By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Why Anthony Weiner shouldn’t resign

Anthony Weiner

At this moment I think there’s at least an even chance that Anthony Weiner will resign from Congress. The supposed posting of an “X-rated” photo (I haven’t seen it, but Andrew Breitbart, who had said he wouldn’t release it, claims he was set up or something), coupled with the news that Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is pregnant, raise the possibility that we are going to be treated to revelation after revelation. Certainly many of Weiner’s Democratic colleagues want him to resign, if only to change the subject.

But should he? Weiner stands exposed as a pathetic creep, but he’s been accused of no crime. I guess we can call this a sex scandal, although it doesn’t seem that anyone actually had sex. I’ve heard it said that Republicans at least have the decency to resign, but that’s ridiculous. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford stayed in office after he was caught hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has stuck around despite the revelation that he likes to visit hookers (a crime, by the way, even if you think it shouldn’t be one). On the other hand, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, couldn’t resign quickly enough after his sleazy behavior was exposed. You could spend hours compiling a list of Democrats and Republicans who did or didn’t resign after getting caught up in sex scandals.

The New York Times’ anonymously sourced tidbit that the Clintons, of all people, are unhappy with Weiner shows how ridiculous this has all become.

Unless Weiner is credibly accused of breaking the law, I say he should tough it out. And if party leaders want him gone, then they should recruit a good candidate to run against him in 2012.

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From the Dept. of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up


The life and times of George Frazier


  1. Stephen Stein

    I agree.

    Paradoxically, though, I think the news of his wife’s pregnancy increases the probability of his resignation – giving him the classic out of “spending more time with his family”.

  2. Stephen Stein

    Oh, and if party leaders want him gone, they might not even need to find a candidate. NY has to lose a couple of seats in Congress in 2013, and Weiner’s spot might just go “poof” via the miracle of redistricting.

  3. BP Myers

    Watched some Republican talking head last night claim Republican leaders had “forced out” Chris Lee and asked myself what provision of the constitution they invoked to do that? Way I remember it, only the full House itself can force out a member.

    At any rate, the decision is up to him, however I believe him resigning is the decent and proper thing to do, both to spare his family any more embarrassment, as well as to eliminate the ongoing distraction. The country doesn’t need it.

    But I don’t ever expect a congressman to do the decent thing.

  4. BP Myers

    As a postscript, I also thought Clinton should have resigned for the same reasons, and wonder if he had, would we have been spared eight years of George W. Bush.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @BP: And yet Clinton almost certainly would have been elected to a third term were it constitutionally permissible. That would have spared us eight years of Bush, too. I should add that at the time I thought Clinton should resign. I’ve come to believe that I was wrong.

      I’ve now seen the Weiner X-rated shot. It’s exactly what you’d expect. I think it’s pretty hilarious that Breitbart would claim he wouldn’t release it, yet carry it around on his cellphone and show it to anyone who asks. Weiner was a creep before Monday. And Breitbart didn’t stop being one after Monday.

  5. Mike Benedict

    Weiner has already endured the worst of the PR hit (assuming he isn’t found to be a pederast or something), so from that POV there’s not much point in resigning now. (He might find himself without many lunch dates on Capitol Hill, but that’s probably going to be the case wherever he ends up.)

    But I would take issue with the notion that he shouldn’t resign just because he didn’t break any laws. We should expect a higher standard from our leaders — or those who want to be our leaders, anyway. This doesn’t cut it.

    And Breitbart is the last guy who should be complaining about ethics. How fitting he was duped.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike: I agree that non-lawbreaking should not be the sole standard for resigning or not resigning. But it seems appropriate in a case like this.

      I’m not sure that Breitbart was duped. He might have made a promise he no longer wanted to keep, so he found another way to get it out there.

  6. L.K. Collins

    I doubt seriously that Pelosi and the Democratic leadership in the House will spend much time paying attention to Rep. Weiner in their caucus. And there goes any future committee assignments that might have been available

    I would think that these alone would make his constituency eager for a change.

