Back in February, I attended a Planned Parenthood rally here in NYC. There were at least 20 speakers at that rally, many of them great, but one of the best was Anthony Weiner. Having just come from a pro-labor rally also being held that day, he spoke with passion about women’s rights.
He was eloquent, fervent, full of humor and feeling. I left the rally liking Congressman Weiner more than ever, and feeling proud that a politician like him could be re-elected six times in my hometown.
When the scandal first broke that he had allegedly sent the now infamous picture of his alleged dick in his alleged underpants, I believed that his account had been hacked. After all, wasn’t the scandal being broken by right wing liar Andrew Breitbart, who also infamously defamed Shirley Sherrod so that she was forced to resign? Why should anyone believe his word over Weiner’s?
But now the truth is out. We know about the sexting and tweeting and Facebook messaging. We’ve seen the pictures of Weiner in the gym showing off his pecs and his package. He is clearly guilty of extremely bad judgment — from trusting women that he didn’t know to not come forward with their stories to not totally getting why Twitter is a horrible way to send private messages. Maybe he’s a narcissist, but probably most politicians are guilty of that. Maybe he’s an exhibitionist, but so are lots of people. Maybe he’s permanently fucked up his marriage, but that happens. As far as we know, he didn’t break any laws, or even violate any ethics rules.
I realize that some feminists see what Weiner did, in certain instances, as harassment, but I haven’t seen evidence of that yet.* Mostly what I’ve seen is just immature “sexy” chatter, the kind you might engage in or choose to ignore if you’ve ever been on an online dating site. Truthfully, if Anthony Weiner had sent me a picture of his dick, I would have emailed him to say that he shouldn’t send this stuff around because it might get into the wrong hands. And then, judging by what he’s written in other chats, he’d probably make a “wrong hands” joke. The couple of times that someone sent me an unsolicited dick pic (and it’s happened), I’ve just blocked the guy.
I’m not saying that my nonchalantness about receiving unsolicited pictures is the standard by which other people should approach such things. Nor that’s it okay to send such things. I’m just saying that the reality is that people do stuff like this all the time. Deciding that someone is a bad person because they engage in it, or seeing that the person that they engaged in it with feels “iffy” about it afterwards, doesn’t make it a crime or even a malum prohibitum. In a time when people are spending billions of dollars to perfect their bodies and cameras that can take thousands of pictures at the cost of less than developing a few rolls of film in 1995, the truth is, we’re living in a time where dick pics are flying across the Internet all the time. We may be, essentially, living in The Age of Dick Pics.
So what sort of precedent does Weinergate really set? To me, it sets the precedent that if the media covers your scandal enough, and you’re a Democrat, you’re going to have to resign, even if you didn’t do anything illegal.
Current Speaker Of The House John Boehner literally handed out checks from tobacco industry lobbyists on the floor of Congress before a big tobacco legislation vote. He’s still around. Senator John Ensign stuck around for years after having paid hush money to keep an affair quiet, being investigated by the FBI and Federal Elections Commission, ignoring ethics rules, etc. Anti-gay rights Senator Larry Craig served his full term despite soliciting sex from a guy in a public bathroom.
Anthony Weiner wasn’t just some faceless, one-term Congressperson. For twelve years he’s been a consistent voice for reproductive rights, healthcare reform, environmental protection and more. He’s been vociferous in his stand for important causes, and stayed to the Left while so many have kept shifting to the Right.
So why couldn’t Weiner stick around? Why couldn’t Democrats stand up for him? Why couldn’t they come out and say, “Yes, this was a case of really bad judgment, and he definitely has issues, but he’s still really good at his job”? If he’d been more conservative and less of a loudmouth would the party have stood up for him more?
No one’s perfect, but Weiner’s record in Congress was as close to perfect as most progressives can wish for, and we threw him and his record to the wolves over a couple of dick pics.
*Of course, I haven’t read all of the transcripts of all of the texts and facebook tweets. If there were instances where someone told him to leave her alone and he kept sending pics, please send me a link.