Is there any redeeming social value to the tawdry tale of Anthony Weiner?
Only this: The nationwide revulsion at the conduct of the congressman has compelled the leadership and members of the House Democratic caucus to demand he resign immediately and cease not only distracting them from their work but stinking up their party.
Traditional morality has just been affirmed by Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats.
For consider what it was Weiner did.
He sent lewd and pornographic photos of himself to half a dozen women, including a college student, a stripper and a 17-year-old who had befriended him on Facebook. He initiated “sexting” with women who had simply expressed admiration for his politics and leadership.
On seeing a few of the photos in the tabloid press and reading of the others and Weiner’s language, the adjectives that come to mind are gross, infantile, weird, sick, suicidal.
How could a congressman sit in his office at night text-messaging these kinds of pictures, engaging in that kind of talk, when he was surely aware he was being monitored by enemies who would relish ending his career in the kind of disgrace he faces today?
But how does Weiner’s disgrace and inevitable departure from politics affirm the old morality?
Again, consider. Weiner has not been accused of a crime. His exchanges with the 17-year-old are of a flirtatious and suggestive nature than a proposition. And while Pelosi has asked the ethics committee to look into his conduct, its investigation has yet to begin.
Of what exactly, then, is Weiner guilty? He went before the press and lied, defiantly denying he had sent the text messages to the student. Four days later, he admitted to sending the messages.
But did not President Clinton lie, under oath, about a far graver offense, his Oval Office trysts with Monica Lewinsky? Yet, to a man, Senate Democrats refused to remove him. Why, then, must Weiner be removed?
Two decades ago, Rep. Gerry Studds admitted to seducing a 16-year-old male page and taking him on a European junket. Yet when censured by the House, Studds turned his back to the speaker’s chair — and was re-elected repeatedly from his Massachusetts district.
What Weiner did was degraded, but it did not rise to the level of what Studds survived.
Why, then, must Weiner go?
In traditional morality, what Weiner did, engage in immoral and squalid behavior, should result in permanent shame and instant removal from any position of honor.
Adherents of the old morality cannot understand why he is still in Congress. Was not Rep. Chris Lee, also of New York, a Republican, gone in four hours when it was discovered he sent a bare-chested picture of himself to Craigslist?
However, in the new morality of secular humanism, the gay rights movement and the libertarian left, what men or women do in their private lives is their own business. Sexual relations between consenting adults are neither moral nor immoral and should never be criminalized.
Under the new morality, pornography has been decriminalized and pornographic websites are among the most visited on the Internet. As for “sexting,” this practice is today apparently common among teenagers.
Hence the questions: By the standards of the new morality, what did Weiner do immoral? What did he do wrong, other than get caught by Andrew Breitbart?
From all we know, Weiner was engaged in private consensual dirty talk with women who apparently did not object, or they could have outed him or shut him off.
Why, then, are his friends not standing by him? Why is the party he has served faithfully as an attack dog against the GOP and a guard dog of liberalism deserting him? Why does his party want him gone? Why are they throwing him under the bus?
Answer: Weiner is expendable. One can give up a congressman whose House seat is safely Democratic. A pawn can be sacrificed if necessary. But letting a president of one’s own party be thrown out of office is another matter. A party cannot lose its king without suffering the damage the GOP did in the 1970s.
Second, House Democrats recognize that, should they declare themselves guided by the tenets of the new morality, insist that Weiner’s private life is between him and his wife, and that what he did, while embarrassing, was neither criminal nor immoral but only stupid, they would be putting at risk Democrats from districts where the traditional morality still prevails.
The national reaction to Anthony Weiner, the clamor that he get out of the House now, to which the Democratic Party is yielding, testifies to the enduring moral health of the nation.
The culture war is not yet wholly lost.