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The Notion

Unfiltered takes on politics, ideas and culture from Nation editors and contributors.

Republicans Reject the Middle—Again

This morning I had the pleasure of talking with Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist and fellow MSNBC contributor Clarence Page. Motivated by Monday night’s debate in New Hampshire, he and I discussed the current field of GOP candidates. I indicated my distress at hearing so many of them parrot the talking points of the Tea Party and my surprise that the new litmus test for being prolife required the candidates to reject a right to abortion even in the case of rape, incest and threat to the life of the woman. In response, Page reminded me of the 1964 Republican National Convention when Nelson Rockefeller was booed by Goldwater delegates. It was a useful reminder.

In 1964 the Republican Party was at war with itself and the convention highlighted the fronts of the battle. Rockefeller largely derailed his own opportunity for the nomination when he divorced his wife of three decades and married a much young woman. By 1964 standards this behavior violated the basic rules of ethical personal conduct expected of serious contenders for national office. But it was not his personal life that was booed by conservative convention delegates. They shouted at Rockefeller when he insisted on the need for “honest Republican liberalism that has kept this party abreast of human need” and warned that “the Republican Party is in real danger of subversion by a radical, well-finaced, highly disciplined majority.”

Republicans booed Rockefeller as the civil rights movement was marching toward greater equality for African-Americans. They booed Rockefeller as American women were challenging centuries of narrow, repressive social and economic practices. They booed Rockefeller as Americans rattled with fear over a Communist threat to American domestic security and international hegemony. They booed Rockefeller as the changing world evoked a heightened sense of vulnerability for those who had wielded power and privilege for so long. It is almost laughable that someone of the family legacy and monied heritage of Rockefeller could stand in as symbol of the changing world of 1964. But the very fact that he was interpreted as frighteningly left of the GOP center is an indication of how far right the party had moved. So in 1964 the GOP rejected Rockefeller Republicanism and embraced Goldwater extremism.

I couldn’t help but notice similar patterns of rejecting traditional conservatism in exchange for radical rightism in the GOP candidates on Monday night. They seemed intent on vaulting over most reasonable responses in a rush to position themselves as far to the right as the stage would allow.

The Republican extremism of 1964 was disastrous in the short term. Goldwater carried only six states and President Johnson secured the largest popular vote margin in modern presidential history. But I am not interested in comparing 2012 to 1964 to reassure Democrats that it is easy to beat extremists in the general election. Because while 1964 was a short-term loss, the conservative strategy has paid huge electoral dividends to Republican Party over the past fifty years.

Republicans secured their position as the national party of the South in 1964 and they have held it ever since. Recall that Nixon enthusiastically embraced Goldwater in 1964 and was shortly elected president himself. Nineteen sixty-four was also the conservative coming-out party for a young Ronald Reagan who was then elected governor of California two years later and went on to become the icon of the contemporary GOP. Interestingly though, the GOP rejection of Rockefeller ultimately sealed the fate of an ambitious, young moderate who could never again gain a significant following among Republicans: George Romney. It will be instructive to see if his son chooses to run to the right in order to secure the nomination his father could never obtain.

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Thousands Protest Budget at Wisconsin Capitol

Thousands of protesters once again converged on Wisconsin’s Capitol Tuesday to protest Governor Scott Walker’s controversial state budget proposal that strips unions of their right to collectively bargain.

Among those in attendance were leaders such as former state Democratic Party Chairman Joe Wineke, who said the governor’s radical plans had managed to bring together divergent groups that might not have otherwise found solidarity in a unified cause.

”They've ticked off the environmental community, senior citizens, the disabled, reproductive-rights proponents, the University of Wisconsin."

Wisconsin Republicans are now in full-blown panic mode following the announcement that there will be nine Senate recall elections (six Republican, three Democratic) in July.

In a Hail Mary maneuver, Republican Party officials planned to run spoiler Democrat candidates in the recall elections, the idea being that sham candidates would force a Democratic primary and buy Republicans another month until the general election.

And the desperate moves kept coming Tuesday when Republicans enacted an “extraordinary session” in order to pass the state budget, the first time lawmakers have ever used the rapid political process to pass a budget in at least eighty years. (A live blog of the extraordinary session can be found here).

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court ruled against unions this week by ordering the reinstatement of Governor Walker’s law that ends collective bargaining. The culmination of these events was the mass protest at the Capitol yesterday.

