Through his own actions, Congressman Anthony Weiner has become a national punch line. It’s hard to imagine that he can effectively represent his constituents in Brooklyn when he is more likely to be seen on TMZ than on C-SPAN, more likely to be cited in a David Letterman monologue than in a news report from the nation’s capital.
He has no choice. He should resign, now.
Until a few weeks ago, Mr. Weiner had a reputation as something of a policy nerd, the sort of politician who spends his spare time reading G.A.O. reports or the findings of subcommittee investigations. In fact, as we now know, when the congressman wasn’t giving self-righteous speeches on the House floor, he was chatting up women on Twitter and Facebook and circulating lewd pictures of himself.
When he was caught, he lied. Repeatedly. He tried to play the role of victim, insisting that some hacker was to blame. We now know why he couldn’t get his stories straight: he was making them up as he went along.
His credibility is shot. His reputation is in tatters. He is a national joke. His constituents deserve better. For their sake, he needs to walk away and never come back.
During his tearful and far-too-belated confessional, Mr. Weiner said he would not resign because he had not violated his oath of office, which requires him to uphold the United States Constitution. That is pure sophistry, and he is smart enough to know it. His shirtless colleague from upstate New York, Christopher Lee, broke no laws when he tried to hook up with women via Craigslist—the congressman, like Mr. Weiner, is married. When the scandal broke, Mr. Lee quit within hours, despite having been true to the letter of the nation’s founding document.
Mr. Weiner knows that voters, in their innocence, expect more from their elected officials than mere adherence to the letter of the law. They demand a certain amount of decorum and a degree of civic and moral leadership. In other words, they don’t expect their elected officials to carry on like Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan.
Of course, these expectations are regularly proved to be unrealistic. Weinergate broke even as former senator John Edwards was indicted on corruption charges stemming from an extramarital affair conducted while his wife was dying and while he was running for president—there is chutzpah, and then there is John Edwards. And Mr. Edwards is only the latest prominent male politician to wind up on the wrong side of the law because of his libido.
Bill Clinton once argued that even a president is entitled to a private life. Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and many other presidents surely would have agreed. But as long as political figures portray themselves as exemplars of family life, as long as they use their spouses and children as campaign props, as long as they insist that they stand for values and not just opinions, they are obliged to conduct their private lives accordingly. When they don’t, they forfeit their right to a private life.
Mr. Weiner may not have broken any laws. But he did break his trust with the people of Brooklyn. He is not worthy of their support. He must resign.