Monday, June 13, 2011

The Sex Scandal That Isn't

Last week, U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner admitted that he had lied about the origin of an underwear bulge picture that was tweeted to a woman who lives in Chicago.

When the story first broke, he adamantly denied that he sent the e-mail and instead pointed the blame at an unknown hacker. The questioning persisted, particularly since the congressman did not ask the police to open an investigation into the incident.

The Congressman from New York's ninth district, which straddles some neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, did himself no favors when he told reporters he could not tell if the underwear photo in question was his or not. Though his supposed "failure" to know if that was a photograph of himself was believable, (many may wear that brand), it was an implicit admission that he had indeed taken a picture of himself on the phone). Within a week, Representative Weiner had to admit what was undeniable. He had tweeted some pictures of himself - some of which were sexually explicit - to some women across the nation. He also spoke to a seventeen-year old whom he had met at a public occasion though there is as of yet no evidence suggesting he had engaged in any inappropriate sexual conversations with her.

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-California), U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) and U.S Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) have called on him to resign.

When the story first broke, Weiner adamantly resisted any such call for his resignation but he has since then, opened the door by suggesting it is still possible. In the mean time he asked for a leave of absence so that he can go to rehab.

The congressman engaged in wreckless behavior that should lead anyone who has voted for the man to question his judgment. No one, in their right mind, would submit a sexually explicit photo to a stranger who in turn could use that photo to blackmail him or her. Most Americans don't expect their local Congressman or woman to be perfect. Many no doubt, wouldn't be surprised if their representatives were cheating on their spouses. They do, however, expect them to be discreet. What they do behind closed doors is between them and their spouses. What they risk by engaging in risky behavior becomes ours if and when it exposes them to blackmail.

Should the Democrats in New York's ninth district opt to back the congressman in any re-election campaign, they would deserve to lose that seat to the Republicans but Weiner's own constituents will ultimately have to decide whether he deserves to be elected or not. To date, there is nothing that suggests that Congressman should give him anything else but an official reprimand or censure and those who are calling for the congressman's resignation are behaving hypocritically. The Republicans, who have tolerated sexual affairs committed by their own members, are in no position to call for the Congressman's resignation and Democrats should not be asking Weiner to step down for charges far less serious than those that faced his colleage, Charlies Rangel (D-New York).

Congressman Weiner has committed no crime. He did not, unlike former President William Jefferson Clinton, lie under oath about a sexual affair that transpired with a subordinate (in this case an intern) in the Oval Office. (On this matter, the Democrats who are now calling for Weiner's resignation vociferously defended Bill Clinton. He did not, unlike former Governor Eliot Spitzer (D-New York) and Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana), frequent a house of prostitution or find his name on a Washington, D.C whorehouse's rolodex. (The Republicans who have been calling on Weiner to resign have and had nothing to say when their senator admitted to wrong doing). He did not, unlike former U.S. Representative Mark Foley (R-Florida)send sexually suggestive e-mails to teenage congressional pages

He did not, unlike former Governor Jim McGreevey (D-New Jersey) offered a lover/or someone who claims sexual harassment (McGreevey said Golan Cipel was a lover while Cipel claims he was sexually harassed; if you believe the former's story, we have a case of nepotism; if the latter's story is believed we have a sexual harassment case) a state Homeland Security patronage job even though that person lacked the appropriate security clearances, let alone U.S. citizenship.

He did not, unlike former Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) solicit sex from an undercover officer in a public bathroom. He did not, unlike former U.S. Representative Gary Condit (D-California), lie to the police about his relationship to a missing woman and he did not, unlike Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada) , buy his aide's silence by finding him a lobbying position after he found about about an affair the senator had with his wife, and make calls designed to help the former aide's new clients.

In all of the above-mentioned scandals, the politician's sexual activities had legal implications that rendered them unfit for the office they held.The sexual practices Some got away with it. Clinton was not forced to resign and Senator David Vitter was re-elected. The others were forced to resign. Lying under oath during a criminal or civil proceeding is a crime. Soliciting for sex in public is a crime. Sexual harassment is a crime. it were the crimes that were associated with the sex, and not the sex, that ultimately warranted their removal from office.

To date, Congressman Weiner stands accused of no crime. No one who has received his sexually explicit pictures have filed charges. No one is playing the victim card. He did not impede a police investigation in the disappearance of a missing girl. He did not lie under oath. He did not offer any of the women an internship or a job or a lobbying position to buy their silence and he did not use campaign funds to keep his affair a secret. There is no story of public consequence.

Not all sex scandals are equal and the media need not cover for any politician's non-criminal sex scandal. Politicians who defend conservative "family values" expose themselves to scorn, ridicule and hypocrisy charges when they are caught in sex scandals. Though he committed no crime, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) had to resign since his affair was exposed while he was presiding over the impeachment procedure to remove Bill Clinton from office. The former president himself, exposed himself to the hypocrisy charge by signing into law the misnamed "Defense of Marriage Act" during the time he was having an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Representative Vito Fossella (R-NY), a conservative on the cultural issues, was forced to resign in disgrace after the media found out about his mistress and love child. The equally conservative former Representative Chris Lee (R-NY) was forced to resign after he posted a shirtless picture of himself on Craigslist even though he was already married. And former Governor Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) another defender of "family values," was forced to resign after his affair with an Argentinian lover came out.

Weiner did not, however, expose himself to the hypocrisy charge. He has not voted against gay rights or privacy rights nor has he condemned those whose views are not in line with the conservative "family values" agenda.

The House Ethics Committee will now, as they should, conduct an investigation to see if the congressman did anything that violated the Houses' ethics rules but unless they come up with any new evidence, the congressman from New York should be allowed to finish his his term and let the people have their say when they go into the voting booths in 2012.

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