  7. Stephen Stein

    Breitbart was duped? Hardly. This is the kind of transparent ruse that makes for bad movie plot devices – “I’ll just leave this here on the table while I go to the bathroom.”


    • Dan Kennedy

      @Stephen: I agree. Next step: “Well, since one of the pictures is already out there …”

  8. L.K. Collins

    Dan, I am sure that that is the type of tactic you would use too.

  9. E Mauro

    Maybe the question is: did Wiener do something more deviant than having an affair?

  10. BP Myers

    @Dan: Not sure what you’re getting at in your response to me. I was, of course, speaking about the real world, and what is constitutionally permissible. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe in term limiting any office, including the president’s.

    That the American public would have re-elected Clinton to a third term (and like you, I believe they would have) says far more about the American public than it does about our perjuring and later disbarred President.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @BP: You wrote that if Clinton had resigned, it might have spared us the Bush presidency. Clearly you were suggesting that Al Gore, as the incumbent, and without Clinton’s baggage, would have won election in 2000. (Actually, he did, but never mind.) Since we both agree that Clinton himself would have been re-elected if he could have run, I was questioning your premise.

  11. BP Myers

    @Dan: I will in the future attach disclaimers to my posts, affirming I speak only of the objective reality we all find ourselves in, and not of alternate realities or other dimensions or parallel universes which may or may not exist.


  12. Stephen Stein

    A lot was made about the fact that the MSM did not pick the story up immediately. As far as I can tell, this was an understandable reticence to pick up a Breitbart-sourced story – his credibility was justifiably quite low. This may have played a part in Weiner’s ridiculous “I was hacked” lie. Hey, between Breitbart and Weiner, I trusted Weiner. (I also know how easy it is to get Twitter account names and passwords.)

    What would have happened if it was more credibly sourced to begin with? It might not have percolated for days in the blogosphere before Weiner was forced to confront it, and that might have led him away from the immediate lie.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Stephen: Totally agree. I suspended judgment up to the point when Weiner said he wasn’t sure whether the underwear photo was of him or not.

  13. BP Myers

    @Stephen Stein wrote: “. . . a Breitbart-sourced story – his credibility was justifiably quite low. This may have played a part in Weiner’s ridiculous “I was hacked” lie.”

    Ya know, if that’s true — he was empowered to lie in part because he counted on the source of the story not being believed — it only makes it worse for him.

  14. He didn’t break the law, but he lied and broke the trust of his constituents. The honorable thing to do would be to resign.

  15. Stephen Stein

    @BP – I don’t see how it makes it *worse*. The fact that he thought he could get away with it is already as bad as it can get (for that dimension of the story).

    @George – “honorable”? These are politicians we’re talking about.

  16. Matt Kelly

    >>He didn’t break the law, but he lied and broke the trust of his constituents.

    His constituents have a claim on his behavior toward his wife? Because she’s the only person wronged here, and even then this was more an affair of the mind than an actual affair.

    The plain truth is, if employers had the right to demand that a worker resign for improper texts he sent on personal time, half the country would be out of work. Weiner just did the same thing many of us do, and I don’t see how it has much effect on his business as a public servant.

  17. Stephen Stein

    @Matt – “Weiner just did the same thing many of us do.” Do THAT many of us take pictures of our junk? And send them to random women? I don’t know, but I hope not. I don’t want to be too judgmental, but there’s a creepiness factor here that’s hard to deny. That’s a private matter, though, as you say.

    But when an employee tells you a whopper of a lie, you tend not to trust them too much any more, and I’d prefer to trust my employees.

  18. Ken Gornstein


    I don’t follow the logic of why the test for resignation should be whether or not Weiner committed a criminal act. Seems to me that his actions are so far outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior that he’s all but obligated to step aside and let someone who has more credibility and better judgment take his place.

  19. Mike Rice

    J.R. Bill Clinton Ewing is unhappy with Weiner? Now that’s funny.

