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In Defense of Anthony Weiner

In this world, there are hypocrites, damned hypocrites, and then there is Andrew Breitbart. When Breitbart commandeered Rep. Anthony Weiner’s press conference earlier this week to demand that Weiner apologize to him, my jaw dropped. Nothing should surprise me any more. But this did.

Here was Breitbart (the man who sliced, diced, and pureed Shirley Sherrod’s reputation and career), standing at the microphone complaining that he was forced to interrupt his vacation and crash a press conference because he had been falsely accused of hacking Weiner’s twitter account. As Weiner’s supporters had speculated about this, Weiner had remained silent.

Poor Breitbart demanded our sympathy and demanded that we share in his outrage against Weiner, because, he, Breitbart, was the victim of character assassination. Well, the media does love to hear from experts. And when it comes to character assassination, Breitbart is an expert. To Weiner’s credit, he took the high road and apologized to Breitbart. But did Breitbart ever apologize to Shirley Sherrod? I don’t think so.

This past week, I’ve witnessed a mob mentality in the media. Famous and wealthy people couldn’t get to a microphone and say it loud enough and often enough: “Anthony Weiner ought to resign!” And all sorts of reasons were tacked onto that proclamation, things about the dignity of the House, and the need to end this distraction so his constituents can have representation…. My personal favorite was the comment that it was unforgivable for a politician to lie (uttered, of course, by a politician). When we heard that one, my husband hit the pause button on the remote. We were laughing so hard, we could no longer hear the TV.

I am sure these rich and famous people hear moral rectitude in their voices and ramrod righteousness in the prim wording of their press statements. But I hear the sound of glass houses shattering.

Who the hell do these rich and famous folks think they are? And who the hell do they think they’re talking to?

Thank God the decision about whether or not Weiner continues to serve in Congress is up to the people in his district, because they have a helluva lot more common sense than folks like Ed Schultz (Hey Ed, you made a mistake and you got a second chance. why shouldn’t Weiner?) or Joan Walsh. I hate to criticize either one, because I love their coverage of Wisconsin.

But guess what, rich folks, I work hard for a living, just like the people in Weiner’s district. When President Obama turned his back on working people like me, Weiner was there to defend us. When Obama would not defend the Public Option for health care, Weiner did. When the media failed to cover Republicans stalling health care for 9-11 first responders; Weiner passionately defended the cops, firefighters, paramedics, and other workers at Ground Zero. Weiner has a 100 percent voting record on protecting a woman’s right to choose.

Over and over again, on every issue that affects people like me, Weiner has defended us. I live in California, so I am not one of Weiner’s constituents. But I am definitely one of his supporters. And I agree wholeheartedly with the majority of his constituents; 56 percent say he should not resign. Like them, I work for a living and I am part of the middle class that is being pounded into oblivion. So, unlike Joan Walsh, I do not have the luxury of worrying about whether or not his wife’s pregnancy increases the degree of Weiner’s caddishness. That is between him and his wife.

And, no, Ed Schultz, I do not want Weiner to “take one for the team.” As a Democratic voter, donor, and volunteer on the Clinton/Gore, Kerry/Edwards, and Obama/Biden campaigns; I am one of the team. And I say Weiner should not resign!

Yes, Weiner’s behavior was unethical. The photos were in bad taste. Tweeting them was foolish. Weiner indulged in the sort of adolescent behavior one associates with junior high, high school, and drunken college students–not with a congressman in his 40s. But hello! They were photos!

Bill Clinton had a twelve-year affair with Jennifer Flowers and lied about it until she held a press conference, and he was forced to come clean. I not only voted for Clinton. I volunteered for him.

If we used marital fidelity as a litmus test for public office, we would need to construct an alternate history of the United States. By all means, let’s not vote for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, because he’s having an affair. Herbert Hoover seems to be more faithful to his wife, so he would make a better president. And by all means we can’t vote for John F. Kennedy. JFK is too promiscuous, and therefore he can’t have the wisdom we need in a president who must deal with civil rights. Let’s see if George Wallace or Strom Thurmond is more monogamous; surely that would be the better choice.

As an American voter, I long ago decided to not look into candidates’ bedrooms (or their tweets). Whenever a scandal erupts, I ask: Did he sell his vote, abuse his office, break the law, or betray his campaign promises?

You could say that as an American voter, I have, sadly, become an expert on being lied to. And since the media loves experts, allow me to share a bit more of my expertise. I can far more readily forgive Weiner’s lies about his tweets than I can forgive Obama’s lies about the Public Option in health care. The former were told out of panic; the latter were a cold political calculation. (By misleading his base, Obama could use us to get elected, then discard us once in office, and still count on our votes for re-election. Who else are we going to vote for?)

The media and the Democratic and Republican party bosses need to stop hurling bricks at Anthony Weiner. Let him get back to work to serve the people of his district. And the media needs to get back to work too. Find a real scandal before you go into another frenzy. Racy photos and tweets, please! (By the way, if you are looking for a scandal, may I suggest one –Sen. David Vitter R-LA. The next time Republican party chair Reince Priebus condemns Weiner, ask Priebus if he is also calling for Vitter’s resignation.)

Right now, in regards to Weinergate, Breitbart may be the most outrageous hypocrite, but he is only one of many. I see shards of glass scattered all over the Hill and the media landscape. These reflect the double standards, biases, and true motives of those screaming for Weiner’s resignation. These reflections reveal a degree of meanness and pettiness that is none too flattering.

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Janet Rhodes

Janet Rhodes