Earlier in the week, around 100 tenants of Walkerville marched from their encampment at the Capitol down East Washington to the headquarters of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce in order to draw attention to what they claim is one of the organizations behind some of the worst provisions in the proposed state budget.

One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross, who also runs a site called WMC Watch, emphasized the $2.3 billion in tax breaks included in the budget for corporations over the next 10 years, on top of the $1.6 billion in cuts to public schools, $250 million from the UW System, and $71 million from the Wisconsin technical college system.

"This is about all people!" noted Monica Adams from the Madison chapter of Take Back the Land. "This not only about middle class workers, this is about undocumented workers. This is about able-bodied people, this is about differently abled people. This is about people of color, this is about white people, this is about everybody...the budget is just the beginning." 

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LeBron James and the Quote Heard Round the World

The most polarizing athlete in sports, playing for the most polarizing team, just gave us the most polarizing post-game quote in living memory. Lebron James, after his Miami Heat lost the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, and after playing profoundly beneath his Herculean stature, said the following:

“All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”

Damn. Those who aren’t sports fans—or I guess it’s more appropriate to say, “fans of the many soap operas that swirl around sports”—might not realize what a break from the book of clichés this statement represents. Most post-game comments are so polished and filed down, they’d make a Mitt Romney speech look edgy. Players routinely behave for the cameras like they just graduated from the Madeira School for Girls. It’s like athletes went to a Meet the Press seminar on “how to say nothing.”

After last night’s crushing loss, Lebron’s All-Star teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were predictable portraits of propriety. Wade said, “First of all we give credit to the Dallas Mavericks…. We ran into a team that was obviously better than us.” Lebron, after a season that saw him ditch his hard-luck teammates in Cleveland, take his talents to South Beach and transition from hero to heel, chose to go a different route.

As one could imagine, he is getting crushed across the sports columns and the interwebs for letting the mask slip and speaking his mind. It’s being read as the ultimate statement of the “spoiled, arrogant” athlete. One headline read, “Lebron: reminding you that he’s super rich and you’re not.” Jalen Rose on ESPN said, “He needs to learn to speak to the media. He puts his foot in his mouth time and time again.” The NBC sports site Pro Basketball Talk blared the headlined, LeBron has a few arrogant words for those who hate him. Writer Kurt Hellin wrote, “LeBron is never going to win over many of those haters. But calling them jealous loses some on the fence…. Lebron has a long line of public relations blunders in the past year. You can add this one to the list.”

When I read Lebron’s words, frankly, I did a triple take. It’s practically a pro-wrestling quote designed to bring audience “heat” as an end unto itself. I kept thinking of former WWE heel Rick Rude starting matches by saying, “What I’d like to have right now is for all you fat, out of shape, [insert city] sweat-hogs to keep the noise down while I take my robe off and show all the ladies what a real man is supposed to look like.” But even in the scripted world of professional wrestling any heel knows that you rile people up before matches, not after.

There’s little point in mining Lebron’s psyche for his intentions. Was he being defensive? Insensitive? Even cruel? I have no clue and don’t really care. But I do think the quote deserves examination on its own terms. How can we deny the truth that many of us look to sports as a distraction from the trials and tribulations of our own lives? How can we deny that the reason so many of us read the sports page before the front page is that one is both bearable and comprehensible while the other simply isn’t?

We live in a crumbling nation with epic unemployment, 2 million people behind bars and vast wealth inequality, while being told that we inhabit the best country on earth and to think otherwise is heresy. In such a world, sports become more than an escape: it’s a refuge. It’s much easier—and emotionally manageable—to hate Lebron James than face our collective future.

Make no mistake, I’m not arguing that Lebron James was trying to point out the way sports deflects attention from other realities. I don’t put his comments in league with those of another hated athlete, Barry Bonds, who in 2005 asked why Congress had time to investigate steroids while people were dying in New Orleans. But his words should give us pause. There’s nothing wrong, in my view, with sports being a sweet evening escape from the problems that face us the next morning. There is something wrong with seeing athletes as avenues for our aggression when the real culprits exist outside the arena.

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Washington: 'Let's Cut Spending!' The Public: 'Let's Raise Taxes!'