  20. BP Myers

    @Stephen Stein wrote: I don’t see how it makes it *worse*. The fact that he thought he could get away with it is already as bad as it can get (for that dimension of the story).

    It’s one thing to do something stupid and panic and not know what to do, which I believe he clearly did in the beginning. But it’s quite another to, once through that phase, weigh the pros and cons of things, balance the scales, and decide affirmatively to proceed with a lie because you think you can get away with it.

    In my opinion, the former behavior is all too human, the latter behavior, impeachable.

  21. Mike Rice

    Weiner wasn’t under oath when he lied, unlike Bill Clinton who was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice and later acquitted by the Senate(nice to have friends in all the right places).

    If Weiner refuses to resign I bet that he’ll be censured for his indiscretions(if I only had a brain).

    Weiner’s going down like the Hindenburg, I expect he’ll resign.

  22. BP Myers

    @Mike Rice wrote: Weiner wasn’t under oath when he lied

    Doesn’t matter at all that he was or was not under oath. The threshold in this case is as low as “bringing disrepute” onto the House. And they don’t impeach people (my bad), they expel them.

    But given they’ve done it only twice since the Civil War, I don’t see that happening here. But I think there’s no doubt he has brought disrepute onto the House.

  23. Catherine Tumber

    You’re all missing the salient point: A female constituent (or distant admirer, for that matter) who wants to talk politics or policy shouldn’t have to run the risk of being wolfed down. THAT, I think, is the ethical line that justifies his censure and should result in his resignation.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Catherine: It’s hard to disagree, but I think pressing him to resign is a step too far. We can’t analyze this entirely by analogy, but Bill Clinton’s actions with Monica Lewinsky were absolutely reprehensible. As I said, I thought at the time he should resign, but came to see later that that would have been a terrible mistake. I guess I’d like to see what Weiner’s constituents say. And what about the women he, uh, communicated with? Have any of them said he should resign? Of course, I’d like to see his ass beaten in the next election, assuming his fellow Democrats don’t redistrict him into oblivion.

  24. Mike Benedict

    @Mike Rice: Not disputing your chain of events there, but let’s be real about one thing: Clinton was questioned only because he was a Democrat, and not because there was even a speck of evidence he did anything illegal. It was perhaps the greatest abuse of Congressional power in the history of the US. And yes, I’m including the McCarthy hearings.

  25. C.E. Stead

    @mike Rice – the funniest take I heard on the Clintons’ displeasure was from Jon Stewart, who suggested that Bill was upset over ‘copyright infringement’.

    DK – The whole discussion on how the media would have acted had the story been broken by a ‘credible source’ rather than Breitbart is an echo of John Edwards scandal. ‘Decent’ media refused to cover the story because it was the Enquirer. They had the story, and did not publish, partly because ‘they’ LIKED John Edwards; many reporters/editors personally agreed with his stances, and sought and received assurances from Edwards, who was and remains a world class liar.

    It raises for me the question – DID other more traditional outlets hear about this, know about some of his virtual ‘hobbies’, but decided not to publish as he was a good progressive warrior married to a Clinton aide, and after all, as one commenter said, it really involved nobody but him and his wife anyway? Weiner didn’t merely lie, he actively attempted to blame an unpopular journalist and embroil him in a ‘hacking’ story which could have had serious implications as it was a Congressional account being hacked.

    Having heard some of the descriptions of his overall behavior (from Emily Rooney, for one), it seems improbable that there were no ‘leads’ worth following. Or are such leads acted upon only for toe-tapping, Nat. Guard duty memos, and other tangential gossip about those that ‘they’ DON’T like/agree with? FWIW, incidents like this reinforce the stereotype of media bias, deserved or not.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @C.E.: I don’t think any news organization needs to apologize for not following the likes of the National Enquirer or Andrew Breitbart, both of which have been wrong far more often than they’ve been right. (You do know about the Enquirer’s 2008 “reporting” on Sarah Palin, I assume.) As Dan Gillmor says, Breitbart’s credibility has now been reset at zero after having been deep in negative territory. Your theories are undercut by the obvious glee with which the media have been reporting on Weiner’s fall, even in the New York Times. It’s been widely reported that Weiner’s fellow Democrats hate his guts, and I’m sure if any of them had anything this good, they’d have dropped a dime on him — and the media would have gladly followed up.

