge someone with hypocrisy who has never actually run on the basis of a particular principle or core set of values. After all, Weiner didn’t run on a platform of “I am not a schmuck.”
But while Democrats’ standards for behavior of their members might be too low for even a champion limbo dancer to sink beneath, it’s another thing entirely when that behavior poses a broader threat to Democrat electoral prospects.
So, my prediction is this unusual situation: Democrats on the House Ethics Committee will find a way to make a more aggressive push for Weiner’s expulsion from the House (thus forcing him to resign prior to that indignity) than House Republicans will. Republicans will say “Let the Dems take out their own trash — while the whole country watches”…and the Democrats will have no choice but to do just that rather than leaving it around for another year, stinking up the place.
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