Entries Tagged as 'Weinergate'

Can Dems Whack Weiner?

June 12th, 2011 at 12:07 am 91 Comments

Rep. Anthony Weiner has announced that he will be seeking “treatment” to become “a better husband and healthier person” and the Democratic leadership has also made it clear that they would like nothing better than to see him go. If Weiner decides to stick around, what other options are there for the Democrats to try and push him out the door?

For starters, they could vote to take away his committee seat (Weiner sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee.) There is precedent for this. Rep. William Jefferson had his committee seat removed from him when he was caught in a corruption investigation.

The other way that Democrats can put pressure on Weiner is by denying him campaign funds for reelection, something that presumably would be easy to do given that the heads of the DNC and DCCC have called on him to resign.

Remaining options include expulsion and censure. When Rep. Charlie Rangel was censured in 2010, he became the twenty-third congressman to receive that public humiliation.

As for expulsion, while Congress does have the power to expel one of their members, according to a Congressional Research Services document the House has only ever expelled five members from the body. Three of them were expelled during the Civil War for taking up arms against the Union. More recently, Rep. Michael J. Myers was expelled in 1980 due to bribery while Rep. James Traficant was expelled in 2002 on conspiracy to commit bribery.

Democratic leaders presumably don’t want to have to use these options.

The Prowl: Keep Your Weiner to Yourself

June 10th, 2011 at 6:34 pm 46 Comments

This week, I feel obligated to weigh in on the whole Anthony Weiner fiasco.  I switched on three different nightly news programs earlier this week and Weiner seemed to be exercising his uncanny ability to suck all of the oxygen out of the room (perhaps only surpassed by Senator Schumer, who has also been known to eat all of his housemates’ cereal).  It is my sincere hope that this sordid story will go away soon. But in the meantime, I suppose I my primary thought is: Who Cares?

Fundamentally, I am disappointed in the congressman.  This is not really because he is evidently a creeper, although I will get to that; more, it seems, that the gentleman from New York is just an idiot.  For someone who struck me at least as not being stupid (political ideology aside) he certainly did not exhibit any evidence of this in his recent scandal.  Any college senior looking for future employment is highly aware of the dangers of photos on the internet.  I would like to think that a congressman in his seventh term has a bit more savvy and intellectual wherewithal than a 22-year-old fresh out of the frat house.  Therefore, it is this widely accepted knowledge of the dangers of the internet that makes me wonder what could he have possibly been thinking?  In what universe did Anthony Weiner think he would not get caught?  This is the internet, after all.

Aside from a clear lack of understanding of the perils of modern technology, especially where the sacrifice of personal privacy is concerned, Anthony Weiner has shown us all that he is frankly a sketchy dude.  Sending half-naked photos of yourself to random strangers on the internet is generally not the type of conduct expected of our public officials, or really anyone for that matter.  This is because it is a rather pervy thing to do.

I have experience in this realm.  A guy I dated in D.C. for probably five minutes once sent a photo that had he thought about this with the correct body part would have regretted.  Given that he was not nearly as big as he seemed to think he was, I opted to spare everyone I knew from the trauma of seeing a little too much (too little?) and did not hit forward.  How easy would that have been though?  And while I would’ve looked bad doing it, he would’ve literally and figuratively come off worse because there is no situation in which it is not weird.  Moreover, he then asked for the photo back, and being evidently smarter than Anthony Weiner and cognizant of the internet being, well, the internet, I instead sent a photo of a waving toy cat.  We have not spoken since (for the best).  I can say with certainty that getting a photo of a guy I did not know all that well soliciting me to sleep with him was not exactly a non-smarmy way to go about the wooing process.

Having made this judgment that Congressman Weiner is kind of a douche, however, I am not entirely certain that I really care.  Provided no laws were broken, what does it matter that he has a deep personal flaw?  There are 535 members of Congress and I am sure that the odds are that some of them will have a weird sexual fetish that is taboo, some will do inappropriate things, and others will do nothing (legislatively or otherwise).  For these first two categories, as long as their private proclivities do not hinder their lawmaking ability, I do not see why anybody should get worked up about it.  For those voters who cannot successfully bracket the personal from the public though, I am inclined to think that this is what elections are for?  Of course the corollary to this is that our elected officials ought to be held to a higher moral standard.  First, what would that standard be?  Second, these people are merely representatives of the electorate, so treating them differently and pretending that all uphold some kind of virtuous ideal seems ludicrous.

