Lessons from Anthony Weiner: A Decency Code to Keep in Check

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Today is not a bad day to remember what Bobby Jindal writes in his recent book: “All people — regardless of their job or role in society — have the responsibility to notice when they are viewed as a role model and live up to that responsibility. No excuses. That admiring kid of today could be a political leader, athlete, parent or teacher of tomorrow.”

When I was co-authoring this piece earlier this year, encouraging decency in Congress, I talked to a longtime congressional spouse who offered some advice to congressmen: 

1.  Be sure the decision on where to live — DC or district –  is based on what is best for the marriage and family, not on political expediency. It must be a joint decision. Marriages and families need to be the first priority in all decisions. 

2.  Keep your spouse close to your side. The Member needs to be sure that the staff respects the spouse and makes her/him feel welcome and included in the office. The non-daily schedule should be run by the spouse for approval to ensure that evening and weekend events do not interfere with family schedule before the office confirms the Member’s attendance. Communication between Member and spouse should not be impeded by any staffer.

3. Receptions are a danger zone. Members need to quickly learn that attending receptions is optional and there are very few they actually need to attend. Members need to learn where to buy quick meals and how to use the microwave. Receptions should not be viewed as the place to get dinner. Married Members should avoid alcohol use in public and private conversations with single women. Do not give out or request private contact info. Staff can handle legitimate requests. Talk about the wife and kids to any and all women!  

4.  Learn to live without the congressional pin! After the first few months, Capitol Police and staff recognize Members by face. Ditch the pin except for rare occasions and experience life on the Hill as an ordinary Bob and not part of a privileged class. What a difference a pin makes!   

5.  Remember you are there to change Congress; not to be changed by Congress. Keep focused on the issues you care about; be a voice and not just a vote.   

6. Keep in touch with spouse and family every night. Stay away from places singles frequent.    

7. Treat all people with respect and dignity. Staff, elevator operators, police and parking attendants can tell which Members they consider to be “decent” and which ones they avoid.   

8. Length of Congressional service varies. What matters most is what a Member does during their time of service. A Member needs to remember that the final vote tally takes place far from their district and the halls of Congress and all that matters is the record presented to God.   

9. Heed Micah 6:8 — What then does God require of you? Seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.   

10. Remember the angels … “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” G. K. Chesterton.  

I would like to think “Do not tweet sexually suggestive or otherwise explicit photos and text” doesn’t need to be spelled out. A member who had stuck by those rules likely never would have fallen so far.

We are only human. So make virtue a matter of habit. And, for goodness sake, keep people around you who will keep you in check.