Sullivan on Weiner:
Weiner has not resigned and, frankly, I see little reason why he should. No one, so far as I can tell, was harrassed, no one was abused, no actual sex even took place at all. I'm not sure one can even find any hypocrisy here. Moreover, if online flirting is unforgivable, why isn't off-line flirting unforgivable? And what really is the difference? Apart from pictures that can be used to humiliate—and even blackmail.
Yes, I realize that one congressman recently swiftly resigned over a Craigslist shirtless pic, but that was a stupid response then and it remains a stupid thing now. It was and should have remained a matter between him and his spouse. Given the result of NY-26, maybe even the GOP is regretting its bout of puritanism now.
And yes, I sympathize. A similar thing was done to me a decade ago now—a sexually explicit personal for an HIV-only site was published by gay activists seeking to attack me for my politics—and it still stings. To be exposed in this way is humiliating. Watching Weiner today was painful; this is the result of raw culture war with no scruples or principles, designed purely to destroy. I don't view this as a partisan matter—I find it impossible to condemn Larry Craig out of hand and feel for Ted Haggard. And they were clearly acting hypocritically. There was also a shred of public reason for their humiliation. I don't see any broader argument being invoked here, except partisan revenge.
Should Weiner have done this? For an elected public official, it was unwise, inappropriate, stupid. For a human being, it remains well within the bounds of, well, human.
After the jump, Hertzberg on Weiner...
The era of the modern sex scandal began in 1988 with Gary Hart, Donna Rice, the S.S. Monkey Business, and the Miami Herald. It seems almost quaint now, but back then it was de rigueur for the press to maintain that the sex scandal of the moment was not really “about” sex. What it was “about” was lying, which in turn meant that it was “about” something more important than sex, i.e., “character.”
The problem is that lying is an inherent part of adultery and, by extension, of any illicit or potentially embarrassing sexual activity or proclivity. By itself, the fact that a person has lied about sex tells you nothing about that person’s general propensity to lie. Unlike most citizens, prominent politicians like Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, and Anthony Weiner make speeches by the hundred, give media interviews constantly, and have extensively documented public records. If the politician is a habitual or characterological liar, the public record will show it and the lying-about-sex is redundant. If the politician is not a habitual or characterological liar, his lying-about-sex is misleading—is itself a lie, in a way.
On MSNBC, the cable-news “home page” of my political tribe, one commentator said that one of the things Weinergate shows is that powerful politicians assume they can get away with things that regular people can’t. If they do assume that, they’re wrong. It would be more accurate to say that they can’t get away with things that regular people can. Look around you. Consider your friends, your work colleagues, your relatives, maybe even yourself. It’s likely that a nontrivial proportion of them have some sexual secret (at least they think it’s a secret) in their lives. If their secret comes out, if they get caught in an embarrassing lie about it, the whole world isn’t going to hear about it. It won’t be national news.
The New York Times says Weiner's dream of being mayor of New York is now "unimaginable." Hertzberg says Weiner may be mayor of New York someday, just not the next mayor of New York. Hertzberg, of course, is correct. And here's the proof: Does anyone doubt, even for a moment, that if Bill Clinton decided to run for public office one more time—mayor of New York City, governor of New York State, the senate—he wouldn't have 1. a real shot at winning and 2. the endorsement of the New York Times?