Throughout both parts of William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, the young Prince Hal is a great guy with whom to party. He hangs out in the seediest taverns with his best friend (and one of Shakespeare’s greatest characters), Falstaff. The gruff and hilarious Falstaff is a ne’er-do-well, but not a villain. He is the philosopher at the heart of the play, and his larger-than-life appetites embrace wine, women, and song. He is Prince Hal’s mentor and inspiration, as well as his friend. The Prince embraces the life, and enjoys it thoroughly.
Then King Henry IV dies.
As Prince Hal becomes King Henry V, Falstaff is ecstatic over the prospect of having his friend and drinking buddy in such a position of high power. Falstaff crashes the coronation ceremony and loudly addresses the new King, calling him “sweet boy.” The new King then turns to his old friend and fellow traveler and icily says, “I know thee not, old man.” He then says that he once dreamed of a man such as Falstaff but now, having been awakened, “I do despise my dream.” In the sequel, Henry V, Falstaff dies a broken man. The wastrel Prince Hal, all grown up and accepting of his responsibility as King Henry V, wins the Battle of Agincourt.
There’s a lesson here that goes way beyond Shakespeare 102. For those to whom Shakespeare is just another Dead White European Male, the lesson is also in Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
What all of this preamble means is that Anthony Weiner should resign from Congress. The defenders of his decision (as of today) to stay in his seat make the usual excuses: it’s about sex, it was consenting adults, what he does in private is his own business, it’s not about the job, it’s between him and his wife. All of this would be absolutely 100% true…if Anthony Weiner was not a Congressman serving a constituency of people in New York.
Frankly, I wouldn’t care even the slightest bit if Bill the Taxidermist in New York and Jane the Accountant in Chicago were carrying on a scorchingly hot cybersex affair. It’s not my position to judge them, despite whatever I may personally think or feel about how they choose to spend their off hours. If they’re single, if they’re adults, and if they’re not letting it interfere with their jobs, then I really don’t care how they get their jollies. Type away, Bill and Jane, though you might find you’ll make fewer spelling mistakes if you type with two hands.
Now if Bill the Taxidermist and/or Jane the Accountant was married (to other people), then it becomes clear that these are people whose morals and behavior can be legitimately brought into question. But again, if they want to destroy their own marriages and cheat (emotionally and mentally, if not physically) on their spouses, it would not change whether I went to Bill for my taxidermy needs or Jane with my accounting problems. Their work is separate from who they are. They have jobs where they provide a service for me, but they do not represent me.
But Anthony Weiner, and the legion of politicians embroiled in sex scandals before him, is not a private citizen. He is a public figure with great power that he should be wielding with great responsibility. Weiner’s been involved in public office since 1992 when he was elected to the New York City Council, and then the House of Representatives in 1998. Prior to that, he was a private citizen (albeit one working in politics, for Chuck Schumer). He was, most likely, a sleazy guy at that time, as well. At that time, I wouldn’t have cared what he did in private.
But when Weiner decided to run for office, he made the decision to embrace a public responsibility along with the power given to him. It was time for him to awaken from his dreams of sexy co-eds in a tub full of Jell-O. The responsibility of speaking for people who have placed their trust and their faith in you requires that you comport yourself with honor. Your job is to honor the wishes of your constituents and nobody—nobody—votes for someone hoping that the person will cheat on his wife and have tawdry cybersex sessions with young women. He is a man who was given much power and much responsibility. He was elected not just to cast votes on political issues, but to represent thousands of people who voted for him. He is their proxy, the public face of all those who got him elected.
Anthony Weiner is not just an onanist. He is not just a cheat. He is not just a liar. He is a sexual predator, a misogynist with all of the charm, tenderness, eroticism, and seductive skills of a drunken frat boy with a pocket full of Rohypnol. (Don’t believe me? Read the transcript…but you’ll need a shower afterwards.) He has brought shame upon his wife. He has brought shame upon his friends. He has brought shame (not entirely undeserved) upon the women with whom he consorted. He has brought shame upon his political party. He has brought shame upon the office he holds and, therefore, the county, state, and country he represents. He has made a mockery of all those people who voted for him every two years since 1998 and who believed they had a voice and a champion in whom they could put their faith and trust.
This is not about sex, cyber or otherwise. This is not about two people looking for sexual satisfaction or a balm for their lonely lives in a flickering screen and an overactive imagination. Now that the full scope of this scandal is being revealed, the time for Weiner jokes is over. This is about honor. This is about responsibility.
Anthony Weiner should resign. Hopefully then he will be able to repair the damage he’s done to his marriage, and to his real relationships.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has a good piece up today about the silence from the normally chattering classes of feminists.