June 1st, 2011

More on not caring about Weinergate: morality in private and public life

To expand a bit on just why I don’t care about Weinergate at this point: the alleged offense is in the realm of a minor peccadillo, distasteful and stupid, but only of real interest to Weiner’s wife, family, and friends.

Others may disagree, which raises the interesting question of whether, as some commenters have indicated, private morality and public morality are inextricably linked. I’ve thought about this question many times before, most particularly during the Clinton impeachment, and my answer is “sometimes yes, sometimes no.” If you think that’s a squishy answer, tough; I think it’s a realistic answer based on careful observation of human beings.

Would I think more highly of Weiner if he turned out to be guilty of sending a crotch picture to some young woman in Seattle? Of course not. I would say I would think less highly of him if in fact I had ever previously thought of him at all. But I hadn’t ever heard of him until he was thrust (to coin a phrase) into the glare of notoriety by this incident.

But people do compartmentalize their behavior all the time, acting very differently in the different roles they play in life. Ever heard of people, for example, who are angry and nasty and even cruel at home but pleasant and decent to everyone they meet in public life? Or dishonest at work but honest in private? Or vice versa? I have.

Of course, in many cases dishonesty and smarminess is general, and people’s behavior is congruent in all the different situations they encounter. I also think that dishonesty and smarminess are endemic in the lives of political figures. That’s not to say that there are no honest men—and women—in politics. But really honest people don’t tend to be drawn to that profession, and if they are, I’m not sure how long they tend to stay that way; the opportunities to be compromised are legion and the temptations great.

Which category Weiner fits into I do not know. But even if guilty of the offense, that act is nothing like a rape or sexual harassment of an employee (and yes, I would feel that way no matter what his political persuasion). What I am far more concerned about is his behavior in his role as a public servant. And yes, sometimes a person’s behavior can be fair in one arena and foul in the other.

But sorry, I just can’t get riled up about sifting through all the intricacies of how to post photos on Twitter in order to decide whether he’s guilty or not. If I were in his district, I wouldn’t have voted for Weiner previously, and I wouldn’t vote for him now. And yes, of course the media is acting hypocritically here; if he were a Republican, they’d be out for blood. So, what else is new?

36 Responses to “More on not caring about Weinergate: morality in private and public life”

  1. Liz Says:

    I think the problem here is just how spectacularly graceless and obnoxious Weiner is. I *had* seen and heard quite a bit about him. Even by political standards, the way he constantly insults, mocks and demeans people is quite something.

    People are smelling blood in the water, and it says a lot that he’s getting very little support outside of the far left. Even he and his supporters made a tactical error – they have completely lost the opportunity to claim that it’s no big deal even if everything is true. If you want to claim that this is a hack, or some soopa doopa nefarious plot from the right, then it’s clearly a big deal.

    If it’s true, he comes accross as predatory. Why is he following so many young, college age fangirlz? Why was he following a high school student until recently? There’s something off both about the act (if true) and his constantly changing and always irrational reaction to it. If you’re hacked, you call the police, or you alert Twitter, who close your account to investigate.

  2. SteveH Says:

    I just wish this would have been Barbara Boxer so i could have coined the word “twatted”.

  3. Don Carlos Says:

    I repeat,”Falsus in unus, falsus in omnibus.”
    You may be a neocon, Neo, but you have not reached the logical conclusion of your journey, or flight, from Leftism. Try to keep on trucking!

    Weiner is a trivial symptom of a major disorder, and to shrug or pun him off is to ignore the major pathology of the underlying disorder. You give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, and we’ve been giving up inches for nigh unto one hundred years now under the logic of “I just don’t care”.

    Clinton does Monica, commits perjury, and the eventual upshot is that Rep. Livingston (R-LA) loses his job and Billy keeps his? Asymmetrical combat works, especially when the rest of us enable it or avert our eyes.

  4. Trimegistus Says:

    Don Carlos is right: hold Weiner to the same standard the Dems apply to Republicans. Force him to resign.

  5. JFM Says:

    No matter how you slice it, the guy is a real d*ck.

  6. Tesh Says:

    His political antics are unpleasant at best. I don’t particularly care if he’s an idiot in person… but something loopy like this wouldn’t surprise me if it’s true.

    But does it matter? Only if it’s a crime, in which case he should be held to the law.

    …but I’d not complain if he lost his job in the next election.

