Political Animal


June 08, 2011 2:05 PM Priebus, Vitter, Weiner, and the ‘creep’ factor

By Steve Benen

Democratic congressional leaders have called for an ethics investigation into Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), following revelations that he shared lewd content with women he met online and lied about it. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that’s not good enough and he wants Weiner to resign.

“Do we really need an ethics investigation to determine whether this guy is a creep or not? I mean, really?” Priebus told reporters this morning. “We need to investigate — use taxpayer dollars — to make a determination?”

Now, Priebus is the RNC chairman, so this is pretty much what he’s supposed to say. A Democrat gets caught up in an embarrassing scandal? Call for his resignation. It’s the obvious thing for a party chief to do.

Priebus’ problem, though, is that the more he pushes this, the more he gets asked that other question.

He declined to comment on previous Republican sex scandals, including one involving Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, who remained in office and was re-elected after he acknowledged in 2007 that he committed “a serious sin” in soliciting the services of a prostitute. Mr. Priebus said that he was not the party chairman at the time and had no authority to weigh in on the matter.

“Everyone wants to talk about David Vitter,” Mr. Priebus said. “I’m not going to re-litigate David Vitter. I think it’s wrong, too, but I’m not going to re-litigate David Vitter. We are in the moment now.”

What a clever little phrase. “We are in the moment now.” It has a vaguely metaphysical quality.

But that doesn’t make it persuasive. Priebus wants us to think Weiner is “a creep.” Given the last two weeks, that’s an argument that will likely resonate with a lot of folks. But there are lots of creeps in Congress, and the head of the Republican National Committee isn’t calling on all of them to resign.

In fact, one creep in particular is of interest. Weiner had explicit communications with women he met online, but he didn’t break any laws and didn’t even commit adultery. David Vitter, a right-wing family-values lawmaker, hired prostitutes more than once. In at least one instance, he communicated with a madam about hiring a hooker while he was on the floor of the House. We don’t know if Vitter used taxpayer resources for any of his trysts, or anything about the women he paid to have sex with him.

Which of these two men appear to have committed a more serious transgression? I’ll give you a hint: it’s the one Priebus doesn’t want to talk about.

“We are in the moment now”? Fine. David Vitter is in the Senate right now. If Anthony Weiner has disgraced himself so severely that he must give up his office, why should Vitter remain? Hell, even former RNC Chairman Michael Steele isn’t buying Priebus’ line.

For that matter, note that while Nancy Pelosi called for an investigation into the Weiner matter, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made no comparable call about Vitter.

So, what’s it going to be, Reince? Are we holding lawmakers to the highest of standards or aren’t we?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • just bill on June 08, 2011 2:13 PM:

    IOKIYAR. need i say more?

  • ManOutOfTime on June 08, 2011 2:15 PM:

    Weiner's Twitter transgressions are in the past, too. So why is Rahensius Pareebus talking about it? It's very confusing, especially since mostly all Repugs want to talk about is the past - how Reagan rode a dinosaurs onto the ark and parted the Red Sea with lower taxes and whatever the hell else it is they prattle on about.

  • Ralph Kramden on June 08, 2011 2:18 PM:

    Regardless of the "creep" factor, shouldn't there be a "prosecutable" factor? So remind me again (and remind Priebus), which one of these guys BROKE THE LAW?

  • c u n d gulag on June 08, 2011 2:20 PM:

    Weiner flashing his weiner via twitter tops Vitter with his weiner in a hooker - or two, or three, or more...

    And, in all fairness, like Weiner's weiner wasn't exposed because it was in a tightie whitie, for all we know, Vitter kept his in his not so tightie didie.

  • bobbo on June 08, 2011 2:21 PM:

    Isn't this just more evidence that Nancy Pelosi is awesome? I didn't think it was as simple as her throwing Weiner under the bus. By calling for an investigation, she puts a spotlight on all the investigations Republicans haven't called for.

  • JCtx on June 08, 2011 2:22 PM:

    I wrote an email to Weiner and told him that not only should he not resign but whenever the question comes up, he should say that he'll consider resigning when Vitter resigns or when Tom Coburn fesses up to his role in the Ensign affair and resigns. He should use this as an opportunity to turn the lights on Republican'ts transgressions and point out the double-standard that the media has on this.

  • exlibra on June 08, 2011 2:27 PM:

    Now, Priebus is the RNC chairman, so this is pretty much what heís supposed to say. -- Steve Benen

    As a commenter (sorry, can't remember who it was) once said, right here: remove the vowels from his name (Reince Priebus) and what you're left with is: RNC PR BS. Never has a man's name been better fitted to his function...

