Former DNC-chairman Tim Kaine told a CBS-affiliate on June 8 that, "Lying is unforgiveable. Lying publicly about something like this is unforgiveable and [Weiner] should resign." Harry Reid said he simply can't defend Weiner in any way and Nancy Pelosi has started an ethics inquiry on the matter.
Yet I cannot help but be confused by all this indignation. Go back in time with me to a tight-jawed president wagging his finger at the American people as he said, "I never told anybody to lie, not a single time, never. ... I did not have sexual relations with that woman," despite the incriminating stains that would later be made public on a little blue dress. This was after President Clinton was charged with sexually harassing former state employee Paula Jones.
Didn't Republicans who made these very public lies about sex an issue get crucified for the audacity of delving into a politician's "personal" life? Weren't journalists going around and digging for skeletons in hypocritical representatives' closets? (They all cheat on their wives, don't you know?) The whistle-blower, Linda Tripp, was so completely run out of town for somehow being a backstabber that I've never even heard of her again. And after being impeached by the House of Representatives, Clinton was exonerated by the Senate as men like Harry Reid voted "not guilty" on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Can someone tell me again why Clinton's actions were defensible?
Later, when avoiding the threat of criminal prosecution after leaving public office, President Clinton put forth a written statement admitting a calculated attempt to mislead others in his tawdry affair. He was stripped of his Arkansas law license and fined: mere slaps on the wrist for a guy who is still a powerful and popular banner holder as a "senior statesman" for the Democratic Party. At the time, high-ranking Michigan Congressman John Conyers even noted the end to a "national farce over an extramarital affair."
Perhaps Weiner's posting peccadilloes were more aberrant than what Clinton did with a cigar in the Oval Office and that's why Weiner's actions are indefensible?
Let's be fair. Anthony Weiner is an ill-tempered hothead who has made a career out of indignation at the poor intentions of his political enemies, but it seems to me that Democrats long ago took the position that what one does with one's personal package is irrelevant to public office.
I even have to wonder why, as reported by the Associated Press, Weiner called Bill Clinton to apologize for this embarrassing scandal, as if Clinton has transformed into some sort of Billy Graham 20 years later. I mean, really? He still says he didn't do much of anything wrong, so I'd find it much more credible to learn Weiner gave Clinton a call to ask for tips on how to survive a sex scandal.
What Weiner should have learned from the Clinton affair is that one should simply dig in, move on, and pretend that it's personal. Trot out that pregnant wife and use her forgiveness as a hammer against public judgment. After all, politicians (from both sides of the political aisle) have been doing this for years and getting away with it.
Of course, I don't know if my defense matters much knowing that - naughty pictures aside - I would never have voted for Weiner in the first place. My defense is purely based on a desire for consistency. Perhaps that's the unattainable standard?
Barbara Donnelly Lane is a writer living in east Cobb who has contributed to local newspapers and the BBC. She is working on a master's in teaching at Georgia State University.