As more Democrats call on Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to step down in the wake of his admission of lewd Twitter behavior – and the fact that he lied about it for so long – I keep wondering if there’s a double standard at work here.
After all, other members of Congress have been caught in worse sex scandals without putting their jobs in jeopardy or getting pounded on by members of their own party.
Weiner, in contrast, has House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pretty much cutting him loose, and some Democratic House colleagues – including Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) – calling on him to step down. Then there was Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the Majority Leader who apparently applies different standards to Democrats and Republicans when it comes to sex shenanigans.
Maybe there is a double standard, but I’m more inclined to think the harsh response is the result of several factors.
First, there’s Weiner’s popularity – or lack thereof – among his colleagues. And that includes his colleagues in the informal Jewish caucus.
Weiner is seen by Democrats and Republicans alike as abrasive and difficult to work with. I’ve talked to a fair number of Democratic Capitol Hill folk who privately say his current woes couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Also, this is a new kind of sex scandal. Let’s face it: there’s something positively CREEPY about this kind of semi-anonymous interaction with women you don’t even know. Having affairs is bad, but it’s something we’ve seen since the founding of the Republic. But sending suggestive pictures out on Twitter? Well, that’s unsettling, and it doesn’t fit into any notions of conventional scandal.
Finally, there’s practical politics.
Weiner faced a strong Republican challenge in 2010, and the Twitter scandal makes him even more vulnerable in 2012. Better to lance the boil now and give another Democrat a chance at the seat than let it fester until next November, the reasoning may go among party MACHERS.
I don’t have a clue whether Weiner will survive this crisis. But if he does, it’ll be without the support of very many of his colleagues.