Whether or not Anthony Weiner resigns ultimately is a question that he must personally consider with his family.  While former Congressman Chris Lee resigned in similar circumstances, as did former Senator Larry Craig for his “wide stance,” Senator David Vitter is still in office after being identified as part of a prostitution ring, and well, we all remember how things went for former President Clinton.  This list suggests that there doesn’t seem to be a decisive rule for how we respond to scandal.  A former Canadian Prime Minister once said that “there is no place for the state in the bedroom of the nation.”  Perhaps we can follow his lead and likewise pay less attention to the bedrooms of the state?  Even if those like Anthony Weiner, who bring this on themselves, don’t deserve it.

FF Exclusive: Did Weiner Lie to President Obama?

June 9th, 2011 at 2:30 pm 71 Comments

Rep. Anthony Weiner may have lied to President Obama directly about his Twitter scandal–denying outright to Obama that he tweeted a lewd photo of himself to a college student, FrumForum has learned.

A highly placed Democratic source told FrumForum that four days before his June 6 press conference, Weiner had a phone conversation with Obama in which Weiner aggressively denied that he had sent the now notorious photo of himself in his underwear.

According to the source:

“The congressman said fairly aggressively what he had been saying in the media. Not admitting that it was him in the pictures, not denying that it was him, but saying with certainty that he did not send them.”

If true, it would help explain why many leading Democrats are unhappy and refusing to support Weiner: having lied to their top guy, he showed that he was willing to bring down the entire party to protect himself.

FrumForum contacted the White House and DNC for comment, but has so far received no response.

Weiner’s Digital Flashing

June 7th, 2011 at 12:52 pm 21 Comments

A quick thought about Rep. Anthony Weiner: if his account is true, it seems pretty obvious that he is an exhibitionist who gets off on exposing his private parts to others. What other type of man (or, for that matter, woman) would find fulfillment, sexual or otherwise, from a three-year series of sexually explicit electronic-only relationships that never lead to physical intimacy? Twenty years ago, in a world without widespread Internet, Weiner probably have stood on a street corner wearing a raincoat with nothing underneath.

Weinergate: It’s None Of Our Business

June 7th, 2011 at 10:25 am 48 Comments

They got him, and they are exulting.

“Best. Press. Conference. EVAH!” tweeted a jubilant Robert Stacy McCain after Rep. Anthony Weiner’s confessional.

“Hats off to [Andrew] Breitbart, Ace [of Spades] et. al, who called this right from the very beginning,” added National Review editor Richard Lowry.

“He even apologizes to… the day’s big winner,” Andrew Breitbart, exclaimed the Gay Patriot.

That’s a curious conception of “winning.” I mean, do any of us really “win” when a public official is disgraced and humiliated? It seems to me that all of us are losers in this sad and sordid affair.

Anthony Weiner was caught doing a wrong and stupid thing: By his own admission, he “exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.” Some of this communication took place after Weiner was married, and he lied about at least one explicit tweet.

That’s sad, shameful and embarrassing. But it also is of no real public import. It’s between him, his wife, his rabbi and his God.

In fact, it remains true even now that nobody has shown Weiner’s actions had any legal or public implications whatsoever.

Indeed, unlike Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana), Weiner broke no law. Unlike former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), he cannot be accused of having redirected campaign funds to personal purposes. And unlike President Bill Clinton (D-Arkansas), he did not lie under oath.

In fact, it would be hard to imagine a sexual transgression more entirely personal and private than Anthony Weiner’s.

Some have argued that, by sending explicit photos to a women he barely knew, or had just met online, Weiner made himself susceptible to blackmail. I suppose that’s technically true, but it’s also rather farfetched and unrealistic.