Conservatives are fond of claiming the United States as a “center-right country,” but public opinion polling routinely shows a country of people who amenable—if not enthusiastic—about liberal solutions to public policy problems. For example, in a recent Pew survey, when asked what they would support to cut the deficit, large majorities support a grab bag of liberal policies: raising the Social Security contribution cap, raising taxes on high-income earners, reducing our military presence, and limiting tax deductions for large corporations. Here's a chart showing the survey results:

This holds true even when broken down by partisan affiliation. Along with 73 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents, 54 percent of Republicans support the Social Security contribution cap. Likewise, 56 percent of Republicans want to reduce our military commitments abroad, and 62 percent want to limit tax deductions for large corporations.

In other words, the deficit conversation in Washington—with it’s near-obsessive focus on spending cuts above all other solutions—is wildly out-of-sync with public preferences. These results beg a few questions: first, why can Republicans demand huge spending cuts and play brinksmanship with the debt ceiling, when most Republican voters prefer other policies to reduce the deficit?

If I had to hazard a guess, it’s this: Republican voters want to see a smaller government, and are probably willing to trust political elites who promise a path to smaller government. In the abstract, they might prefer more liberal solutions, but when push comes to shove, they’re willing to accept the solutions provided by party leaders and like-minded partisans. As for debt ceiling brinksmanship, Republicans voters will support it because they themselves aren’t particularly thrilled about lifting the debt limit.

The second question is a little more straightforward: why are Democrats so timid on liberal policies when they have the public behind them? Simply put, the Democratic Party doesn’t have the ideological or demographic uniformity of the GOP. Given its wide geographic base (everywhere from the Northeast and upper South, to the West Coast and large parts of the Southwest) and extremely diverse constituency, you can think of the Democratic Party as a not-GOP. In other words, it includes everyone who—for one reason or another—won’t support the Republican Party.

The upside is that this helps for winning national elections. The downside is this makes for an unruly party, with a huge number of (often opposed) interest groups, and few areas of consensus. Most liberals might support a deficit deal that hastened withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, but liberals aren’t a majority constituency in the Democratic Party – they’re not even a plurality. This isn’t to excuse cowardice and timidity from Democratic lawmakers, but the sheer fact of ideological diversity means that they can’t present a unified front of liberalism, even if they wanted to.

In any case, the big lesson from this survey is pretty straightforward: public opinion is important, but we shouldn’t overestimate its importance to debates in Washington. Often, what the public thinks is ancillary to what actually happens.

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US Uncut, Yes Men to Bust Corporate Tax Dodgers in Cayman Islands

The activism groups behind a widely circulated (and false) AP report stating GE would return its entire 2010 tax refund of $3.2 billion to the US Treasury appear to be getting the band back together. US Uncut and The Yes Men are planning another event to draw attention to the massive problem of corporate tax dodging, but this time they’re taking their activism directly to the source of America’s lost revenue: the Cayman Islands.

The groups have posted a Kickstarter account to help raise $10,000 by June 30 in order to fund the fact-finding mission.

US Uncut expresses the purpose for the quest:

In order to understand why thousands of teachers are losing their jobs across the country, we set out to discover where the leak was in Uncle Sam's revenue bucket. In Washington, we found myriad lobbying groups and politicians bickering about tax repatriation holidays, negative corporate tax rates and comprehensive tax reform. Oh my! But nobody could explain where the money went, and how to get it home?

Nearly exhausted, we were about to throw in the beach towel when a sign came—in the form of a palm tree. Could it be that all the money is just a few tropical waves south of Key West? Sitting in off-shore bank accounts, just waiting to be brought back to share with eager shareholders and upstanding citizens alike?

“After the fun we had with GE, we wanted to do something bigger, to really strike at the heart of tax dodging," says US Uncut founder Carl Gibson, “The central problem of this whole thing is a system that allows companies to dodge nearly all of their tax obligations by registering, for example, two inches of space at an office building in the Caymans as an ‘international corporate headquarters.’ ”

The project is focused on embarrassing some of the more well-known companies participating in the Win America Campaign, which was also the group’s reasoning behind its recent protests against Apple, a big supporter of WAC.

“WAC lobbyists use language soaked in faux patriotism about how the money is ‘trapped overseas’ and the need to ‘bring the money home,'” says Gibson. “Well, we're doing it for them. If our tax dollars are being held hostage in the Cayman Islands, then there should be a ragtag group of taxpaying citizens ready to swoop in and bring it home. And that's what we plan to do.”

