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Anthony Weiner’s Political Sin: Picked Bad Time To Be Big Distraction

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
June 16, 2011

Rep. Anthony Weiner couldn’t exit the scene fast enough for Democrats and didn’t.

Initially after the scandal of his lewd tweets to at least six young women broke, he said he wasn’t quitting. Then with increasing pressure for his resignation, he appeared to try to buy time by letting it be known that he was entering rehab.

In the end, however, he was only able to get two weeks past Memorial Day weekend when the scandal went public before the pressure became so irresistible that he would be forced on Thursday to announce his resignation.

After all, he had virtually the entire party establishment arrayed against him, from President Obama to House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Debra Wasserman-Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee. So it was just a matter of time.

The words “think of the good of the party” or “consider the issues you fought so hard for” likely pelted him like hail from a fierce thunder storm for the past two weeks. At least now that will let up.

In his heyday, he had been one of his party’s best deliverers of the Democratic Message, whatever it was at any given moment.

The irony is that in the depth of his scandal, he had become a distraction from the Message. That, in the end, was unforgivable. As a message man himself, Weiner had to know this better than most.

If Weiner had insisted on staying, was also facing a future as a pariah. House Democrats would have likely taken away his plum position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

No lawmaker can be effective as an outcast. The very nature of legislative bodies requires cooperation with those in your party as well as across the aisle.

But Weiner was facing a future where not only would he have likely found it difficult to collaborate on legislation with many colleagues but where they would have quickly exited whatever public space he entered to avoid being photographed with him.

Now, the Democrats will be able to get back to their message with which they hope to regain the House majority — that Republicans want to dismantle Medicare among other parts of the social safety net so they can give the wealthy further tax cuts.

As his fellow member of the New York delegation Rep. Carolyn McCarthy said:

It’s taken away from all the issues that we’ve been fighting for. It’s been, what, two weeks? It’s been a very long two weeks.

Polls in his district indicated he had support from a majority of constituents, at least as recently as last week. They saw no need for a resignation from Congress. By contrast, a majority said him becoming mayor of New York was out of the question.

That probably says more about the low esteem Congress is held in by many voters than any number of political science texts could.

But Weiner had long before the scandal become something of a national symbol of his party’s opposition to House Republicans. And his scandal certainly had become not just a national story but an international one.

So it was bigger than his district which, as it turns out, may not exist much longer anyway because of redistricting in New York state, as NPR’s Brian Naylor reported on Morning Edition.

Now Weiner exits the scene, only the latest politician to leave public office in disgrace. And we know that so long as the Republic lasts, some politicians will continue to leave office in ignominy if not in handcuffs.

Maybe they should add a little Shakespeare to congressional freshmen orientation, perhaps Othello’s final speech. It could be used as a warning: act in a way so that you’ll never have to give a variation of this speech:

Soft you; a word or two before you go.

I have done the state some service, and they know’t — No more of that.

I pray you, in your letters, When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,

Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate…

[Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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