(As usual, these columns appear here, per the arrangement with the syndicators a week after their newspaper release. This was one overtaken by subsequent events)
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WEINER AND LOSERS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Last we heard, Rep. Anthony Weiner's wife didn't want him to resign from Congress, perhaps because she simply didn't want him moping around the house. His fellow Democrats don't want him moping around the House, either, while they shun him for his Twitter escapades. Weiner himself has sought the all-too-familiar refuge of rehab, proving once again that D.C. truly is “Hollywood East.” Through representatives, he is now hedging on whether he'll resign. That's after Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has turned on him, urging him “to seek that help without the pressure of being a member of Congress.”
The Democrats have plenty of pressure to deal with themselves, playing D-fense while R's pile on. On the “Meet the Press” playing field, GOP party Chairman Reince Priebus argued that Weiner had “turned this town and this country into a three-ring circus.” His Democratic counterpart, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, shot back that Priebus was using a “double standard.” That's hard to argue, given how getting caught, online and off, with your pants down in Washington is bipartisan, in fact, bi-everything.
If this flippancy seems cold, consider how obvious it should be, by now, that unlike Las Vegas, what goes on Twitter goes everywhere. Any fool should know that. Unfortunately, Weiner is only the latest fool on the Hill who insolently believed that he was somehow exempt.
Mindless sensationalism though it may be, this is still worth discussing because of the important insight it provides into the immaturity of some of those we have elected to deal with the nation's grown-up issues. Forget how juvenile his behavior, Weiner's biggest sin was flaunting it without even stopping to think about the consequences. That has to be really galling to the many conscientious members who get splattered with the embarrassment of a reckless few.
To make matters worse, Weiner ignored the bromide that the cover-up is worse than the un-cover-up. Now he's embarrassed, or at least, that's how he plays it for the cameras. It's hard to know if he's chagrined about what he did or for getting caught; for lying about it or for getting caught lying. He even gave a deceptive interview to Wolf Blitzer! If that's not a crime, it should be.
Although anything but impartial, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor nails it when he says: “We've got a lot of serious challenges going on in this country and a lot of work for Congress to do. The last thing we need is to be immersed in a discussion about Congressman Weiner and his Twitter activities.”
The consensus from both sides is that he should go. Who said bipartisanship was impossible? But it's Weiner who makes that call.
If he stays, he could be, uh, exposed to an investigation by the Ethics Committee. House rules do allow sanctions if a member fails to “conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditability on the House.”
“Creditability”!? Another new poll, this one by Rasmussen, shows that Congress gets an overall approval rating of 9 percent. It was the same 9 percent a month before, so the ratings were in the toilet before all this.
Maybe our representatives and senators can start working on praiseworthiness by being worthy of praise with constructive action on the debt ceiling and on our other massive problems. Maybe that would take the news out of the gutter.
At the very least, the Weiner experience should remind those public officials who need reminding, that if they can't resist acting in piggish ways, to keep their wallowing out of the cyberspace public trough. But don't bet on it. There always seems to be someone ready to reinforce a public impression that our representatives and senators each work in a house of disrepute.
© 2011 Bob Franken