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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Morality Vs Criminality

June 9th, 2011
by F. Grey Parker

Yes, this is another article about "Weinergate." What do we know? We know that Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was responsible for the cheesy underwear tweetpic that has so enthralled all-media. We know that he may have used a Blackberry associated with his official House accounts for flirtatious chat and that might have cost the taxpayers, gee, tens of dollars. We also know that he lied about it. That's it. There really isn't much of an actual story here. Face it. As political sex scandals of the last several decades go, nothing much happened.

I argued last week that whether or not the allegations were true, the sheer volume of exploitative yellow journalism was the real obscenity. Then, my target was justifiably Andy Breitbart's slime-fest. Now, just a week later, there aren't very many out there in the ether who don't have the stink of sleaze about them. The "liberal," "lame-stream media" is little better than the rabidly drooling goose-steppers like Hannity, Malkin, Erickson, etc. Indeed, many on the left rushed at first to proclaim that it was a "hoax" or a "smear." This, of course, was as absurd as any Murdoch Drones' standard denial of facts not yet in evidence. It's an embarrassment and everyone who shilled one more piece of conspiratorial nonsense into our already anemic "discourse" owes an apology.

I admit that I had some fun with this story, albeit to engage in the internet equivalent of hitting Andy with a stick. Perhaps I, too, was part of the problem. But the media has now become so vulgar a freak show that even I am shocked. For crying out loud, The indictment last week of former Sen. John Edwards on felony campaign fraud charges is playing second stage to this headliner? 

There are calls from both left and right for Weiner to step down. Many comparisons have been made with the resignation earlier this year of Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) following his creepy, beefcake shot on Craigslist. While everyone gleefully watched that record-speed political implosion and his resignation, I asked any one that would listen to me at the time, "Why should Lee resign?" Why indeed? He really hadn't done anything other than act the fool. Of course, the answer to that question is quite simple; there were so many provably criminal players in positions of real power within the Republican Party that they needed to "shoot one of their own," so to speak. Who better for the party of "family values" to use as a televised sacrifice than a guy who was basically a nobody.

The salience of "Weinergate" rests not on perceived violations of marital morality, but whether there has been any criminality. At this juncture, there is no evidence of the latter. For that matter, the transgressions involving the former are not much more serious than the average high school student's poor choices. Stupid and immature? Absolutely. But it is not yet clear whether Rep. Weiner has even violated House rules. It is for this reason that we really have to question the disproportionate reaction here compared to other recent and mostly Republican philanderers.

Married former Republican Sen. John Ensign with his 100% ratings from the Christian Coalition and the NRLC was actually sexually involved with a staff member and he doubled her salary during that time. Yes, that's real taxpayer money. That's also a clear violation of the rules.

When the affair went sour, he engineered a nearly $100,000 pay off to the lobbyist husband of his mistress. Sitting Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) served as a go-between trying to keep it under wraps. Nothing says "family values" like campaign finance fraud and hush money.

There was no frenzied, week-long spasm of bloodthirst over Ensign. Sure, it was news but it wasn't the only story on the news all day for days. There was also a circling of the wagons by his fellow party members. There were no calls from men like Eric Cantor for Ensign to resign. They sought to continue protecting him even after it became clear that a massive cover up was in play.

Still serving Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), is alleged to have been sexually involved with any number of women not his wife. Vitter had a taste for prostitutes. His name turned up prominently in the "D.C. Madam" case. He stridently denied any involvement at first and called it "just crass Louisiana politics." Which makes his subsequent admission and "apology" all the more notable. Last I checked, frequenting prostitutes is still an actual crime outside of Nevada.

Also, one of the prostitutes actually went on the record to say Sen. Vitter has a "small penis."

You can't make this up. Again, with that much to exploit, there was no day-in, day-out VitterFest on the level of "Weinergate." Perhaps size does matter.

The reason these cases are important is not that the aforementioned were unfaithful. These men engaged in criminal or fiscally unethical behaviors with the public purse. What's more, they have all made a career casting themselves as righteous and morally superior to their opponents. That is the only reason the sexual component is newsworthy. The crisis in Bill Clinton's Presidency was not about the sex; it was a question of whether or not a sitting Commander in Chief had committed perjury.

There are a great many figures who have served our country well and also been foolish or even unfaithful in their private lives. Blanket moralizing is naive. Calls for Weiner's resignation are not merely premature, they are childish. Will I ever regard Rep. Weiner with the same respect I once held? No. However, unless and until more serious charges are made, the only concern for the representative should be whether or not he can serve his constituents. Something tells me that the voters of the 9th district in New York could still do a lot worse.

This will move into the ethics committee, as it should, and we should get back to more important matters of state. In the meantime, we have now spent more energy on a story with no apparent criminal act, no certain abuse of public funds, no clear violation of the rules of the House and no actual infidelity than we have on any number of stories where there is ... well, a story. 


  1. It's not the 'morality" of his behavior that makes me think he should resign, it is the pathological lies on top of lies. He should have just admitted it. He knew we'd find out.

  2. You make a lot of good points, and I largely agree with you. However, in this case, it appears that Rep. Weiner was sending increasingly flirtatious messages to a number of women he didn't know. Some of them characterized it as uncomfortable and creepy. Isn't this sexual harassment? And shouldn't the Democratic party insist that women be treated with dignity and respect, and distance itself from people who sexually harass women? And why am I the only person who seems to think what he did showed he views women as sex objects that are fair game for him to exploit?