    BTW. Priebus may not have been around when l'affaire Vitter was in its fullest bloom, but he sure was at the helm through at least a part of the Ensign fiasco. I didn't hear him complaining about the wast of taxpayers money on the ethics investigations then. Indeed, the investigation was being used as an equivalent to a gag order -- can't/won't talk about it while it's ongoing.

    Maybe Pelosi had the same idea, when she shunted Weiner to the ethics committee? We can't/won't talk about Weiner while the investigation is ongoing.

  • zeitgeist on June 08, 2011 2:28 PM:

    this would be easy, but for them being in different chambers. otherwise you just bring a committee vote to investigate them both and dare the Republicans to vote it down.

    Reid could still do this in the Senate, of course -- publicly ask the Senate ethics committee to review the Vitter case in light of the apparent standards being applied ot Weiner. I don't see much downside to it. Which is why Reid likely wont do it.

  • SF on June 08, 2011 2:48 PM:

    I just read that Breitbart -- I am shocked! -- has, after all, shown others the allegedly X-rated Weiner photo and that two disc jockey pals have "captured" it and posted on line. What a a surprise. That it took an entire 48 hours, that is.

    What has passed without comment, as far as I've seen, is the self-glorifying explanation Breitbart offered about that photo -- a) that he was withholding it to protect the Weiner family, which is nonsense; b) that he was telling Weiner and the world that he had it in case Weiner decided to "retaliate."

    So: Is this a kind of blackmail threat -- don't be nasty to me, or else? (Does actual money have to be demanded, for true blackmail to occur?) Also: Just what kind of "retaliation" is the fearless blogger afraid of?

    Could it be that Breitbart is just as hungry and desperate to be the center of attention as, in his way, Weiner was?

    Finally: Why, I wonder, is the MSM rushing to welcome Breitbart back to "respectable" journalism? It's a question worth asking, I think, when you're dealing with a guy who openly uses the threat of embarrassing pictures to try to control events.

    Rep. Weiner was a fool and unbelievably self-destructive; I hope he gets help, I hope he realizes that the problem is not that he got caught, but that he's really out of control in some kind of arrested adolescent stupid fantasy kind of way, and I hope he can put his life back together, in or out of politics. But Breitbart? Respectable? No.

  • erik on June 08, 2011 3:01 PM:

    Randy Hopper in the state senate in WI reince's state.

  • hornblower on June 08, 2011 3:07 PM:

    I live in NY so I have access to the tabloids trying to out do each other with witty headlines and faux outrage. In a week there will be another story to bump Weiner off the front page. Maybe AIDS will be cured or extra-terrestrials will land in Central Park. Either way it's already boring. Time to move on.

  • John Puma on June 08, 2011 3:43 PM:

    Use this opportunity to get him out. He has (extremely stupidly) validated the radical-reichs "moral equivalency" argument in the same state and with the same technological assistance as the GOP dolt whose antics lead to the allegedly significant Dem takeover of the chronically Repub House seat in NY's district 26.

    In addition he has validated the execrable scum BrightBalls who belongs in the prison NOT shown to be accurate in his accusations.

    Most importantly, as Glenn Greenwald puts it, Weiner "is one of the most extremist AIPAC loyalists in the Congress, which is not an easy distinction to achieve."

  • jjm on June 08, 2011 3:44 PM:

    Weiner's problem is clearly a psychological one: he went a step farther in his fantasies than most people might, but still in an entirely VIRTUAL way.

    Vitter clearly had a psychological problem, too: he had a diaper fetish, and he did not restrict his fantasies to the virtual world, but employed hookers to act them out for him.

    Interestingly he might have been convicted of the crime of soliciting prostitutes if his madam, the DC Madam, had not conveniently for him been murdered before she could testify against him and others like him.

    Who is Weiner's 'victim' except himself and his pride?

    He was a longtime bachelor who had developed his fantasies as a means of sexual satisfaction--so what's it to anyone else?

  • Carol Kufeldt on June 08, 2011 4:11 PM:

    Rachel covered this extremely well last night and even used "IOKIYAR"! She debated it with Micheal Steele and he just couldn't bring himself to admit that the "IOKIYAR" is fully in force. Kudos to Nancy Pelosi for ordering an investigation so soon- when has any Republican leadership gone so far so soon? Although I personally feel that this is more a case of poor judgement and should now be left for the Weiners to sort out, I am not convinced of the "lewdness" of the photos involved. That crotch shot was no Sticky Fingers album cover (let alone an early Journey cover!)- it was so badly lit it took a few seconds to register what it was. If that's considered lewd, then we need to ban Calvin Klein underwear ads. Give me a break.

