Weiner and the Profumo Precedent

by Charlotte Hays

Before yesterday, I would not have believed it possible to hold a more pathetic press-conference confessional than South Carolina governor Mark Sanford’s, but Anthony Weiner outdid him by a mile and a half. At least Sanford had a soul mate, which is far less creepy than getting caught sending snaps of an eponymous body part around the Internet.

I watched Weiner’s presser on the phone with a friend (as, no doubt, did half the population of the United States). When he employed the current formula for politicians who have been caught in wrongdoing — “I take full responsibility” — I wanted to ask what I always want to ask when someone says that: “As opposed to partial responsibility?” He meant to sound contrite; he sounded more like a manipulative child trying to avoid consequences.

Weiner insisted that, while he doesn’t deserve a medal for emailing lewd pictures, this isn’t illegal. Who cares? The question in the Weiner case isn’t about legality. It’s about moral turpitude, with a heavy dose of lack of self-control. Do you really think his behavior is better because sending vulgar pictures to women is legal?

I rather suspect the Democrats will make sure Weiner goes bye-bye, a reluctant sacrifice to the sensibilities of ordinary people. But I doubt if many of the Weiner’s friends on Capitol Hill really get it. “That damn social media,” a “Weiner colleague” is quoted saying in today’s Politico.

No, thank the social media for providing the kind of adult oversight members of Congress seem to need!

My favorite model for the ruined politician was John Profumo, the British minister who resigned after the sex scandal bearing his name and quietly dedicated the rest of his life to charity work. Profumo never publicly tried to justify himself or enter politics again. Something tells me we can’t expect the same path from the loquacious and arrogant Mr. Weiner. Weiner appeared to be shamed but not humbled yesterday. The Profumo course takes character.