Stay put, Rep. Wiener

The arguments for him to resign were loud and strong. And we remember them well …

We expect better from our elected officials. It’s a matter of character. He’s a bad role model for our children. If he can’t be trusted to keep his wedding vows, what else can he be trusted with? He lied. He betrayed those who voted for him. And the Democratic Party will never get anything done as long as he’s in office.


Sound familiar? They should. Because those were the reasons shouted out by Republicans, and some Democrats, for President Clinton to resign in January 1998. And they’re the very same arguments we hear today, demanding the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

They’re loud. They’re strong. And they’re wrong. Wrong then, and wrong now. Clinton was right not to resign. And today he’s more effective than ever before.

Which is not to defend Weiner’s behavior. It’s everything you want to call it: inappropriate, disgusting, immature, bizarre and shockingly stupid for so smart a man. But one thing it was not. Unlike Clinton’s lying under oath, or David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic Bottom line MORE’s hiring of prostitutes, or John Ensign’s lining up lobbyists for his lover’s husband, Weiner’s transgressions were not illegal. Phone sex might be a strange hobby for a mature, married man — why not just go bowling? — but it’s not against the law.

Until the congressional ethics investigation, immediately demanded by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), is completed, we also won’t know whether Weiner used a government BlackBerry or computer to reach his online girlfriends or made calls from his office phone. Even so, the result would be an official reprimand or fine, not expulsion.

Reaction to “Weinergate” by members of both parties has been both predictable and disappointing. Republicans, of course — ecstatic that, for once, it’s not one of their own caught with his pants down — have responded with transparent indignation. They demand that Weiner step down immediately: a punishment they somehow never deemed necessary for Henry Hyde, Dan Burton, Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, Larry Craig, Mark Sanford or David Vitter.

At the same time, Democrats — fearful that Weiner makes all liberals look uncontrollably horny — have been too quick to throw him under the bus. They make the mistake of thinking that average Americans care as much as cable television producers about this issue, when, in fact, most people are more interested in saving or finding a job than whatever Weiner did while his wife wasn’t looking.

Leaders of both parties forget that, in the end, they have nothing to do with whether Weiner stays or goes. His constituents are the ones who sent him to Washington — and they’ll be the ones who ultimately decide whether he keeps his job. Whatever his personal failings, Anthony Weiner has been an outstanding fighter for the people of his district and one of the most effective members of Congress. My bet is he’ll be easily reelected.

Press is host of the nationally syndicated “Bill Press Show.”