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Joel Shatzky

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In Defense of Anthony Weiner

Posted: 06/16/11 02:05 PM ET

The news that Congressman Anthony Weiner has decided to resign due to what I would regard as a junior-high-school-level prank makes me realize that we are living in an era in which increasingly sensationalism is being used as a substitute for serious political discourse. Weiner was being self-destructive in putting himself in such a vulnerable position by his actions in sending pictures of his genitals on the internet to young women in order to impress them about one of his attributes that was no one's business but his own. That he showed poor judgment in doing so is unarguable, but what I would question is how that behavior would seriously compromise his ability to be an effective legislator which he amply demonstrated in his championing of a single-payer health care system.

If we look through post-war history, we should realize that there is a significant pattern of "indiscreet" sexual behavior on the part of our presidents from Franklin Roosevelt -- Lucy Mercer -- through the innumerable trysts of John F. Kennedy likely including Marilyn Monroe, and most recently, Bill Clinton's indiscretion. There is even a website on the subject, which includes such notables as Rudy Giuliani and a current candidate for President -- Newt Gingrich.

In terms of the contemporary political scene, in comparing the indiscretions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Edwards, who both had out-of-wedlock children, and Eliot Spitzer, a habitué of call girls, Weiner's behavior is almost insignificant except for the fact that he was "caught," as was Spitzer, while still serving in office. If the American public really believes that illicit sexual behavior can have a negative effect on the performance of public figures and therefore expect that the guilty party should leave office, what might have happened to our country had FDR been forced to resign while serving as our leader during World War ll or JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

What I find particularly hypocritical about the public and political reaction to Weiner's behavior is that perfectly "acceptable" legislative actions occur all the time in Washington and state houses that have a far more chilling effect on the "general welfare" than anything Weiner had done. Governors in the Midwest, South and New Jersey are cutting budgets and making laws against collective bargaining in the name of "fiscal responsibility," which regards "shared sacrifice" as one in which those who can sacrifice the least are required to sacrifice the most. Our whole political system has become so compromised through big money and the proliferation of lobbyists that to force Weiner out of office over his "unethical" behavior is to, and here, unaccustomed as I am, I quote from Scripture: "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel" (Matt: 23:24). Even the ruinous practices of many of the financial corporations that deceived investors are difficult to prosecute because they can be defended through legal maneuvers.

When Charles Rangel was censored by Congress for some financial manipulations, I believe that the punishment was appropriate to the "crime." But Rangel is a "good old boy" and from what I understand, Weiner is more of a maverick. Had he more "friends" in Congress, wouldn't it be more likely that instead of resignation, he would be getting a reprimand? Had he not been as courageous in pursuing single-payer health care, would Anthony Weiner not have been able to continue to serve the interests of his real constituents, those who need to be represented because they have few to speak up for them?