      By the way, I’m not sure what you mean when you say traditional news outlets had the Edwards story and chose not to run with it. Got a link?

  26. C.E. Stead

    A lot of speculation about why the story wasn’t followed up on is out there –

    There was about 7 months between the first and second Enquirer stories. Here’s a link to a Wahsington Examiner piece –

    An account in the New York Times openly confessed the paper’s “lack of interest” in the story. One Times editor told the paper’s ombudsman that the Edwards story was “classically not a Times-like story,” and the Times’ top editor, Bill Keller, explained that the “hold-your-nose quality about the Enquirer” helped account for the paper’s reluctance not just to publish but to even look into the story. “In the case of John Edwards,” said Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz, “even though it was clearly out there, everybody in America knew about this well before CNN and The New York Times and The Washington Post got into this game — there was still a great reluctance.”

  27. Mike Rice

    @BP Myers: Absolutely, Weiner has brought disrepute onto the House with his narcissistic stupidity. My condolences to his wife and unborn child. Pathetic creep is right.

    @Mike Benedict: I guess ” It all depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.” That stated, Bill Clinton was a great president who just couldn’t chin himself on the curbstone in some respects.

    @C.E. Stead: I’m still laughing.

  28. Stephen Stein

    @C.E. If instances like this enforce a “liberal” media stereotype, what is to be said about the fact that we had no such week-long media firestorm over John Ensign or David Vitter, both of whom have arguably committed *criminal* behavior in their sex scandals. Yet, the media just isn’t interested in their stories.

    Is it just because this story has a penis picture?

  29. Matt Kelly

    @Stephen Stein:

    >>But when an employee tells you a whopper of a lie, you tend not to trust them too much any more, and I’d prefer to trust my employees.

    That’s very true, but so long as they are performing in their jobs, it wouldn’t even occur to me to ask my employees whether they’re cheating on their spouses or having racy conversations with willing partners over text or IM. That’s not my business.

    And anyone who thinks lots of people don’t do this sort of thing, clearly needs to talk with someone under the age of 28 who is on Facebook. They are the future workforce, and they all do it.

  30. Stephen Stein

    @Matt – “anyone who thinks lots of people don’t do this sort of thing, clearly needs to talk with someone under the age of 28 who is on Facebook. They are the future workforce, and they all do it.”

    I’ve been on Facebook a long time (since they required .edu addresses). So have my kids (one just turned 28, the other is 25). Many of my kids’ friends are also mine. And no, they don’t all do it.

    (And yes, I know that many have multiple FB accounts – one that they show their parents and others that they keep “secret”. But the “secret” ones aren’t really secret. Some parents are very tech-savvy. 🙂

  31. Mike Benedict

    @Steve: Why bother sexting via FB when your cellphone is twice as, ahem, handy? 🙂

  32. Stephen Stein

    @MB – There’s a time and place for everything, and it’s called college.
    (It shouldn’t be when you’re 40-something.)

  33. Rick Peterson

    @Stephen: Not just the pecker pic, IMHO. I can’t claim to be intimately familiar with the policies of Vitter and Ensign other than their bearing the evil mark of “R” after their names. Might it be as simple as Weiner violating the collegiality of Congress by being a showboating a-hole while V&E were good old boys? And as far as your (spot on) comment about 40-something vs. college: I’m pretty sure it would not take a rape trial today to get the midnight “Traditional Family Easter” at Au Bar in Palm Beach to become a cause celebre. Old guys acting like young guys would by itself be catnip for today’s blogosphere.

