I am writing this blog on Tuesday before the start of the holyday of Shavuot (Pentecost). It will not post until the holyday ends late Thursday night. Congressman Weiner may well have resigned by then. Nonetheless, I think the point will still stand.
The economy is tumbling and dictators in the Middle East are massacring their subjects. Iran is acquiring nuclear power and in general, crises are looming on the horizon. Does it really matter if a New York congressman is a creep and a liar?
Actually, it does. There are difficult decisions to be made in America today. Those decisions direct members of the military to risk their lives, encourage or discourage citizens from starting or growing their businesses and affect the daily lives of millions. It matters a great deal whether members of Congress are people of integrity who serve this nation or whether they are arrogant, self-centered individuals who see the electorate as a group to be manipulated for their own benefit.
I think that Congressman Weiner has been reading too many parenting books. He seems to be fixated on two, sometimes abused, parenting credos. The first states that when your four year old does something wrong, but truthfully admits his actions, you should praise him for his confession and minimize the consequences. Your goal is to encourage honesty. Wise parents understand two things. Firstly, confessing doesn’t totally cancel out all behavior. If it did you would raise a very badly behaved but honest child. Secondly, a child who confesses to eating cookies because you walk out of his room carrying the empty cookie box is not being honest; he is feeling trapped.
The second parenting credo states that you should emphasize disapproval of the action, while making sure the child knows he is good. That’s great for a four year old, but as we mature our actions really do shape our characters. At some point, if their behavior is despicable, adults forfeit being considered good people.
Mr. Weiner isn’t the only one looking bad here. The ethics probe for which Nancy Pelosi is calling also misses the point. When politicians exhibit serious character flaws and lie to those who put them in office, legalities are not the issue. If laws were broken then jail time and fines are in order. But serving in Congress is a privilege which demands a higher bar.
When Democrats behave despicably there is always a rush to say, “Well, it happens on both sides of the aisle.” That statement is true. But there is a difference. I have been disappointed in the Republican Party more than once, but I am proud that Republicans urged President Richard Nixon to resign. While I think Republicans fold too quickly under biased media pressure when foolish comments or innocent words are twisted, I think it right that Republicans insist that politicians of their party, like Christopher Lee or John Ensign, resign when they behave unethically and immorally. Too often, Democrats express shock and indignation and then fall back on legalities and time-delaying tactics like ethic probes.
Nancy Pelosi, the mainstream media and, indeed, all Democrats who don’t place unrelenting pressure upon Mr. Weiner to resign are revealing their own lack of integrity and their inflated sense of self-importance. They are showing a disdain for voters while displaying an attitude which views themselves as a powerful ruling class separate from regular Americans. In this world, wives and children are props which help election efforts. Promoting family values and talking about empowering women is a political tool, not a value. If the price of keeping one of their own in office means a diminishing of faith in Congress’s integrity and wisdom, so be it. With enough of their own type in office they can pass legislation which entrenches their own positions no matter how it affects most Americans. They trust in the folly of the American people to keep on believing in them no matter how frequently their hypocrisy is revealed.
When the general belief is that all politicians are cheats and liars, an attitude that Mr. Weiner’s presence in Congress nurtures, we are crippling a vital leg of our civilization. When there is a feeling that our government is “by the politicians and for the politicians,” American loses. That places us in a weakened position to deal wisely with critical matters like terrorism and the economy.