Weiner Resigns Amid Democratic Fallout

Posted by BBC News on Jun 16th, 2011 and filed under Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Rep. Anthony Weiner has decided to resign, following facts that he exchanged sexually explicit messages and photographs of himself with women he met online, a senior Democratic aide confirmed Thursday morning.

Weiner (D-N.Y.) informed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, of his decision Wednesday night, the aide said.

Weiner’s decision comes weeks after he posted a suggestive picture of himself – intended as a private message to a college student in Washington state – to his community Twitter account.

In the days that followed, Weiner tried several techniques to defuse the growing scandal. He at first said the photo was put up by a “hacker” and then called it a “prank.” Then he offered an all-out confession, admitting he had taken and sent the picture, in a rambling news conference in New York.

Then he vanished and was mentioned to be seeking help for an unspecified disorder at an unknown treatment center. Washington gossip indicated that he was patiently waiting for his wife, Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to return from a trip to Africa.

As days passed, more photos emerged – and more women came forward to say they had corresponded with Weiner. Last weekend, many top Democrats began a serious effort to push him to step down. President Obama said he would have bowed out if he were in the same situation as Weiner.

Weiner’s resignation will mean the loss of one of the House Democrats’ most ambitious and TV-friendly spokesmen. But they will also be free of a scandal that bogged their party down at a key time. The revelations about Weiner emerged when Democrats were relishing an unlikely win in a New York special election – an opening they got when a different New York congressman, former representative Chris Lee (R), sent his own suggestive photos to a woman he met online.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told journalists Thursday morning that “it’s an unfortunate circumstance, and I’ve said I didn’t condone his activities, and I had reported a while ago that I think he should step down.”

In a news convention Thursday morning, Pelosi repeatedly avoided discussing Weiner’s choice.

“We’ll have a chance to talk about this. But we’re not performing it before we have a decision from congressman Weiner,” Pelosi said in response to a reporter’s question. “We professionally gave him time, and his spouse came home for them to talk. He’s going to make an announcement. I’m not going to predicate something on a decision that we haven’t heard yet.”

In the short term, Weiner’s resignation would trigger a special election to fill his seat, which stretches across the outer sections of Brooklyn and Queens. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will be imposed with calling for that election.

Political observers say the seat leans Democratic. But this distinct election would have special complications. New York needs to cut two congressional seats in the redistricting process, and state legislators could possibly choose to eliminate Weiner’s seat. That would allow them to give his territory to incumbents nearby.

So the state’s top Democrats might be intending for an unusual prospect.

He or she would need to be ambitious enough to run for Weiner’s seat and fend off a Republican challenger. But then the victor might have to shed the seat in redistricting shortly thereafter.

“The question,” said Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, “is whether that person exists.”

In the longer term, political experts said Thursday that Weiner’s resignation was likely to be long forgotten before the next election.

“I think it’s a distraction, but I think the importance of this scandal on the Democratic prospects is being exaggerated. We’re far off from the election, and we’re in an age when the public attention span is small,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “There’s plenty of time for folks to forget it.”

Still, the Weiner tale may have hurt Democrats’ efforts to remake a discussion happening right now on Capitol Hill: how to reconcile a partisan standoff over spending and debt.

Democrat Kathy Hochul won the House seat in the New York special election in May while targeting Republican plans to renovate Medicare. In claiming one of the state’s most conservative House districts, Democrats thought they had acquired enough momentum to alter the course of a political debate that Republicans had dominated.

“And then, whammo! Weiner just stops that cold,” said Douglas Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at City University of New York. He said Weiner’s scandal would be seen as “minor, but inconsequential,” since it has cost Democrats largely time and public focus.

“It is not an earthquake. But, you know, it’s an obstacle that’s got to be overcome. It’s a piece of political terrain that [Democrats] didn’t want to cross,” Muzzio said.

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