  7. Don Carlos Says:

    “But does it matter? Only if it’s a crime, in which case he should be held to the law.”
    And there’s the rub.
    Those charged with upholding the law(s), from Holder to Dupnik to POTUS on down the line, are now entirely selective about which laws to uphold. Placing one’s confidence in “the law” is not a substitute for individual morality, whence springs, in our heretofore Republic, our broader laws. It is a relentless feedback loop; personal morality slides, which in time leads to corrosion of public law, which leads to further personal moral decline.
    It is actually pretty obvious.

  8. Scomo Says:

    Don Carolos exactly right. Neocon exactly wrong. This matters because R’s get run out of congress when they make riduculous statements about ‘having a wide stance.’ Meanwhile the likes of Barney Frank literally can run a gay prostitution ring out of his own house and serve in congress long enough to blow a Fannie Mae executive that he regulates. Wake up and don’t be a doormat.

  9. Uncle Bill Says:

    In my job, before I retired, this would have clearly constituted sexual harassment, and would have been grounds for firing. If it is good enough for industry, it is good enough for congress. Fire him!

  10. Tesh Says:

    Don, I’m just noting that we can’t pillory the guy because of moral failings. Do I think he’s an unprincipled jerk? Absolutely. But we’re supposed to be a country of law, and that needs to be hammered home. It’s certainly an easier angle to attack than saying he should lose his job for being a moron.

    If he’s guilty, I do think he should resign… but I’m not convinced that forcing him to do so is solving anything. If he broke a law, he should suffer the penalty… and that’s about it. Maybe his case is one to leverage to get a law changed, who knows… but we can’t just try to push people out of office because they are moral failures. That way lies mob rule.

    He shouldn’t be in leadership… but then, considering his political nonsense before this, I’d say that has been obvious for a while.

  11. Stark Says:

    But Uncle Bill, Chuck Schumeris virtually certain that Rep. Weiner had nothing to do with the terrible tweet.

  12. SteveH Says:

    The problem is not so much with Weiner as it is with the zero tolerance policy toward one side only. Does it make it right if everyone gets held to an absurd level of scrutiny? Can we then say we’ve solved the problem when life gets absurd for everyone?

    This reminds me how i cringe when i hear fellow conservatives be all for drug testing welfare recipients. But they do this also in reaction to themselves being held up to often absurd levels of scrutiny in their own source of income.

    The over scrutiny of a free people IS the problem. And it’s important to keep the main thing the main thing.

  13. Don Carlos Says:

    The bottom line is that personal morality matters. Without it, nothing else holds up. Nothing.

  14. Curtis Says:

    The other side has declared the terms and they are Alinskyite. What is that standard: isolate and destroy. Something like that. Weiner is a superb example of a rabid Alinskyite and it is satisfying to see him hoisted on his own petard.

    Politics are close to war, these days. Slander, lies, the techniques of psychological warfare . . . these repellent and atrocious behaviors should not become our standard. But demanding the truth is a different matter. Weiner has stated he was hacked and the hacker should be found. Someone hacked one of our congressional representatives. If he is lying about this, it is much more than minor. If he will lie about this, will he not lie for the image of his party or another Democrat? Do we want liars in our government?

    An episode like this shows there is a longing for civil society. Good. But it is a longing that if left unchecked will lead to defeat. If you don’t want to win, vote McCain again.

  15. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Representative Weiner is, in his political tactics, a veritable “weiner.” I have seen him quite often on Fox News where he is brought in to hold up the left’s point of view. On occasion he can be as nasty and vindictive as Keith Olberman. So, to see him get a small taste of being attacked, whether he is guilty or not, is amusing.

    I agree with neo, we are all, even though we battle mightily against it, of Jekyll and Hyde personas. That is what religion and civilizing influences are all about. To help us tame our Mr. Hydes while nurturing our Dr. Jekylls.

    To be caught in a lie and have to atone for it can become a chance to seek redemption and forgiveness. A chance to push Mr. Hyde further behind us. However, our MSM does not use its power to ferret out the lies and misdeeds of both sides equally. To counter that there is a new sheriff in town, who has decided to try and equal things up a bit. That sheriff is the conservative blogosphere and especially Breitbart, the Ace of Spades and others of that aggressisve mode.

    So, I hope Congressmean (that’s not a mispelling) Weiner gets a bit of religion here. Hope springs eternal.

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    Scomo: of course it matters that the media pays differential attention to the acts of Republicans vs. the acts of Democrats. I’ve spent tons of hours and scads of posts on that very fact. All I said here about that was “so, what else is new?” meaning that’s not what’s special about this particular incident; that’s the way it is almost all the time with the MSM.

