Anthony Weiner announced he was running for mayor on Wednesday. And a poll has him coming in second, after City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Of course, haters gonna hate and when Andrew Cuomo was asked how he would respond if Weiner won the mayor’s race, he said: “Shame on us.” In fact, the real shame is that Weiner resigned from congress, after Democrats, in typical fashion, threw him under the bus and called for him to step down. The real shame is when right wing politicians condemn and attempt to control the sex lives of others, especially when they engage in sexual behavior they would publicly scorn. This should be the real scandal. But sadly, it never is.
Don’t get me wrong. What Weiner did — sexting with women other than his wife and accidentally tweeting a sexual message he meant to DM — was stupid. Just as what Bill Clinton in The Oval Office was stupid. And Weiner’s denying sexting with women was dishonest. Just as Clinton’s denial of having “sexual relations with that woman” was dishonest.
But what Anthony Weiner did not warrant a resignation. Just as what Bill Clinton did didn’t warrant impeachment. What warrants impeachment is something like the Iran-Contras affair, in which the Reagan Administration sold weapons to Iran, violating an arms embargo, to fund the right wing murderous Contras in Nicaragua, violating a congressional amendment which specifically prohibited funding this counter-insurgency group. What is impeachable is lying about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq to trick people into supporting an unjust war. The Contras terrorized countless civilians and killed at least 30,000. The War in Iraq claimed the lives of as many as 650,000 Iraqis and nearly 5,000 Americans. But neither Reagan nor Bush ever faced the threat of impeachment. (Though, to his credit, Weiner did vote yes on a bill to impeach Bush over lying about WMDs.)
What warrants resignation is trying to legislate the sexual behavior of other people while failing to live up to the puritanical values you try to impose on others. For example, see Larry Craig, an extremely homophobic and anti-choice Republican senator who was busted trying to have sex with another man in an airport bathroom. See David Vitter, an extremely homophobic and anti-choice Republican senator who was busted for soliciting prostitutes. He also, apparently, had a diapers fetish. What Vitter and Craig did was actually illegal, unlike what Weiner did. And, perhaps more importantly, it was hypocritical.
Unlike Weiner, Vitter and Craig condemned other people for harmless behavior they deemed to be deviant, unnatural and sinful, while engaging in behavior they would consider deviant, unatural and sinful. Had Weiner run on an anti-sexting campaign, the way Vitter and Craig ran on family values, he would have been guilty of hypocrisy. But he didn’t and isn’t. The fact that he was and is socially liberal gives him some cover. The Democrats called for Weiner to resign. Craig served out his term and Vitter continues to serve as a Senator.
Weiner isn’t perfect. In a congress that is egregiously hawkish and biased when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Weiner managed to stand out as especially egregiously hawkish and biased. Luckily, foreign policy isn’t a big mayoral issue. Moreover, the issues he is good on— social issues, and especially healthcare, Weiner is great on! And I have no doubt that he would stand up for New York City with the tenacity and chutzpah for which he was known before his tweeting debacle eclipsed everything else about him.