Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weinergate: The Latest Chapter in the American War of Morals and the Law


COMMENTARY | As I'm sure you know by now, New York lawmaker Anthony Weiner has been under intense pressure to resign since the news of his online affairs with several women broke over the past week and a half. After initially denying it, the Democratic congressman admitted to sending lewd pictures of himself to at least six different women on Twitter and other social media sites, both before and after he was married.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was the first high profile Democrat to call for his resignation and was soon after followed by the number two and three congressional Democrats -- DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz and DCCC head Steve Israel. Recently, President Obama has at last broken his silence and upped the pressure for Rep. Weiner to resign. With the country's most powerful Democrats demanding his resignation and Weiner forced into a leave of absence we're left with a tough question:

Granted his actions were horrible and inappropriate; should the Congressman be forced to resign over Weinergate?

The knee-jerk reaction -- particularly with the 2012 elections looming like a dark cloud, is to push the New York congressman out; and Democratic leadership has followed this strategy to the letter. On a strictly legal basis, there's no reason Anthony Weiner should leave his position.

Despite how we usually act, cheating isn't illegal; and according to both he and the 17 year-old girl's family, their relationship -- though creepy, wasn't inappropriate. Then add that 56 percent of his constituency still wants him in office, and the law and our political system seem ready to embrace the congressman with open arms.

Still, American morality isn't completely rotten; and most people think cheating is a pretty nasty thing to do. But, do you consider what Weiner did to really be cheating?

I'm here gonna flatly state that I don't agree with breaking a monogamous commitment in any way, shape, or form. It's one of the worst kind of betrayals.

That said, technology is constantly redefining the definition of cheating. Ten years ago there was no Twitter or Facebook to mistakenly post a naked picture of yourself on. Now they're media juggernauts, capable of costing someone a job, ruining a marriage and staining a political career all in one tide of lewd photos. However, is getting caught "sexting" enough to force one from political office?

Anthony Weiner is just another in a long line of politicians this decade who've been caught up in a sex scandal one way or another; and when compared to his peers over the past decade, his actions seem relatively miniscule.

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford financed his "hikes" and his affair with an Argentinean woman, with taxpayer money. Former U.S. Senator John Edwards admitted to fathering a child with another woman while he was still married; and Nevada Senator John Ensign spent taxpayer money and to keep his affair with an aide quiet.

In their cases there was actual sexual contact with the concubine in question, whereas Rep. Weiner has yet to be found guilty of the same. Also, at the time of this article his wife hasn't left him for his mistakes.

If we decide that his errors were too despicable for him to keep his office, we have to refrain from making one of our country's most frequent mistakes in judging the congressman. Too many of us think celebrities or officials stop being humans once they're status elevates. Stories like Weiner's will be more common as social media establishes its place in American pop culture.

It's my opinion that the Democratic grandstanding is an attempt to repair their image with 2012 looming. What congressman Weiner did was awful, but would it even be a local news story if he were an electrician? For not the first time in human history, morality is at war with the law.

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