I’m not making any judgements about whether Anthony Weiner should resign from office.
But as an observer, it’s clear to me that even as calls for him to do so increase and he embarks on a leave of absence for therapy, he intends to fight tooth and nail to hang on to his seat and has no motivation to step down. The next few days will tell us how serious the House minority leadership and top party leaders are about forcing him out.
Clearly national chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and minority leader Nancy Pelosi, in calling for him to quit, are worried about the effect on independent women voters next year and wealthy women donors, and lots of men, too, who are grossed out by a congressman that viewed women as objects for his narcissistic entertainment.
But Weiner is likely encouraged by polls showing that a small majority of his constituents want him to stay and feel the issue is essentially one between him and his wife that has been blown out of proportion, and by private messages of support he is likely receiving from community leaders he has helped. The second-ranking Democrat in the House, Maryland’s Steny Hoyer, said in TV appearances yesterday that an ethics investigation and censure process would be lengthy and implied that, from the Democrats’ point of view, it will only prolong the pain. Only a vote for expulsion before the full House could force him to leave.
Weiner knows that if he can ride the storm and take his lumps in an investigation –as Charlie Rangel did in a much more clear-cut case of abuse of office — there is a chance he can be reelected, perhaps narrowly, if he can somehow get back on track talking about issues and making routine appearances in the district. He will, of course, have to worry about changed district lines that no one will go out of their way to make favorable to him, but that’s a fight for another day.
Quitting will only enhance, not end his humiliation. TBS late night host Conan O’Brien already begged him on air not to quit, but even if he does he will remain the punchline of jokes for years to come, just like Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton.
It’s Clinton’s example that Weiner is likely clinging to: a humiliating sex scandal and coverup attempt that the president managed to endure and overcome and go on to complete a productive tenure in office. He’ll forever be tied to Lewinskygate. but it will not be his primary legacy as Watergate is Richard Nixon’s. What his unborn child will learn about Weiner’s career has to be weighing heavily on his mind.
Another incentive to fight until they change the locks on his office door reminds me of the scene in "An Officer and a Gentleman," when Lou Gossett Jr. as
the drill sergeant relentlessly pushes the unworthy officer candidate played by Richard Gere to drop out. "I got nowhere else to go!" Gere’s Mayo shouts, ending the standoff.
Weiner has spent practically his entire adult life in politics as an aide to Chuck Schumer, city councilman and member of Congress. He’s not a lawyer and the tough job market won’t be kind to a disgraced former congressman. He may get a book deal but no one will offer him a TV spot other than a reality show. Maybe Schumer or another influential Democrat will arrange a soft landing for him to ease him out, but for now he has to be worried about supporting his family.
There are reports today that he is wearing down and considering resignation and will likely wait until his wife, Huma Abedin returns from a trip to Africa to make any announcement. But if he is intent on hanging on he will need to muster up some supporters to match the opponents who rallied to call for his resignation yesterday and take the offensive, reminding constituents what he has achieved for them in office and how they stand to lose by gaining a freshman representative, or having the district split into chunks. He could also resume his Twitter and Facebook posts, but on national issues such as the economy and not in perpetual defense of himself.
Still, all the kings horses and men may not be able to save someone in this kind of relentless media storm, and it may well be that Weiner has done too much damage to himself to be effective and be taken seriously by his peers in a job that involves a lot of coalition-building.
"If he wants to be stubborn he can stick it out, but his future career is over," said political maven Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. "He’s finished as a candidate for mayor and its hard to see hard to see him resurrected to anything else. It seems clear that he doesn’t have any friends on Capitol Hill."