Weiner’s politics are well known; his congressional votes are well publicized; and so it’s hard to see how, in our open and democratic society, he could be blackmailed into changing his political stripes.

Saying Weiner made himself susceptible to blackmail is no more convincing than saying that corporate campaign contributions “buy” a congressman’s vote. In truth, campaign contributions follow a congressman’s vote; they do not direct it.

By the same token, Weiner was pursuing these women for his own personal purposes; they were not political types pursuing him for partisan or financial gain.

In any case, politicians and elected representatives have all types of secrets, and sexual improprieties are probably the least dangerous among these.

A more serious and damning allegation is that Weiner asked one woman to “lie” about their relationship (or lack thereof). But it’s unclear that Weiner did any such thing. Instead, it sounds to me like he was urging the woman to be politically savvy and public relations conscious.

Now, there is one woman who has a legitimate personal and political beef with Weiner, and that is his wife, Huma, who works for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But that’s a matter for the husband and wife to resolve, perhaps with the aid of a marriage counselor; it should not be a matter of concern to the blogosphere.

We have adopted the leftist mantra that “the personal is political” — and we are licensing the next round of the Washington revenge drama in which liberal bloggers will seek retribution.

I don’t for one minute suggest that we all just “get along.” Politics ain’t beanbag, as they say; it’s a contact sport. But we should fight it out on matters of public policy, not personal peccadilloes. Otherwise we will all lose.

Reporter Gets Payback on Weiner

June 6th, 2011 at 11:47 pm 13 Comments

I noticed an interesting little detail regarding Andrew Breitbart’s impromptu introductory remarks at Rep. Anthony Weiner’s press conference.  According to Politico:

Breitbart went unnoticed by the huge media throng until a Politico and New York Observer reporter approached him, and tweeted about it. Word spread that he was on the premises, and the cameramen quickly rushed over, surrounding him by a side door.  Weiner had yet to arrive.  “Andrew, would you go to the podium?” WCBS reporter Marcia Kramer, who just days earlier was threatened with arrest when she staked out Weiner’s congressional office in Washington, asked.  After a few requests, he agreed.

So, if this story is correct, the reporter that Rep. Weiner’s staff allegedly called the police on was the person who asked Breitbart to come onstage and get some free national airtime.  Perhaps revenge is a dish best served… somewhat warm?

Hey Weiner: Sexting Isn’t Sexy

June 6th, 2011 at 5:14 pm 66 Comments

Two of the lessons constantly drilled into the female psyches of my generation are, ‘Nothing is private on the internet, especially privates’ and ‘Never sext. Ever.’ The fact that Anthony Weiner and Chris Lee missed these memos points at a fundamental gender difference in the way sexts are perceived.

Men seem to view sexting differently than women do.  Most girls understand the dire consequences of sending a suggestive picture, yet men like Weiner and Lee seem to believe that they are immune from the same judgment that follows around the young women who expose themselves.

Not only does male sexting demonstrate a lack of understanding of consequences, but it shows an extreme arrogance and fundamental lack of understanding of women.  The implication that a woman would want to see an image of Weiner’s erection (insert name joke here) is not just misguided, it is almost predatory. It’s like a modern day version of flashing — pulling open a trench coat on the subway has evolved into adult male sexting. Even if a girl likes a guy she does not want to see explicit images of him. In cases where men solicit random women, perhaps they would be better served texting images of private planes than private parts.

Most girls nowadays learn from a young age that any explicit image sent via Facebook or text can, and probably will, be seen by far more people than the intended recipient.  If maternal lessons in self-respect aren’t convincing enough, most of us have heard sexting horror stories that ensure that we will remain forever chaste on the sexting front.

I know of a girl who sent a naked picture to her boyfriend at the time, and within weeks almost everyone from every neighboring high school had seen it. The picture was saved on computer desktops, shown to others with abandon, and texted around until she had completely lost control of the image. Her infamy served as a warning to us all.

It should be clear to everyone by now that sending explicit pictures of oneself is a categorically terrible idea. Politicians like Weiner and Lee should not only understand that sexting is as dangerous for their reputations as it is for those of young girls, but they should also understand that the implications of their images are much more aggressive.

