Watching the press conference was extremely uncomfortable at the outset. He’s clearly humiliated and apologetic to his wife. I think his critics should acknowledge that much (though judging from the Twitter reactions, many do not).
It was also good for him to apologize to Andrew Breitbart and “anyone else he misled.”
But that’s not what he did wrong to Andrew Breitbart and others. He encouraged people to make Breitbart et al into the villains in this story. The sin there is not misleading but a kind of bearing false witness, a variant of slander.
The tide turned against him when he was asked whether he knew if all the recipients of his communications were of legal age. I suspect that tide will not recede imminently.
As for his decision not to resign, I think it reflects poorly upon the man and our times. He constantly says that he didn’t break the law and that nothing he did reflects on his work as a public servant. Though he concedes that people can draw different conclusions. I’ll say. Here’s mine. He has behaved dishonorably. That is an old-fashioned word, but I don’t think it is has lost its relevance. Politicians brag about being family men for a reason. They tout their families for a reason. They want people to believe they are honest, forthright, and decent people for a reason. Claiming “I didn’t break the law” is the last refuge of dishonorable men in situations like this.
I for one think we should continue to demand that our public servants be honorable men and women. We’ll often be disappointed because public servants are human beings and human beings almost always fall short of our ideals. When that happens leaders should apologize for their mistakes. Weiner has done that. Good for him. But despite assurances to the contrary, I don’t believe he has taken “full responsibility” for his actions.
It is also flatly untrue that this will not affect his ability to do his job. How much work has he gotten done in the last week? How effective will he be politically in the months and weeks ahead? The fact is that he is not resigning out of vanity, not integrity.
Will he get away with it? Probably. But not definitely. One, admittedly very small, sign that the mainstream press is still absurdly sympathetic to the man can be found in the New York Times’s Twitter “News Alert” prior to the press conference: “Representative Anthony D. Weiner Acknowledges Communication With Women Online.”
“Communication with Women Online”? How antiseptically euphemistic.
I doubt there’s a mullah in Iran who’s not guilty of that. And not one who would fail to acknowledge it.
Mr. Weiner said over and over that people can draw their own judgments about the man and his behavior. That’s true. And we can draw judgments about the people who make their judgments about the man as well. It will be interesting, if not altogether shocking, to see what judgments people make in the days ahead.