US Uncut plans to use the 10 large on a film crew and flights, and the group has certainly targeted the right place. Author Nicholas Shaxson, one of the predominant experts on the problem of tax dodging, says the United States loses an estimated $100 billion every year because of these tax havens, and the Cayman Islands harbors one of the biggest pools of illicit cash.

President Obama himself called the Cayman Islands operation “the biggest tax scam on record.” One of Obama’s stock applause lines was a true-life story he would tell about a single building in the Cayman Islands which houses 12,000 corporations. "That's either the biggest building,” then-Senator Obama would say, “or the biggest tax scam on record.” Cue wild applause.

The building Obama was referring to is called the Ugland House in George Town, and it actually houses about 19,000 registered companies.

In the Caymans, huge multibillion-dollar corporations pay a measly $3,000 annual fee for the privilege of avoiding contributing back to a society that simultaneously showers the top echelon of businesses with more and more corporate tax cuts. This is the equivalent of a mugging victim then marching to an ATM to doll out a stack of twenties to their assailant.

Since being elected, however, President Obama has done little to stem the problem of corporate tax havens. Back in 2008, Carl Levin crafted the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, legislation then-Senator Obama threw his support behind, and which has, like most bills that make sense, been floating in purgatory ever since.

This theft isn’t just hard on citizens who are struggling to survive in a country with shrinking revenue, but also on legitimate businesses that do pay their fair share in taxes. Quite simply: tax dodging is bad for American businesses, too, which can never hope to compete with the sweet deals multinational corporations enjoy with their partners, the US government.

Legislative paralysis is precisely why US Uncut and The Yes Men are planning this action to draw the American people’s attention back to the problem of tax dodging. The groups hope to remind President Obama that the reason his applause lines were so popular is because Americans are enraged by the unscrupulous tax dodging practices of big US corporations.

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If Weiner Resigns, David Vitter Should Go Too

Whether or not you think Anthony Weiner should resign, remember this: Republicans have kindly provided the frame in which to argue the question. For some reason, the following query isn’t allowed into that frame: Why aren’t members of Congress and the media demanding that Senator David Vitter resign?

If you recall (and how can you forget?) Vitter was outed in 2007 during the DC Madam sex scandal as a frequent client of prostitutes. (The mental picture of him allegedly wearing diapers during these visits is nearly as damaging as the actual pictures of Weiner—Vitter’s just lucky his fetish wasn't photographed.) But yesterday, as calls for Weiner’s exit by Republicans and quite a few Dems were reaching a fever pitch, the GOP hosted a fundraiser for Vitter in a lobbyist’s fancy DC townhouse, video of which Rachel Maddow aired last night.

Her must-see piece takes us through the sex scandal and resignation of almost Speaker of the House Bob Livingston—a leader in President Clinton’s impeachment—to the Louisianan who inherited his seat, Mr. Vitter.

Maddow asks members of both parties, “If you do not now feel moved to demand that David Vitter resign—now, in June 2011—how on earth can you demand that Anthony Weiner needs to resign?”

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Palin and the Memory of Literacy Tests

I first saw Sarah Palin’s description of Paul Revere last week during my appearance on Bill Maher’s Real Time. Palin’s mangled, close-but-not-quite retelling of the famous patriot provoked me to hearty laughter, but also piqued my professorial impulse to urge on a clearly confused, but absolutely earnest student who is searching for the right answer. As I listened to her I thought, “come on… you’re on the right track… that’s almost it…. aw, no, now you’re just wrong.”

For the most part it seemed like a harmless Palinism. Good for an easy laugh, but certainly no indication of her ability to attract followers, compel listeners and command media attention. The more insidious implications of Palin’s casual relationship to American history didn’t occur to me until this week when I began to think of her Revere response in the context of voting restrictions being imposed in states throughout the South.

In anticipation of the 2012 elections, Southern legislators are turning back the clock on America’s expanding franchise by reducing early voting opportunities and imposing unprecedented identification card rules. The new policies are poised to have a disparate impact on young voters, voters of color, voters for whom English is a second language and voters who work shifts. Historically these are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. These new Southern efforts smack of Jim Crow era disenfranchisement.

Among the most pernicious Jim Crow restrictions was the literacy test. Literacy tests denied suffrage to black citizens by imposing ridiculously difficult and often politically irrelevant testing on those who hoped to register to vote. Not only were African-American men and women asked to recite long passages of the Declaration of Independence, interpret portions of the constitution with LSAT competence and recall obscure historical facts, they were also asked to determine important calculations like how many jelly beans were in the jar on the sheriff’s desk.