The experiences of these two men should provide the much-needed sexting horror stories for men that countless middle and high school girls have provided for women.

Weinergate Takes the Heat Off the GOP

David Frum June 4th, 2011 at 6:30 am 108 Comments

Did or did not a New York congressman send a photo of a man’s crotch to a Seattle college student?

That’s the question the American political elite has spent the past half-week debating. Silly? Degrading? Check and check. Yet this silly and degrading spectacle is having very serious real world consequences.

Consequence 1: Up until the underwear story, the Democrats were clobbering Republicans in the Washington messaging war. Republicans in the House of Representatives are demanding huge and immediate cuts in federal spending. They are threatening to force a default on federal obligations if they don’t get those cuts. Both the demand and the threat are hugely unpopular: the demand with ordinary voters, the threat with economic elites.

On May 24, the voters got a chance to speak in a special congressional election in western New York state. The district — NY 26 — had once been held by Jack Kemp. It was regarded as one of the safest Republican seats outside the South. This time, the Republican vote collapsed in an election whose main theme was the Republican budget and the cuts it implies for the popular Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The Democrats were looking forward to pounding the Medicare theme all summer. They need to do the pounding fast, before the Republican tactic of refusing to allow new borrowing pushes the federal government into insolvency sometime in August. They cannot afford to lose a day of airtime. Thanks to New York congressman Anthony Weiner, they have just lost a week.

Consequence 2: The big Democratic healthcare law is heading to a constitutionality challenge in the Supreme Court. With a 5-4 conservative majority on the court, many Democrats worry about the outcome of the case. Anthony Weiner had been leading a long-shot campaign to affect the result: demand that one of the five conservatives, Clarence Thomas, recuse himself from the case.

Weiner argued: Clarence Thomas’ wife works for a conservative advocacy group, collecting over $150,000 in salary. The conservative advocacy group opposes the healthcare law. Therefore Thomas has a conflict of interest in the matter and should not rule in the case.

It’s not really a very good argument. Mrs. Thomas will be paid exactly the same whether the healthcare law survives or is struck down. The Thomas household has no financial interest in the outcome of the case. Mrs. Thomas has expressed strong opinions — but who would argue that judge’s spouses are not allowed to express opinions? And does this apply to all spouses equally? For example: Alice Batchelder is chief judge of the U.S. federal court of appeals for the 6th circuit — a very important job. Her husband Wiliam Batchelder has been a member of the Ohio state legislature for 30 years, rising to Republican house leader. Nobody has ever suggested that Mr. Batchelder quit his job. Why is Mrs. Thomas any different?

So the Weiner argument is “out there.” Few Democrats will want to join the combative and abrasive Weiner in his anti-Thomas campaign. Nevertheless, many of them are quietly glad to see Weiner volunteering for the attack dog role. But as long as he is consumed by his own personal troubles, his anti-Thomas campaign goes silent.

Make no mistake: Weiner’s problems are all of his own making. When the underwear story broke over Memorial Day weekend, he had the option: tell the truth at once, no matter how embarrassing, and put the story behind him. Even in the worst case -yes, he sent the picture -it’s not as if any laws were broken. The woman who received the photo was not offended and has issued no complaint. Anthony Weiner would not be the first boorish and juvenile member of Congress in history, and he won’t be the last. Story closed.

Instead, Weiner issued a fog of evasive and absurd statements in a series of self-damning issues. He himself did the most to enlarge and extend the story.

He had his motives: He hopes to run for mayor of New York City in 2013, and so he wants to avoid putting on the record any admissions that could be used against him.

But what Weiner’s fellow Democrats see is that this silly underwear story -and Weiner’s fog-of-evasion strategy for dealing with the story -has cost their party airtime, momentum, and advantage. Why? One senior Democrat I know summed it all up, “Anthony has always been all about Anthony.”

Result: Weiner has done more to aid Republicans this week than anybody on the Republican side. And in a week where the two parties are locked in a struggle as serious and important as any issue since the U.S. went to war in Iraq, Republicans need all the aid they can get.

Originally published in the National Post.

Weinergate: What’s the Big Deal?

