Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tweet, Lie, Confess, Resign: A Weinergate Postmortem


COMMENTARY | In a progression that's all too familiar, Anthony Weiner resigned today after a scandal involving lewd and sexually explicit internet communications with several women.

The scandal began when Weiner accidentally posted a suggestive photo to his public Twitter feed instead of sending it as a private message to a single recipient. Weiner maintained that his accounts had been hacked, only to confess several days later

In the days before and after his confession, more pictures came to light. Several additional women came forward saying that they, too, had participated in racy text or Twitter exchanges with Representative Weiner, and in some cases, had been asked by him to lie about the exchanges.

Defiantly insisting that he would not resign, Weiner finally gave in over intense pressure from the media, from former political allies and from women touched by the scandal.

Tweet, lie, confess, resign. It's a scenario we've seen in one form or another from celebrities and politicians on both sides of the fence: Tiger Woods, Jesse James, Mark Sanford, John Edwards, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The unifying feature behind their downfall is not the cheating, but the lying.

While no one would defend cheating as moral behavior, it's the lies and arrogance that destroyed public faith in these men. A man who will lie for personal gain will lie for political gain. A man who will lie to his wife, his colleagues and his constituents will lie to anyone and everyone because he already has.

If Weiner had not lied, there would be no headlines from ex-girlfriends and porn stars saying that he pressured them and betrayed their trust. If Weiner had not lied, it is possible that he could have been forgiven for his error and kept his job. If Weiner had not lied, he could have spared his party, his constituents and the rest of us from two weeks or relentlessly salacious headlines. He might even have spared himself the endless litany of Weiner jokes.

But in the end, that's not what happened. Weiner lied because he was arrogant. He lied because he was afraid. And he lied because it seemed politically expedient at the time. And in so doing, he lost his career, his political future and every shred of public respect. It remains to be seen whether he will lose his marriage.

We can only hope that former Rep. Weiner will heed this painful wake-up call in time to set his life in order and do the painful but necessary work to redeem himself in the eyes of his wife. As for redeeming himself in the eyes of the country, that ship has already sailed, and Weiner wasn't on it.

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