LAS VEGAS--Should Anthony Weiner resign?
Aside from the obvious pleasure that we derive from wallowing in salacious revelations about the rich and powerful, this week's Weiner sexting controversy provides a window into American morals. Namely: What is wrong, what is right, and what if anything should be done about it?
Let's look at the sin first.
Weiner sent smutty photos, some with smutty captions, to some of his followers on Twitter. As far as we know, he never met any of these women in person, much less had sex with them.
After the congressman realized that he had mistakenly sent one of his crotch shots to the wrong addressee, he got too clever by half. Trying to get ahead of the story before it broke organically, he called a press conference and claimed that evil right wingers had hacked his Twitter account. This lame story quickly fell apart, and here we are, with The New York Times officially decrying Weiner's "profoundly squalid and offensive pattern of conduct," language one would have liked to have seen used to describe, for example, torture. Or the bailouts for millionaire bank executives.
No victim, no sin. Who's Weiner's victim? Not, apparently, the women to whom he tweeted. As far as we know, they were willing participants. Weiner's wife Huma Abedin is the sole candidate for victim.
No doubt, Weiner lied to we, the people. It's hard to imagine now, but that used to be an impeachable offense. Dig up Richard Nixon and ask him.
And to Weiner's credit, he didn't lie long: one week. When he fessed up, he did it like a man: took questions from the press, accepted responsibility, volunteered dirty deeds we didn't know about.
It's certainly not "we did find the WMDs," a la Bush-Cheney. Who, remember, did not resign.
I would love to live in a country in which lying to the public was cause for resignation. It sure would make for a lot of vacancies in government. But we don't--and it seems weird to hold a sexter to a higher standard than a warmongering mass murderer.
Ultimately, the public's case against Weiner comes down to the one Edward G. Robinson snaps at the dastardly insurance salesman played by Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity: "I picked you for the job, not because I think you're so darn smart, but because I thought maybe you were a shade less dumb than the rest of the outfit. I guess I was all wet. You're not smarter, Walter. You're just a little taller."
Weiner doesn't even get to be tall.
The Times questioned Weiner's "judgment and character, considering that he was once considered one of the savvier members of the House. Had it not occurred to him, in an era of unending sexual scandal, that repeatedly sending these kinds of photographs to strangers would eventually catch up with him? And that, if it did, his attempt to exploit his political celebrity for online sexual gratification would be considered reprehensible?"
Should Weiner resign? Only if not being sufficiently cold, cynical and calculating is just cause.