I wish there was some way I could defend him, but I can’t.”
— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, when asked about Rep. Anthony Weiner
Rachel Maddow offered a spirited argument Wednesday night, exposing the hypocrisy of Republicans excoriating Rep. Anthony Weiner for his sex scandal while they remained silent about Sen. David Vitter’s.
After all, while Weiner’s behavior might have been humiliating, as the MSNBC commentator pointed out, he hasn’t been accused of breaking the law. Vitter, on the other hand, engaged in clearly criminal activity as an admitted customer of a prostitute.
As she always does, Maddow put forward a highly cogent and logical case — and was very convincing.
Except that many of those now calling for Weiner’s resignation aren’t duplicitious Republicans, they are Weiner’s fellow Democrats.
From Reid, to Nancy Pelosi, and elsewhere, Democrats pointedly are declining to stick up for Weiner.
Only minutes before Maddow went on the air, her colleague Lawrence O’Donnell had asked Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon his thoughts about Weiner.
Blumenauer cut his fellow Democrat no slack. Weiner, he says, should go. Weiner, Blumenauer says, had seriously impaired his credibility as a lawmaker.
O’Donnell pressed Blumenauer about whether that amounts to a double-standard given the refusal of Democrats to impeach President Bill Clinton more than a decade ago for Clinton’s own dalliance.
Blumenauer argued, correctly, that while Clinton’s behavior was not an impeachable offense, Democrats weren’t exactly falling over themselves to exonerate the president, either.
Recall that Sen. Joe Lieberman, then a Democrat, was quick to denounce Clinton’s behavior. Indeed, Lieberman’s rebuke was a key factor in Al Gore choosing Lieberman as his 2000 running mate.
You could say, then, that in calling for Weiner to go, Democrats at least have some moral honor that Republicans lack because they were willing to stand silent through the Vitter scandal.
But I think there is more to it than that.
Weiner’s stupidity isn’t only that he cheated on his wife, or even that he lied about it.
It’s that he put his shenanigans on the Internet.
The congressman sent those provacative photos of his, er, weiner, via the Twitter site.
Maybe Weiner thought those pictures would be private, but that only compounds his foolishness.
Nothing on the Internet ever is truly 100-percent private. Even high school students who think twice about posting drunken pics of themselves — lest their parents somehow find them — know that.
You mean Weiner was blissfully unaware of all of the headlines through the years about data breaches of one sort or another? Really?
I’ve said before that politicians deserve a measure of privacy in their personal lives, and that that extends even to private extramarital affairs — whether the sort perpetrated by Clinton, or former Republican California governor Arnold Schwartzenegger.
I stand by my position. It hasn’t changed.
But that’s not what happened with Anthony Weiner.
He put his mess out there for the world to see, if they were only unfortunate to stumble upon it or clever enough to find it. The latter is clearly what ended up happening.
That’s why Weiner is so indefensible. Maybe the press is having circus at his expense, as some have argued, but he put it out there on the Internet to let them.
Of course, if he is somehow lucky enough like Vitter to hang on to his job, perhaps Weiner ought to become the new champion to fight for stricter online privacy protections.
But, then again, maybe that’s not exactly the political message he should be sending right now.
Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article was first published as I’d Also Like To Defend Anthony Weiner, But I Can’t, Either on Blogcritics.