  • Squeaky McCrinkle on June 08, 2011 4:58 PM:

    there are lots of creeps in Congress

    The understatement of 2011 (and probably just about any other year).

  • T2 on June 08, 2011 5:09 PM:

    this Prince Reebus guy is as dumb as his predessor. No wonder he got the job he has.

  • ComradeAnon on June 08, 2011 5:11 PM:

    Steve, we all know that we, and apparently republicans, expect this type of activity from republicans.

  • doubtful on June 08, 2011 5:35 PM:

    Allyson Schwartz is calling for Weiner to resign.

    She should resign.

    I care fuck all what a congressperson does with consenting adults in their free time.

    Democrats want Weiner out because he shames them. They prefer to sit in obscurity, withering away on the right side of center as an ineffectual do-nothing party powerless against corporate dominance.

    Weiner reminds them of how a progressive should act, and they'd be just as happy to rid themselves of that as the GOP.

    Fuck Schwartz and any other Democrat who calls for his resignation.

  • majun on June 08, 2011 6:35 PM:

    OK, the Kennedy men were creeps and male chauvinists, their personal lives were the stuff of cheap romance novels, but they were very competent in the job they were elected to, so Ted kept getting re-elected even though everyone knew he was a creep. Clinton was a bigger creep than all the Kennedy's put together and he left the country in better shape than its been in for most of my life (60 years). I'll accept the GOP line about Dubyah becoming a fine upstanding husband and father after he dried out, but so what, he was incompetent in every way. Most of the national debt is his fault. Forgive me, but I'll take a competent creep over an incompetent saint any day.

    I accept that every person has it in them to be corrupted by power and that is especially true of politicians both because they have too much power and because it is a calling that attracts Alpha Male personalities like no other. An ethics investigation would largely be a waste of time at this point In the end there is nothing in this affair that should remove Weiner from office. He would most likely escape with a slap-on-the-wrist censure vote. It will be up to the voters of Rego Park, Middle Village, Howard Beach and the other working class neighborhoods of NY District 09 to decide if they want to keep Weiner on. Their choice - that's the way democracy works. If the people of MA could keep putting Ted Kennedy back in office time after time and the reliously zealous good old boys of Louisiana can stomach Vitter, there is a good chance Weiner will keep his seat come 01/2013. I wish him well, but I don't think I'll shake his hand.

  • Fafner1 on June 08, 2011 6:38 PM:

    Henry Hyde never resigned. Neither did Dan Burton. Nor, for that matter, did Barney Frank. Give it a few months and if nothing else comes up there is a good chance this will blow over.

  • Rip on June 08, 2011 9:21 PM:

    Yeah, but Vitter and his wife prayed on the matter and asked the Lord's forgiveness, so it's all good now.

  • Roddy McCorley on June 08, 2011 10:06 PM:

    Are we holding lawmakers to the highest of standards or arenít we?

    Yes and yes, respectively. We are if they are Democrats. We aren't if they are Republicans.

    Or, if you like, simply being a Republican is the highest standard one can meet. That's Weiner's real transgression - he's not a Republican.

  • beejeez on June 08, 2011 10:38 PM:

    Listen, kids. I don't care if the Republicans get away with it. We're not Republicans. Kick Weiner to the curb NOW.

  • doubtful on June 08, 2011 11:07 PM:

    Kick Weiner to the curb NOW. -beejeez


    All I can say is thank goodness some of the founders, Jefferson and Franklin come to mind, didn't live in today's political world. Would you have kicked them to the curb for their sins?

    You're right; we aren't Republicans. We believe in the right to privacy, especially when it comes to sex.

    It's times like these I'm reminded why Move On was founded.

  • onlooker on June 09, 2011 12:09 AM:

    So long as we're "in the moment" what does Priebus have to say about Donald E. Lukens, Representative from Ohio who is caught up in a sex scandal, has been convicted of a crime (sex with a 16-year old) and is going to run for re-election? Or doesn't it matter because we're only concerned with what Wiener did, not with what Republican do, have done and will do again?

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  • Schtick on June 09, 2011 8:39 AM:

    It's etched in stone, dems resign or are impeached, repubs are forgiven and re-elected.

  • Just a guy on June 09, 2011 11:39 AM:

    I still think Reince Preibus is actually just a minor Star Wars character.