Mr. Right hasn't spoken within my hearing yet on Rep. Anthony Weiner's admission that he lied about the stuffed-underwear crotch shot that had appeared on Twitter and was exposed by right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart, but he'd already complained last week, while Weiner was still denying that he'd uploaded the photo, about the eternal double standard that supposedly judges Democrats differently from Republicans. Mr. Right's feeling was that Weiner should have resigned then and there, and that everyone who applauded Rep. Chris Lee's resignation under similar circumstances should have demanded that Weiner step down. His analysis was problematic. First, he failed to presume Weiner's innocence, those his hunch has proven correct. Second, it was my impression that Rep. Lee did not resign under pressure, but did so entirely on his own initiative, or out of his own shame. A double standard would exist if anyone had demanded that Lee resign, but doesn't demand it of Weiner now that he's admitted his impropriety and his lie. Finally, it has to be acknowledged that a historic double standard does apply in cases like these. Because the Republicans have, so to speak, made their bed with the partisans of traditional sexual morality, any Republican embroiled in sex-related impropriety, even something as trite as Lee's stunt, is considered guilty of a double fault. Whether it's fair to Lee or not, he was blamed, albeit only after his pre-emptive resignation, for both the impropriety and for hypocrisy.
Rep. Weiner currently refuses to resign. He argues that he broke no law with his antics, but by lying about them he clearly broke faith with his constituents. As his is a Democratic district, his constituents may not be bothered by the news. If they're Clintonian Democrats, they may feel that this is the sort of thing anyone would lie about under certain circumstances, and they may uphold a fairly conventional distinction between "private" conduct and "public" responsibilities. But does Weiner draw the line at the same place his constituents do? Does he agree that it's OK to lie about this but not about that? How does anyone know? Does anyone want to know? I fear that most of his constituents only want to know that their congressman is not a Republican. But if they feel that strongly about parties they could elect a Democratic successor easily enough in a special election. Then again, maybe they're not as confident as I think. If so, any professed indifference to the scandal we see in Weiner's district could well be an expression of fear. The law may not be involved, but Democrats may well invoke the partisan immunity principle anyway. That would put them in the running for wieners of the year.