    It’s the acts involved in the incident itself that I’m not especially interested in, whether perpetrated by a Republican or a Democrat. That does not mean I approve of adolescent sexual acting-out on the part of members of Congress. I’m just not especially interested in the topic any more, and if that’s all Weiner had done, I just don’t care very much. I care much more about the types of offenses I listed in my original post (such as rape, or harassment of an employee), or corruption of some sort in the course of carrying out one’s duties. The main point of this post had to do with the question of whether private and public morality march in lockstep.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos: once, again, I’ll say that I deplore the differential treatment by the MSM of Republicans and Democrats who commit the same offenses.

    It’s certain offenses themselves I don’t care about. Weiner’s alleged offense is one of them. If a person fools around with someone, it’s their spouse’s concern. If it doesn’t impair their ability to do their work, and isn’t a dalliance with someone in the workplace (which Clinton’s was, by the way), doesn’t involve rape or coercion or breaking a law, I just can’t get in an uproar about it, and I never will (unless, of course, it’s my spouse. Then watch out!)

    This has nothing to do with my having been a liberal, nor is it a vestige of liberalism. If anything, it has more to do with my being somewhat of a libertarian.

  18. Gringo Says:


    Meanwhile the likes of Barney Frank literally can run a gay prostitution ring out of his own house and serve in congress long enough to blow a Fannie Mae executive that he regulates

    Check the record. It was NOT Barney Frank who was running the prostitution ring/escort service, it was Barney Frank’s “roommate,” Steve Gobie . Frank said he kicked Gobie out when their landlord informed them of what was going on. Gobie claimed that Frank had known all along, but agreed that he was kicked out after the landlord informed Frank.

  19. RandomThoughts Says:

    Don Carlos, I might respect your opinion more if you didn’t try to impress your readers by repeating a Latin phrase unfamiliar to the average adult American. Once is erudite if pedantic, twice is pure arrogance.

    I understand and agree with Neo-Con. There is nothing new in the Weiner behavior. Politicians have been behaving like adolescents–and involved in sexual scandals–since Alexander Hamilton’s affair with the married 23 year old Maria Reynolds in 1791. Certainly we would like our politicians (and anyone in any position of authority for that matter) to be above reproach morally, but to expect it is naive. As Neo-Con pointed out,

    …really honest people don’t tend to be drawn to that profession, and if they are, I’m not sure how long they tend to stay that way; the opportunities to be compromised are legion and the temptations great.

  20. neo-neocon Says:

    Come to think of it, some of the disagreement among conservatives on this issue probably comes down to the differences of opinion between social conservatives and libertarians.

  21. RickZ Says:

    I think this is, in the words of Sheriff Joe, ‘a big f*cking deal’. Weiner first claimed his Twitter (Twatter?) account was hacked. When Palin’s email was hacked, she went straight to the authorities. Weiner, instead, started filibustering non-answers to questions, then changed his story to a prank, and he is ‘protecting’ the prankster. The issue is that Weiner, as a Congressman, has a higher security clearance than the average John and Jane Public. If he is so nonchalant about one electronic account of his being ‘hacked’, then what does that say for his personal computer, and any secret information contained thereon?

    Trumpet this story from the rooftops. Make this Weiner ideologue twist in the breeze. If he thinks he can tell people how to run their lives but isn’t sure whether it was his picture or not, then why is he in Congress? Such matters of integrity matter, especially in one making onerous laws for the rest of us to obey.

  22. Don Says:

    Yeah, the problem is the lies and cover up AFTER the picture was sent out.

    Was his account hacked or not? Lying about that is what will get him into trouble (aside from the wife).

  23. Curtis Says:

    I’m thinking of Neo’s May 13th post “Romneycare: it’s not the offense……it’s the coverup.

    That’s why Weinergate is important.

    I suppose you will then ask “Why should it have even reached the point of a cover-up? Isn’t it, as we are stating, a matter not our concern?”

    For libertarians, it is not a matter of concern. For social conservatives, it is.

    NOTE: Alexander Hamilton “set forth” (I used that term instead of exposed) the facts of his sexual dalliance in order to prove himself innocent of any type of graft. His wife remained devoted to him for long years after his death. Of course, the example does prove the point that many talented and potent men, especially in leadership, have troubles maintaining monogamy. I just add the note to separate the truly brilliant and troubled Alexander Hamilton from Mr. Weiner.

  24. Curtis Says:

    Might be interesting:

    van den Haag observes libertarianism:


  25. Trimegistus Says:

    In an ideal world, yes, we wouldn’t have to care. But this isn’t an ideal world. It’s a world in which one political party seems to be consciously and deliberately dismantling America’s constitution and system of laws, turning our country into a bankrupt Third World one-party kleptocracy.

