Thursday, June 16, 2011

A theory about Anthony Weiner, Democrats and strong women

I expect this is the last time I write about Anthony Weiner, but I do wonder if his resignation today doesn't have something to do with the fact that there are actual women in the Democratic leadership, both in the House and in the broader party.

Remember, it was after Weiner confessed to his lewd online communications and vowed not to resign that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said he should resign: He'd lied to her, after all, claiming he wasn't responsible for the first incriminating photo. Pelosi was followed by DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. And there were lots of behind-the-scenes reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—the friend and boss of Weiner's wife—was exceedingly furious with him. When Pelosi started the effort to take a powerful committee assignment from Weiner, the game was up: He quit. But the pattern is clear—the post-confession drive to get Weiner from office didn't seem to come from his constituents or even from Republicans, who seemed happy to let him twist in the wind. It came from powerful Democratic women.

Contrast this with some of the higher-profile Republican scandals of recent vintage. Sure, Christopher Lee resigned, but David Vitter went to see a hooker—and got re-elected! John Ensign's Christian roommates knew about his affair and confronted him, but they didn't try to push him out of office—Ensign hung on for a long time until it appeared that he might face ethics charges over his efforts to cover up the mess. What don't those men have that Weiner did? Women in leadership positions in their party who had the power to damage their careers—and the desire to use it.

None of them lied to Nancy Pelosi.

I'm certain that my conservative friends will remind me of Nina Burleigh. (Read the second paragraph at this link.) But that was 13 years ago. And in 1998, there wasn't a woman in the land who could or did exercise political power over Bill Clinton. He did keep his office, you'll recall.

Why this is notable is that the Democratic Party makes real efforts to include women and minorities in power. Republicans snort at this, believing they believe in a more pure meritocracy that just happens to be weighted more toward white dudes. But that Democratic effort seems to have played a real role in how the Weiner scandal played out. That's neither good nor bad, but it's certainly different.

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