How bad has Weinergate become for Democrats? Earlier today, the White House issued the first presidential commentary on Anthony Weiner’s scandal, scolding the Congressman for both his behavior and the lies he told to cover up his actions. However, Jay Carney declined to pass along any of Barack Obama’s thoughts on whether Weiner should resign:
“The President feels, we feel at the White house this is a distraction,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on board Air Force One when they asked about the unravelling developments. “Obviously as Rep. Weiner has said himself, his behavior was inappropriate. Dishonesty was inappropriate.”
But Carney refused to go the next step and call for Weiner to resign from Congress.
The reluctance to publicly demand a resignation may get some criticism, but it’s probably best to avoid such a call. The legislative branch should be left to handle its own affairs, and a President does best to stay out of those kinds of demands … publicly, at least. The role of demanding a resignation should be left to Congressional leaders. Otherwise, it threatens (at least rhetorically) the independence and co-equality of the branches of government.
Of course, the fact that Obama had to issue any kind of statement on Weiner is an obvious escalation in the effort to push Weiner into a resignation. By making this statement, the message is made clear that Weiner does not have the support of the President, especially when scolding Weiner for his dishonesty. It piles on more pressure on Weiner, and it also tells him that Democrats are not inclined to allow the scandal to quietly go away as Weiner clearly hopes.
This is about as far as Obama can go in public. I’d guess that he’s going a great deal farther in private.
Update: John Boehner wonders when Weiner plans to apply for his leave of absence:
House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman blasted out a list of #Weinergate questions on Monday, ripping Rep. Anthony Weiner for not yet having filed his official request for a “leave of absence” from Congress.
“The Leaders of each representative conference/caucus sign formal requests for a leave of absence,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “Will Leader Pelosi sign Rep. Weiner’s formal request for a leave of absence? If Rep. Weiner fails to ask for a formal leave of absence (rather than simply saying he intends to take one via press release), then he will officially be AWOL while still being paid by taxpayers. What will Leader Pelosi do if he fails to ask for a formal leave of absence?”
It’s unclear what medical reason Weiner plans to use for a formal leave of absence and his spokesman, Dave Arnold, has not returned The Daily Caller’s requests on that matter. “Sex addiction” is not considered a mental disease or sickness, though, according to current American Psychiatric Association (APA) standards. In 2013, the APA plans to release updated standards, at which point sex addiction may be included as a disease or sickness. But, there’s no guarantee.
Boehner also questioned whether Nancy Pelosi would formally request the ethics probe she announced last week. Pelosi sent out a letter, Steel says, but that hasd “all the force and effect of a Post-It note.” Until then, Boehner also wonders whether Weiner will be welcomed to House Democratic Caucus meetings. On that last point, I’m pretty sure Boehner should have no worries. Right now, he’s probably not going to feel too welcome in his own house, let alone the House of Representatives.