As is so often the case, when there is a political scandal, ideology somehow comes into play. Rep. Anthony Weiner may be the scandal centerfold of the moment, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has the hypocrisy award all wrapped up.
Cantor was the first in Congress to call for Weiner’s resignation.
“Congressman Weiner and his constituents will make that decision,” Cantor said during a Louisa County Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “I certainly don’t condone his activity and I think he should resign.”
“We’ve got a lot of serious challenges going on in this country and a lot of work for Congress to do,” Cantor said. “The last thing we need is to be immersed in discussion about Congressman Weiner and his Twitter activities.”
Cantor is absolutely right — about the serious challenges in the country, that is. However, it is pure, one hundred percent, unadulterated hypocrisy for Cantor to say that Weiner should resign. Back in 2007, Louisiana Senator David Vitter’s phone number was found in the published list of phone records of a prostitution service. Well, let us just call it what it is — a whorehouse.
Most Republicans were muted in their criticism of Vitter. Some claimed it was because his actual involvement with the hookers was years earlier. The truth is that Louisiana had a Democratic governor, and a senate vacancy meant the Republican Vitter would be replaced by a Democrat.
Senator Sam Brownback did call for Vitter to be censored. Few other Republican leaders offered that much. One who had little, if anything, to say was Cantor. Cantor also had little to say when Rep. Mark Foley resigned after some inappropriate texting with House pages. Cantor was also basically silent about Idaho Senator Larry Craig when he was caught tap dancing for gay sex in a public restroom.
Either Cantor thinks the country’s problems are such that any political leader caught in a scandal should resign or he thinks that Weiner’s tweets are worse than Republican scandals or Cantor has a new moral perspective that he lacked just a few years ago during Republican scandals. Unlikely. This is all about politics. Weiner’s a Democrat; the others are Republicans, like Cantor.
Anthony Weiner should not resign. He should be belittled, mocked, criticized and berated. If something truly bad comes out, like Foley’s encounters with underage pages, then Weiner should be removed. Other than that, let the voters decide if they want Weiner back.
Craig did not run again for senator because he knew a gay-denying politician was not going to play well in Idaho. Vitter ran and Louisiana voters overwhelmingly re-elected him. Louisiana politics are about as dysfunctional as they can be. Who knows? The voters may have been impressed with his whoring skills.
Compared to the three Republicans, Weiner’s actions are inappropriate. Vitter’s was illegal. Foley’s bordered on illegal because he seemed to be cozying up with underage pages. Craig’s was also illegal, an attempt for sex in a public place.
About the most anyone has pinned on Weiner is that at some point he may have used a government phone or other electronic device to make passes at numerous women. Yes, he should be censored if that happened. Yet the cost of a Tweet or email is probably nothing. It is a thin charge of misusing government resources when there is no cost at all to the government. The investigation will be expensive, though. Irony is often expensive.
Back to Cantor. The Virginia Congressman should face some questioning. He should explain why Weiner’s acts are far worse than Vitter’s, Craig’s or Foley’s. He will not have a decent answer, of course, because there is none.
Demanding Weiner’s resignation over this is an insult to democracy and the voters of Weiner’s district. Weiner has not hurt the country or committed an illegal act that we know of. If the voters in Weiner’s district want him out, they will do it in 2012, or they can recall him. It is not the business of a Congressman from Virginia to tell the voters of a New York Congressional district who should be representing them.
If Weiner decides to go because the embarrassment is overwhelming, then so be it. If he decides to resign because he thinks the voters want him out of office, then that is fine. Other than that, let Weiner remain in Congress. The United States does have serious problems, but Congress should be able to handle those problems as Weinergate plays itself out.
Besides, with the gloomy national mood, we need Weiner in Congress. We need the laughs.