Democratic leadership moved to force his hand over the weekend -- and that was before the release of several more awkward photos. Will their coordinated maneuver achieve its desired end? Weiner's stated position is that he has no intention of going anywhere, but some cracks in his defiant facade are beginning to show. For the first time, he's leaving the exit door ajar:
A source close to the congressman told the Daily News that he had been adamant about keeping his seat - even amid daily new revelations of his reckless sexting. But the unrelenting media coverage, the demands from his party's leaders that he step down and the appearance of more humiliating photos made Weiner realize he may not be able to bull his way through the crisis after all, the source said.
The last two weeks have taken a toll on the congressman, who isn't sleeping and spends hours pacing his apartment, friends said. He announced Saturday that he was taking a leave of absence to seek help at a mental health center. He told his staff he would be gone for a few days to be evaluated for mental health treatment and get some clarity. Staffers say they expect he won't make any career decisions until after his wife comes home Wednesday.
Perhaps even more telling, Big Government reports that Weiner's Congressional staff is starting to bolt:
BigGovernment has learned from a confidential source on Capitol Hill that, starting tomorrow, Rep. Weiner’s DC staff will depart for other Congressional offices. According to our source, staff from Democrat leadership assembled Rep. Weiner’s staff and offered to assist them finding positions in other offices. Finding positions for everyone in Weiner’s DC office could take a week or two.
“Leadership said they understood that the staff had been lied to,” our source told BigGovernment. “But, they appreciated that the staff had been troopers and wouldn’t be left without jobs. They also made it clear that they didn’t think Rep. Weiner would be back in Congress.”
All is not lost for Anthony Weiner. He still has a few defenders, including Peter Beinart, who seems more appalled by the media feeding frenzy than the man and behavior that touched it off:
Excuse me for asking, but why exactly should Anthony Weiner resign? He flirted with women in a crude, dorky and easily traceable way. And he lied about it, which is what married men usually do in such circumstances. Who cares? As far as we know, he violated no law or congressional ethics rule. There's been no allegation of sexual harassment. It's entirely possible that his constituents would reelect him if given the chance. So why is he being hounded from office?
Truth be told, I don’t think the real reason pundits are baying for Weiner’s head has anything to do with his ability to be a good congressman. It’s more primal than that. We live in a kick-them-while-they're-down culture. We love to see the powerful humiliated because it proves that they were no better than us to begin with. Yet we simultaneously imagine that because they're powerful and famous, they don't need the empathy that we'd desire were we in their stead. Instead of being moved by their suffering, we revel in it.
You see, it's our fault for not being sufficiently "moved" by Anthony Weiner's plight. That he is solely responsible for his ordeal -- and that his suffering seems to be a direct result of getting caught doing something awful and repeatedly lying about it -- is immaterial. Empathy, people. Stop this carnival of primal revelry, and give this poor guy a second chance.