Many Palin supporters have complained that she is subjected to “gotcha journalism” when asked to reveal her knowledge of world events, political history or the names of newspapers she reads. Though I find her responses sometimes laughable and sometimes oddly endearing, I have a difficult time feeling a fully emphatic concern about her discomfort in these circumstances. I’m far more worried about current legislators reviving an institutional practice that revives the effects of a practice when thousands of grandmothers, sharecroppers, workers and students denied—sometimes violently—their basic right to cast a vote because they couldn’t pass the unfair literacy tests.

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Has Obama Found a Replacement for Elizabeth Warren at the CFPB?

According to Bloomberg News and other news outlets, the Obama administration is considering appointing Raj Date, a top deputy to Elizabeth Warren at the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), as the bureau’s permanent director before it goes live on July 21. The articles are all attributed to “a person familiar with the discussions,” which makes it clear that the White House if floating Date’s appointment as a trial balloon, to gauge reaction from financial reform advocates, the business community and members of Congress. This is not an entirely new story—Reuters reported that "close associates" of Warren were under consideration back in April—but this is the first time Date has been named as a potential candidate.

Date is well-regarded in the business world and among reform advocates, which is why he’s an attractive option for the administration. He worked for Capitol One and Deutsche Bank, served on the board of a peer-to-peer lending company, Prosper Marketplace, started his own economic policy research firm, Cambridge Winter Center, and was a board member at Demos, a liberal think tank. Heather McGhee, director of Demos’ Washington office, called Date “one of the most effective advocates for consumer financial protection during the debate that culminated in the Dodd-Frank Act.”

Which isn’t to stay he’s a better pick than Warren, who remains the preferred candidate among financial reform advocates. He’s still a banking industry veteran at a time when the public remains skeptical of the banks, and it’s unclear if he has the moxy and stature to go up against the $3 trillion financial services industry. He's a skilled technocrat, adept at working behind the scenes, but not necessarily the type of dynamic leader and charasmatic public face the new bureau needs in order to establish its identity and credibility among the public. The CFPB was Warren’s idea, and she’s the most qualified person to run the bureau.

Senate Republicans have made clear they’ll try to block whoever the administration picks to formally run the CFPB, which virtually guarantees a recess appointment. The banking lobby hates the bureau as much as Warren, which means that any “consensus candidate” is bound to face fierce resistance once the CFPB is up and running. Support continues to grow for a Warren appointment, including an endorsement today from the AFL-CIO, which is by far the biggest group to come out in favor of a recess appointment thus far.

Yet the Obama administration seems determined to push Warren out the door at the very moment it needs her the most. She’s the best spokesperson Obama has on economic policy, especially compared to a Wall Street–friendly stiff like Tim Geithner, and has spent her whole life fighting for the middle class, which is the stated priority of the Obama administration. The consumer bureau is the most popular and tangible aspect of Dodd-Frank, which was the most popular piece of legislation enacted by the administration in its first two years in office. Yet the bureau and Dodd-Frank are under attack from the banking lobby and Congressional Republicans, who’d like to return to the pre–financial crisis status quo. Any retreat by the Obama administration will hand opponents of reform a major victory—and embolden them to go further.

Four of the nation’s biggest banks—JP Morgan, Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs—are among the ten most unpopular companies in America, according to a new Harris Interactive poll. The public hates the banks. And they love Warren and consumer protection. Who to side with should be a no-brainer for the Obama administration.

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On Weinergate: Why Weiner's Not a Victim

I disagree with Amanda that Weiner’s online sexual habits are irrelevant to his role as a congressman or liberal bulldog. As I’ve already argued, I find it alarmingly unprofessional that Weiner pursued these activities from his Congressional office in the middle of the day, with his staff just outside the door. (As an employee, I certainly would feel uncomfortable if I guessed my boss was spending his workday in this way.)

And though I feel sorry for Weiner’s wife, whom he lied to about this contretemps (and who, it now emerges, is pregnant), my annoyance with him has little to do with outrage over his violation of the sanctity of marriage. (That’s their business.) Rather, as someone who feels passionately about some of the issues Weiner has championed, including universal healthcare, I’m angry that he would risk his important role in the public debate by giving strangers access to such embarrassing photographs He must have—should have!—known there was a chance the pictures could leak, putting his career at risk.

