Anthony Weiner finally recognized the unavoidable result of his ill-advised behavior and resigned today. His announcement of his resignation turned into something of a circus, complete with hecklers, catcalls, booing, and cheering. It brought to an embarrassing end the latest mystifying political scandal.
What lessons can be learned from this sordid story? Two points seem obvious. First, the lie and the cover-up are almost always more damning than the original misdeed. Weiner’s behavior in sending intimate photos and messages to unknown internet acquaintances was extremely weird, but he probably could have survived it if he had not aggressively lied about his Twitter account being hacked in an attempt to avoid disclosure of his conduct. For most people, his knowing, repeated, straight-faced lies were far more disturbing that his strange activities on the web.
Second, recognize when you are going down, then pick the time and structure the message. Weiner’s admission that he had engaged in the unseemly conduct and lied to the public made it inevitable that he would have to leave office — particularly when Weiner must have known that other pathetic photos and internet dalliances would come to light. By vowing to fight, Weiner only exposed himself, his family, and his party to ongoing ridicule, shame, and distraction. If he had resigned at the outset, he would have spared everyone a humiliating spectacle. And why publicly read a statement in a forum where you could be jeered and spoofed by shock jocks and other bottom-feeders at the media trough? Weiner would have been well-advised to follow Jim Tressel’s lead, issue a high-minded written statement, and leave his position out of the media spotlight.
So, Anthony Weiner exits stage left. When will the next Washington, D.C. media frenzy begin?