- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, New York Rep. Anthony D. Weiner needs some time on the couch, preferably at $300 an hour or whatever psychiatrists charge in his Long Island district.

I’m no shrink, but judge for yourself whether his recent behavior - sexting and twittering risque photos to women not his wife - fits this description of paraphilia:

“The diagnostic criteria of the DSM-IV are that the individual has experienced intense sexual urges, arousal or behavior involving the exposure of their genitals to strangers for at least six months. Further, the individual has either acted upon these urges or they cause significant personal distress or interpersonal difficulty.”

Given the nonstop coverage of Mr. Weiner’s denial, confession and subsequent exposes, I’d say he’s experiencing some “interpersonal difficulty.” He must have known that this could happen someday and that “personal distress” could occur given his prominence.

Maybe he figured he would get kid-glove treatment. Mr. Weiner’s fellow Democrats, including New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, are being very, very careful. The Democrats don’t want to offend the sexual libertines who have made the donkey party their natural home. So what rule, then, did Mr. Weiner break that would constitute a removable offense?

How about the baldfaced lies Mr. Weiner told? Sexual hijinks alone usually are not enough to unseat a Democrat. Remember, the party circled the wagons around President Clinton during Monicagate. And when it came out in 2006 that New Jersey Gov. James McGreavey had had an affair with a male aide, he resisted resigning until the lies were no longer sustainable.

In the late 1980s, Rep. Barney Frank’s lover, Stephen Gobie, ran a prostitution ring out of Mr. Frank’s Capitol Hill town house, which was disclosed by The Washington Times in 1989.

As the Boston Globe reported in a 2005 retrospective, “Frank hired Gobie as a driver despite knowing Gobie was on probation for drug possession and for possession of child pornography. Frank used his House privileges to fix Gobie’s parking tickets. He wrote a memo trying to clear Gobie from probation that was disingenuous at best and an outright deception at worst.”

The House issued a reprimand, and Mr. Frank is still very much with us. In 1983, his Massachusetts colleague Rep. Gerry Studds admitted having had sex with a 17-year-old male page 10 years earlier. The House managed to work up a censure vote. Studds literally turned his back on the chamber, signaling his contempt. His constituents echoed that sentiment, re-electing him several more times. In 1996, Congress named a marine sanctuary after him.

Before we leave Massachusetts, let’s not forget the late Edward M. Kennedy’s extramarital adventures, which have not discouraged liberals from lionizing him as a moral paragon.

One exception to the rule that Democrats don’t pay for sex scandals was New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned within two days after the New York Times reported in March 2008 that he had used a prostitute. Of course, Mr. Spitzer went on to better things - his very own talk show on CNN.

The “speak no evil” responses of leading Democrats during Weinergate contrast sharply with the Republican response: “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

In 1983, the same day that Studds was censured, the House voted to censure Illinois Republican Rep. Daniel Crane for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female page. Mr. Crane lost his seat the next year.

Sen. John Ensign of Nevada hung on for two years after his affair was revealed in 2009, but he finally resigned. More quickly out was New York Republican Rep. Chris Lee, whose shirtless pic sent to a woman not his wife was too much for House Speaker John A. Boehner, who told Mr. Lee in February to get out of town.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, merely said she was “disappointed” over Mr. Weiner and turned the matter over to an ethics panel. Mr. Lee probably should have been accorded the same protocol, but then, Mrs. Pelosi, unlike Mr. Boehner, is not running a party identified with family values.

Last year, Indiana Republican Rep. Mark Souder resigned immediately after his affair with an aide was disclosed. In 2006, Republican Rep. Mark Foley of Florida resigned within two days after his lewd emails to a 16-year-old male page came to light. Republican Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2009 after getting caught taking his mistress to South America. The state legislature censured him in 2010. Although he ignored pleas to resign and finished his term, his political career was over. Republican Sen. Larry Craig, Idaho’s “wide stance” champion arrested in an airport in June 2007, also tried to hang on but resigned three months later.

The only prominent Republican survivor of a sex scandal that comes to mind is Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who apologized to his wife and constituents after his name turned up in a madam’s list in July 2007.

But Mr. Vitter is a rare bird. In any developed country, at least one political party defends the moral order while the other major party gets to push “hope and change” of all sorts with reckless abandon. Being the party of family values is a two-edged sword for the GOP. It means that millions who believe in traditional morality gravitate toward GOP candidates. It also means having to deal quickly with moral lapses even if it causes political pain.

The late, great conservative activist Paul Weyrich angered many in the GOP when he came out in 1989 against Texas Sen. John Tower’s appointment as defense secretary over Tower’s lack of “moral character.” Mr. Weyrich testified that he had seen the married Tower drunk and with other women.

Character is profoundly important. If leaders violate their spouses’ trust, it is only a matter of time before they betray their constituents.

Finally, there is blackmail. When public officials commit adultery or other sexual offenses, they are at the mercy of anyone who knows. That includes congressional staff and certain interest groups.

In Mr. Weiner’s case, it includes anyone unfortunate enough to be on his Twitter list.

Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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