Does Weiner’s punishment fit his crime?

at 11:33 AM ET, 06/16/2011


(Jin Lee - Bloomberg)

I thought Derek Thompson made a fairly persuasive case this morning that Anthony Weiner shouldn’t resign. Weiner, however, appears to feel differently about it. He’s expected to give up his seat in a 2 p.m. press conference.

I can’t help feeling badly for him. What he did was disrespectful to his office, to the women who innocently got in contact with him and to his family. Reading the transcripts of his chats made me feel sick. But aside from perhaps his wife, it’s not clear anyone was actually hurt. Except, ultimately, Weiner. He’s now a national laughingstock, his career is over and the actual work he did as a legislator is forgotten. He’s paid a tremendous price for having consensual — if indiscreet, undignified and unfaithful — communications with women online.

From start to finish, of course, this was his fault. He initiated these chats. He accidentally tweeted a picture of himself publicly. He lied about being hacked. He decided against immediately resigning. Still, I’m having a hard time convincing myself that the punishment fits the crime. If Weiner had simply had an affair, or hadn’t sent so many vain pictures, it’s hard to believe that this would’ve turned out similarly. David Vitter, after all, visited prostitutes — which is to say, he appears to have consummated a form of infidelity that is specifically illegal — and he’s still a serving member of the Senate.

So much as Weiner is paying for anything, he’s paying for how media-friendly his indiscretions were, how the pictures and transcripts kept dribbling out, how little goodwill he had among his fellow Democrats. Weiner was always better than his colleagues at making himself, his work and his comments interesting for the media to cover. Ultimately, he turned out to be much, much too good at it.

 
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