- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2011



You’ve got to admire the savvy of Anthony D. Weiner, if not the weenie himself. Not for his photographic skills, but for his insights into the national psyche. Taking leave of the House and entering “rehabilitation,” whatever that may mean, he skillfully takes refuge in the pretensions of the Therapeutic Society.

Who among us, certainly who among the “progressives” (as the liberals now call themselves) can think ill of a man in therapy? We cheerfully assist drunks, junkies and perverts. It’s not yet clear whether his rehabilitation is about photography — correct f-stops and shutter speeds — or about something else. He could use a little work on focusing. Digital cameras can pretty much take care of everything else.

Maybe his therapists should teach him not how to get sharper focus, but how to avoid taking photographs at all. Good judgment has not yet been digitized. Nearly a dozen senior Democrats, including the maladroit chairlady of the Democratic National Committee, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Nancy Pelosi have counseled Mr. Weiner to leave the House, but so far the score is Weiner 1, Senior Democrats 0.

However, several key Democrats in the House, including Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the minority whip, and Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the assistant Democratic leader, have hesitated a half-step, waiting to see how public opinion and the therapy sessions go. Mr. Hoyer employs a weak-tea formulation in the passive voice: “I would hope that Mr. Weiner would use the opportunity to reflect on whether he can effectively proceed. I don’t see how he can, and I hope he would make that judgment.” One can always hope and yearn for change. Those are the words Democrats live by. Mr. Weiner can take hope himself in new polling by Marist College that suggests that neither his constituents nor New Yorkers generally think he should quit. They like his politics and, Gotham being sophisticated Gotham, aren’t particularly upset by Mr. Weiner’s imagination, such as it is, with his little camera.

The pressure on the congressman to leave Congress to go into full-time photography or something, anything else, galls several of Mr. Weiner’s party colleagues. “Why are we cannibalizing ourselves?” one of them asks rhetorically of Politico. “Plus, he’s not going anywhere, so we just look like idiots.”

If Mr. Weiner stands fast and puts his camera on the shelf — he should get a cellphone without the camera — he’ll survive. This terrifies Democrats, who can’t get their message of more spending and bigger bureaucracies properly listened to because the clicking of Mr. Weiner’s camera is making so much noise. If the matter is referred to the House ethics committee, the investigation could consume six months or more, and the conclusion of the ethics committee, which won’t be good, would land in the midst of the 2012 congressional campaign. To avoid that, the House could strip Mr. Weiner of his committee assignments, or even expel him from the House Democratic Caucus. But it won’t, because it can’t. Too many members have closets crowded with costly blunders and similar indiscretions, some in boudoirs not their wives’, and some not.

Or the House could kick him out of Congress altogether, though not even Republicans would throw away such a gift as keeping Mr. Weiner around and in the public prints and on the tube through the 2012 campaign. So the party’s only recourse is to Mr. Weiner’s conscience and to keep trying to persuade him to fall on his sword. But why should he? He would be left without a job. He’s not a lawyer, and if he tried to go to K Street, who would want him as a lobbyist? Nikon? Canon? Kodak? With an unhappy wife on the scene and a baby on the way, the man would need a job.

The columnist Christopher Hitchens tells of a Victorian custom at Oxford, surviving still, of a stretch of beach along the Thames reserved for nude male bathing by dons and clergymen. One Sunday afternoon, a group of proper ladies ignored warning signs and beached their little boat to the embarrassment of themselves and of rows of naked gents taking the sun. “Pairs of hands darted down to cover midsections. All but one, the hedonist and classicist Sir Maurice Bowra, whose palms went up to conceal his craggy visage … ‘I don’t know about you chaps,’ [he growled], ‘but I’m known by my face around here.’ “

How long, asks Mr. Hitchens, will this traditional view endure? In the age of Weiner, it may have already sailed past.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.



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