Having seen an iPhone photo of a photo of Weiner’s naked penis—yes, I admit, I clicked through—I might be kind of distracted next time I see him on TV criticizing Republicans. It curves slightly to the right; now I know, and I just can’t erase my brain.

This entire thing is so demeaning and such a distraction from the issues. Most frustratingly, it could have been avoided if Weiner had just not publicly tweeted a photograph of his crotch. I don't think Weiner is as innocent in this scenario as the mugging victim to which Amanda compares him. A person can't reasonably be expected to never walk around late at night; an elected official can reasonably be expected to be careful with photographs of his genitals.

I fear we’re over thinking things if we’re too quick to paint Weiner as a victim here, no matter how much we hate Breitbart and his role in all this. That said, I believe it should be up to the voters in Weiner’s district to decide whether or not he deserves another chance to represent their interests. There surely are second, third and fourth acts in American life, and I certainly hope that Anthony Weiner’s future is a lot brighter than this last week has been for him.

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On Weinergate: Before Throwing Stones...

Dana, I agree with you that Anthony Weiner is a cheater and was careless about his cheating. I would consider these relevant points if he was a “potential boyfriend.” What he actually is to me—and to most of us, including the press—is “Congressman from New York.” Since, as you admit, his private life has no bearing on his ability to do his job, this should be relegated to the realm of “gossip,” covered perhaps by the Gawker, and not “news” and certainly not “scandal worth resigning over.”

As you probably know, I’m not a big fan of the “he was asking for it by being careless” defense you offer. Is it stupid to walk down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood? Sure. But does that mean the jury should deliver a “not guilty” verdict if someone mugs you? Should the mugger be paid restitution since you made yourself a tempting target? Absolutely not. In this analogy, Breitbart’s the mugger (with a long record of committing crimes against innocent people!) and the press is the jury. If I were a judge, I’d call for a mistrial.

The state of Weiner’s marriage is also irrelevant. If we drummed every bad spouse out of office, we wouldn’t have enough warm bodies to fill Congress. Our society overrates the ability to hold a marriage together as an indicator of how well someone does a job. In fact, some traits that probably work badly for a marriage may make you better at some jobs, and I’d put politician at the top of that list. Weiner’s role right now is to be a bulldog for the left, to holler things that our overly cautious president is afraid to whisper. You need bulldogs, but some of the traits that come along with being a bulldog—carelessness and narcissism come to mind—work against you in a marriage. I’m not ready to sacrifice people playing necessary roles just to make sure everyone’s as nice a husband as Barack Obama appears to be. And it’s definitely not our job to decide for Huma Abedin what kind of consequences her husband should face for betraying her.

I’m alarmed at how much investment many in the press and public have in the state of Weiner’s marriage, honestly. I suspect many people feel, on one level, that publicly shaming adulterers and forcing their resignations will make their own marriages more secure. But I’m skeptical; adultery used to be punishable with jail and people still did it. The best protection against it is not to look to society but to your own relationship.

I don’t condone all sex scandals. Politicians who work to pass laws to impose their religious dogma about sex and family on the public should be held accountable when they don’t live up to their own values. Politicians who break the law or do things for sex that genuinely interfere with their job performance should also be held to account. (No, I don’t think using work computers for personal correspondence should count; if that became an enforceable standard, 95 percent of the country would be out of work.) But Weiner doesn’t pass any of these tests. Half the reason this is even a news story is there’s humiliating pictures in play, but if the fact that you’re cheating isn’t anyone’s business, that goes double for how you cheated. John Ensign’s adultery may be news, but I don’t care to know what positions he and his mistress favored.

I think that journalists who embolden Andrew Breitbart by treating this gossip as a newsworthy scandal should really rethink how cavalier they’re being. Breitbart hates a lot more than Democratic politicians. His previous targets for harassment have been activists and bureaucrats, and he’s not limited by honesty or decency. He could easily go after journalists he considers too good at their jobs, too. Can everyone out there laughing off Weiner’s treatment really say for sure there’s no sexy photos, text messages, e-mails or even old-fashioned letters in their history that might be humiliating if shown or read aloud on the nightly news?

Read Dana Goldstein's original post “On Weinergate: In Defense of Acting Like an Adult.”

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