Should Weiner Go?

My colleague Josh Green says it's time for Weiner to go:

I appreciate his candor, have great sympathy for his wife, and think Andrew Breitbart is odious. But Weiner's refusal to resign seems like a spasm from the guy he was until a week ago: the chesty liberal loudmouth who tore up conservatives on Fox News and never backed down. Weiner may not realize it, but he's not that guy anymore. He's not the cartoon scourge of the right wing. He's a joke, his behavior was egregious, and he ought to do the decent thing and resign.

Already, a debate has arisen over whether this kind of behavior should be disqualifying in a politician, and whether Weiner can survive the scandal. On some level, I suppose that the moral, cultural, and sociological elements of this affair are worth thinking through and writing about. But there's a tendency among bloggers, maybe among everybody, to over-analyze and over-intellectualize scandals such as this one that has the pernicious effect of obscuring what I think is a very basic point: Weiner had so little regard for his office, his constituents, and his duty as a member of Congress that he apparently thought nothing of tweeting pictures of his genitals to random women. Does the analysis really need to go any further than that?
Aside from the normal spate of reflexive partisans claiming that this isn't a big deal because Weiner's not a hypocrite who ran on family values (I wouldn't try that line on the Orthodox Jews in his district), there's a sort of interesting split in the commentary. A lot of over-35's, including me, view this behavior as pathologically reckless. A lot of under-35's are saying "meh, what's the big deal? Lot's of people do it!"

Maybe so. But here's the thing: Anthony Weiner is 47, not 24. Like the rest of us fuddy-duddies, he grew up with a strong taboo against mailing naked photographs of yourself to strangers. Whether or not college students really distribute naked photographs of themselves as indiscriminately as their email address, middle-aged married people do not regard this as a slightly less formal way to say "have a nice day."

So I don't find the argument that "it's normal" very convincing -- not for a man of Weiner's age and position. It was obviously pretty reckless, even if the only standard you use is that obviously, if these pictures became public, he would have to spend a lot of time explaining himself.

And of course, this ignores the fact that he was married. I think we can safely say that premarital sex with more than one person is now normal in our society. That doesn't mean it's okay for a married man to have a girlfriend on the side. If this had happened while Weiner was still single, it would have been embarrassing, but -- aside from the possibility that he used government computers -- not particularly newsworthy. Once he started sexually explicit relationships outside of his marriage, it became an entirely different thing.
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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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