    To fight that we should not disdain any weapon, any tactic. Weiner handed us a way to destroy him, so we should use it. Make people care. Make him an object of ridicule. Make him resign.

    Because if he gets away with it — what then? Then the Democrats know they can get away with anything. The rule of law tumbles to a little heap and we’re left with Obama ruling by decree.

  26. Parker Says:

    “Come to think of it, some of the disagreement among conservatives on this issue probably comes down to the differences of opinion between social conservatives and libertarians.”

    I’m more of a libertarian than a social conservative; yet this Weinergate incident deserves serious investigation IMO. This is not a case of Joe the plumber getting cheeky with his babysitter, this is a federal congress critter who gets to vote on laws that determine who gets taxed and how much, when and against who we go to war, how – when – where we are regulated as we go about our daily lives.

    If Weiner did twitter the photo to a young woman less than than half his age it shows him to be emotionally and intellectually the equivalent of a 14 year old boy masturbating as he turns the pages of daddy’s Playboy. And, under the law of the land it is sexual harassment. (Don’t like the law, ask Mr. Weiner if he’s ready to vote to repeal it when he’s seeking re-election!) If (nudge, nudge) as Weiner claims this is an incident caused by hacking, why doesn’t he take the steps necessary to have law enforcement authorities investigate the crime?

    Fidelity matters. To your spouse or to your oath of office, it matters. This smells like the head of a rotten fish. I want to see Mr. Weiner twisting in the wind.

  27. Casca Says:

    Jeez, does nobody here get it? His action shows a level of judgment and behavior that is defective and unworthy of a member of congress. Anyone who has observed him already knows this, but he has now revealed it to the world.

    Neo, he’s a well known leftist liar of the worst sort. If you are to purvey political opinions, you should know who this guy is.

  28. Don Carlos Says:

    I quoted the Latin because I didn’t think most of us would have trouble in translating “falsus”, etc. False=falsus; perhaps a tad tough, eh?

    My point is really that this idea has been around for Lo! perhaps 2000 years.

    Neo will cut Weiner the slack she would not give her husband. Q.E.D. (with regrets to Random)

  29. Curtis Says:

    That it is the business of only family was Neo’s point. I don’t agree; I like the simplicity of Casca, but Neo’s stance is rational and the rational shouldn’t be dismissed without good reason. Hah!

  30. Curtis Says:

    Apparently, Roger Simon likes the falsus quote:


    And stated an earlier point I stated: When they lie in public about sex, how do we know they are not lying about other things?

  31. RandomThoughts Says:

    Don Carlos, now you are just being juvenile and petty.

    If Weiner broke the law, and the woman in question (she isn’t a child, she’s over 18 and in college) presses a charge of sexual harassment, then by all means he should pay the legal price. Otherwise, it’s politics as usual in DC as far as I can see.

    There are far worse things going on in government, with far greater consequences, than the Twittering of someone’s bulging boxers. This is a stupid distraction from matters of greater import.

  32. Don Carlos Says:

    Those who choose to let Weiner slide because there are bigger, badder things going on in D.C. overlook the lesson of successful policing in NYC during the Giuliani years, the Broken Windows strategy, if memory as to its name serves. If the cops paid attention to minor offenses, e.g. window breaking, instead of ignoring them, it was theorized there would in time also be a reduction in major crimes in the same areas. It worked, worked well, much better than the previous policing approach, and still does.

  33. Donald Douglas Says:

    I just added your link, FWIW: ‘Lawrence O’Donnell: ‘Not all sex scandals are actually scandalous’
    Says the MSNBC host on Twitter’

  34. Beverly Says:

    I just saw the rancid little git on New York 1 News this evening. He got snappish yesterday with a reporter who pressed him politely to answer a question, and really showed his nasty streak.

    Apparently his PR people took him to the woodshed over that, and he appeared on NY1 again tonight, jaw clenched, feigning composure and declaring that he was ready to answer any and all questions to hasten the day when he could “get back to solving the country’s problems, like working on the deficit.”

    He’s like Andrew Cuomo, the Knee-Capper. Everyone loathes him, but he’s such a knife-wielder that they give him a wide berth.

  35. Don Carlos Says:

    In follow-up on the theme of this thread, I refer readers to the Belmont Club’s Wretchard on “The Soap Opera World” today.

  36. Try Honesty Says:

    What if we wake up one day and realize that the terrorist threat is a predictable consequence of our meddling in the affairs of others?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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