  34. L.K. Collins

    Sure worked like catnip on Dan.

    It took a while but even Pelosi and Wasserman-Schultz and Van Hollen and Israel think Weiner needs to go. Says a lot about Dan’s influence on House Democrats…and his ability to be on the right side of the issue.

  35. Stephen Stein

    @Rick – “I can’t claim to be intimately familiar with the policies of Vitter and Ensign other than their bearing the evil mark of “R” after their names”

    And why is that, Rick? Maybe because the media didn’t make a 7-day story about them? Why not, if the mark of “R” is so evil and the media is supposedly so liberal?

    For your edification, Vitter admitted to consorting with prostitutes, which is a criminal offense. Wearing diapers apparently turns him on. But I guess that’s not interesting enough for the media, nor deviant enough for his constituents not to re-elect him, nor offensive enough for RNC chair Preibus to call for his immediate resignation, even though Priebus demands Weiner’s head although Weiner hasn’t committed any crime.

    And you don’t know about John Ensign? I’ll let you do the research of his sleazy and criminal doings on his contributer’s dimes on your own. He only quit the Senate because they were going to throw him out. The story is out there, but you’ll have to search, because it didn’t rise to the level of “interesting” to the “liberal media”.

    Once again, why is that?

  36. Mike Rice

    I’ve had enough Weiner-talk for a lifetime and look forward to a topic change with the hope that the discussion will return to embracing prolific thought rather than penile, but that’s just me.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike Rice. You said “penile.” Huh. Huh, huh.

  37. Mike Rice

    I apologize to all for my previous posted comment as it was senseless and insulting to say the least as the vast majority of the comments which are posted on this blog are always prolific in nature.

    What I meant to convey is that the references made to Weiner’s alleged penis picture being posted on the internet and any discussion relative to it sickens me.

    Again, I apologize for my posted blunder.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike Rice: Not sure what you’re apologizing for, but OK.

  38. Stephen Stein

    I gotta say, this latest “rehab” twist seems downright weird. “Rehab” for what?

  39. L.K. Collins

    The whiplash from the elastic in his shorts?

  40. Mike Rice

    @Dan: That’s just me being me.

    Hopefully Weiner will resign, never to be heard from again upon graduating from pervert camp.

  41. E Mauro

    This guy is done. “Everybody does it”? Everybody who’s an asshole does it. This guy is a grandstanding camera hog in public and he’s completely full of himself whether in words or photos.

  42. Melissa Perreault

    “This guy is a grandstanding camera hog in public and he’s completely full of himself whether in words or photos.”

    Perhaps, but I’m not sure how that distinguishes him from nearly every other Washington politician. I feel about him like I felt about Bill Clinton back in the day: a rotten husband, and I’m glad he’s not mine, but that’s between him and his wife. My only concern is whether or not he’s doing the job he was elected to do. At least as of a few days ago, a NY1-Marist poll indicated the majority of his constituents wanted him to stay. Seems like they’re the ones whose voices should matter most.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Melissa: Hmmm … should his constituents’ views be more important than anyone else’s? What would your reaction be if any of the women he sent pictures to said she thought he should resign? Would she have standing or not?

  43. E Mauro

    I’m not judging on the acts, I’m looking at the photos. Have you seen the photos from the house gym? The one with his baseball hat on backwards did it for me.

    It’s not whether he did wrong or how wrong it was. It’s that he’s such an obvious jerk.

  44. Mike Rice

    It seems to me that Weiner is following the same path as Tiger Woods when Woods was outed for his sexual escapades as Weiner is now hiding in rehab somewhere to escape the press. As Steve Stein pointed out “rehab for what?” Hallucinations of svelteness is my guess.

    I now believe that Weiner won’t resign. Who would hire this idiot? Again, my condolences to his wife and unborn child. I suggest that Mrs. Weiner contact a world-class divorce lawyer, there’s no fixin’ sexual pervertedness.

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