Over the weekend, I was noodling a piece that would attempt to explain why some folks embroiled in sex scandals survive (President Clinton) and others (Chris Lee) do not. Each controversy is a swirl of circumstances that give it its own unique chemistry. What might work for one person in the eye of the storm won’t necessarily work for another. Sure enough, Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast beat me to the punch today with the nine factors that matter in a Weiner-esque scandal.
Those factors that matter include hypocrisy, geography, denials, money, visuals and shamelessness. Kurtz’s remaining three factors — personality, spouses and timing — have added dimensions in the Weiner mess. And there was one factor Kurtz didn’t mention: leadership support.
Yes, spouses matter. But some matter more than others. And as we have learned, Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is the universally loved right-hand to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Without question, the positively glowing coverage of Abedin shows that she is the popular one in that marriage.
Yes, timing matters. Adding to the irritation among Democrats is that Weiner’s recklessness and ensuing circus have diverted attention away from the Republicans just when they had the GOP on the ropes on substantive issues such as Medicare reform. I’m sure Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, would have loved to have spent all of her time on “Meet the Press” yesterday hammering away at Republicans on jobs than talking about a wayward member of her caucus.
Yes, personality matters. And it matters if you have a personality folks like. Weiner did not. Kurtz mentions Bill Clinton and how he left office with high approval ratings despite being impeached. It’s worth pointing out that in addition to peace and prosperity keeping Clinton afloat were African Americans, whose overwhelming support of him did not waver throughout the Monica Lewinsky scandal, including impeachment.
Weiner is finding solace in a NY1-Marist poll that shows voters in his district want him to stay. But it is unclear whether he can survive without the support of leadership.
A common refrain on Twitter and among progressives is that Weiner should resign when Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) does. Vitter, you may recall, copped to being a client of a Washington-based call-girl service after his phone number was found in the records of the “D.C. Madam” in 2007. This makes him the ultimate practitioner of the shamelessness Kurtz says is a factor in surviving scandal. But the Republican leadership gave Vitter an assist by being mute on whether he should resign. Weiner is not being afforded that luxury. With the exception of his mentor, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the entire Democratic Party hierarchy in Congress has called on Weiner to resign. Even the White House is staying out of this one.
When you have a personality no one likes, a wife you’ve wronged whom everyone loves, and the entire leadership of your party arrayed against you because of the raunchy distraction you’ve become, you’d have to be blind to not see the blinking, neon writing on the wall.