June 3rd, 2011 at 4:53 pm 48 Comments

Has there ever been more manufactured and phony hype about a certifiable non-issue than so-called WeinerGate? If so, then I’m hard pressed to recall what that issue might be.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York), of course, is accused of… Well, it’s not clear what, exactly, Weiner’s being accused of. His Twitter account apparently was hacked, or used by a trusted friend or employee for illicit purposes. And so, a close-up shot of a man’s crotch in underwear was sent from his account to a woman in Seattle.

By contemporary standards, the shot is pretty lame and tame. And, as soon as the Congressman realized the pic had been sent from his account, he disavowed and deleted it. The woman from Seattle, likewise, immediately repudiated the notion that she was some sort of love interest of Weiner’s.

“I am a 21-year-old college student from Seattle,” Gennette Cordova wrote in last Sunday’s New York Daily News.

I have never met Congressman Weiner, though I am a fan. I go to school in Bellingham where I spend all of my time. I’ve never been to New York or to DC.

The point I am trying to make is that, contrary to the impression that I apparently gave from my tweet, I am not his girlfriend.

Nor am I the wife, girlfriend or mistress of Barack Obama, Ray Allen or Cristiano Ronaldo, despite the fact that I have made similar assertions [of admiration and respect] about them via Twitter.

There have never been any inappropriate exchanges between Anthony Weiner and myself, including the tweet/picture in question, which had apparently been deleted before it reached me.

Case closed, right? I mean, things happen; accounts get hacked (or sometimes misused by trusted friends and employees); we all realize that; and so we move on.

Well, no, because to impassioned partisan bloggers, both Left and Right, any such incident is a chance to score political points. It’s a chance to beat up the other side, bloody them politically, and pile on the points for your team. And so this non-story quickly — nay, immediately – became the latest “SCANDAL!”

The highly influential blogger Robert Stacy McCain, for instance, has been all Weiner all the time, with countless stories about “WeinerGate,” all breathlessly imputing wrongdoing or a cover-up by the Congressman.

Now, I genuinely like and admire Stacy McCain. He’s one of my New Media heroes. As a lone journalist, he’s done more with his own website, The Other McCain, than many newspapers and magazines do with a staff of twenty reporters and commentators. He is a force of a nature, a dynamic personality, a superb reporter, a sharp analyst, and a highly entertaining blogger.

But Stacy: Come on! Gimme a break! There’s nothing to this story! At worst, the Congressman is guilty of having taken and sent via Twitter a pic of his underwear-covered crotch. That may be tasteless, but it’s hardly a crime.

In any case, my friend, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Remember this pic of you, which is all over the Internet?

It’s clear, I think, that Weiner himself never sent this lewd pic to the 21-year-old college student in Seattle. However, others with access to his account or the pic perhaps did. We just don’t know — and we really shouldn’t care.

I do know, from personal experience, that Twitter accounts can and do get hijacked. That happened to me, in fact, not so long ago. All of a sudden I got a number of tweets and direct tweet messages telling me that my account had been hacked.

Apparently, a third-party Twitter application that I had adopted had enabled someone to access my account and to send my followers a lewd message. A kind Twitter follower told me exactly what to do to remedy the situation: Delete all third-party applications and change my password, he told me.

The point is that Twitter accounts are hardly Top Secret venues protected by inviolable, ironclad security protocols. In fact, quite the opposite: They are open-source, public venues that are quite transparent and penetrable. That’s why no one -– including especially the Congressman — uses Twitter to convey or protect national security secrets.

In the new social media, security and privacy are oftentimes non-existent, or at least severely limited. Fine. We all get that.

Still, that hardly warrants the type of breathless and intense media coverage of “WeinerGate” that has so consumed the blogs and even many legacy journalists.

Partisan and ideological blogging is fine and even welcome. In fact, I myself partake in the sport (here at FrumForum and elsewhere) on a routine and regular basis. But when you fire your weapon, you better be damn sure you’re striking a legitimate target. Anthony Weiner’s hacked or misused Twitter account is not a legitimate target. Time, then, to move on. Time to look and aim elsewhere.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.