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Weiner's fate

Should the Democratic congressman resign? Better to leave his career in the hands of New York voters.

June 08, 2011
(Jin Lee / Bloomberg )

If Rep. Anthony Weiner were a Republican, would he have resigned by now? And, more to the point, should he?

It's hard to escape comparisons between Weiner, a Democratic firebrand from New York City, and former Rep. Christopher Lee, a Republican from the more conservative western region of the same state. Their misdeeds were strikingly similar. Lee answered a personal ad on Craigslist from a 34-year-old woman by sending her a photo of himself shirtless and claiming to be a divorced 39-year-old (he was 46, and married). Weiner, who is also married, responded to young female followers on Twitter and Facebook by sending them revealing photos of himself. Yet when this creepy online behavior became public, the reactions of the two politicians could not have been more different.

The same day in February 2010 that news of Lee's indiscretion broke, he announced his resignation and apologized. Weiner, by contrast, seems to have responded by temporarily losing his mind, lying to the media about his Twitter account being hacked and spreading a bizarre conspiracy theory that an intercepted photo of his crotch might have been digitally altered. When he finally came forward Monday to admit he'd been sending inappropriate pictures to women for several years, he cried and apologized but defiantly refused to step down from office.

Some will surely explain the difference by positing that Republicans feel shame, but after witnessing GOP leaders deny overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change or pretending "Obamacare" will result in government "death panels," we know better. The difference between Lee and Weiner seems more about politics than ethics. Lee must have judged that voters in his district would never stand for a representative who exhibited such immoral and adulterous behavior; Weiner probably thinks voters in his more liberal, Democratic district in Brooklyn and Queens will give him a pass. After all, he didn't sexually harass or assault (or even physically touch) anybody, according to what's known so far. If new and incriminating facts come out, that's another story.

Barring new revelations, we'd prefer to leave it to New York voters to decide Weiner's political future, though we're decidedly turned off by his terrible judgment, disrespectful behavior toward women (especially his wife) and, perhaps worst of all, his blatant dishonesty.

There's something to be said for the argument that our political leaders are supposed to be role models for the young, and when they act irresponsibly, they should be disqualified from office. But we're not sure being a perverse Internet troll, and lying about it, qualifies as an impeachable offense in the Chatroulette era.

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