Weiner: More A Case Of Stupidity Than A Major Scandal (So Far)

Anthony Weiner has admitted to sending the picture of his (covered) weiner over Twitter, and of similar behavior with other women he communicated with on line. As scandals go, Weiner’s is fairly small. As Steve Benen wrote:

On the Political Sex Scandal Richter Scale, I’m still not altogether sure why this even registers at all. Given what we know, Weiner shared adult content with women he met online. They were adults and the interactions were consensual. He didn’t commit adultery (Ensign), he didn’t hire prostitutes (Vitter, Spitzer), he didn’t solicit anyone in an airport bathroom (Craig), he didn’t pretend to be someone else in order to try to pick up women (Lee), he didn’t abandon his office for a rendezvous with his lover (Sanford), he didn’t leave his first two wives after they got sick (Gingrich), he didn’t have a child with his housekeeper (Schwarzenegger), there’s no sex tape (Edwards), and no interns were involved (Clinton). He’s not even a hypocrite — Weiner has never championed conservative “family values,” condemning others for their “moral failings.”

This assumes that there isn’t anything more to this. Nancy Pelosi has called for an ethics investigation of Weiner. Assuming that there are no minors and there are not more explicit pictures, my guess is that this is not a career ending scandal, but at very least will be a career stalling one. As can be seen in Steve’s list, the less severe sex scandals do not necessarily end careers, but I doubt he will be elected to a more competitive spot in New York anytime soon. (Elliot Spitzer might even beat him–time does seem to make these scandals less important to voters).

While Weiner’s transgressions appear to be relatively minor (at least so far), they were rather stupid. It is amazing how often we see similar patterns in politicians. Was whatever pleasure Weiner received from sexting with young women really worth all of this?  I would ask whether this will dissuade future politicians (which can be from either party) from doing anything so foolish, but the answer, based upon the past history of sex scandals in Washington, is clearly no.

Evidence Appears To Exonerate Anthony Weiner

The available  evidence continues to support Anthony  Weiner’s contention that the controversial weiner picture on Twitter was sent by someone else. It wound up taking  bloggers to determine what happened with social media sites. Cannonfire demonstrated that this technically wasn’t a case of someone needing to hack Weiner’s Twitter account as it was possible to fake the sending of the twitter picture due to a “feature” of yfrog. In order to get the photo  site to send out a photo as a tweet it appears that it is only necessary to find someones yfrog email address:

Believe it or not, when an outsider sends a pic to someone else’s Yfrog account in this fashion, the action creates a message in the “twitterstream.” The message seems to originate with the Twitter account holder — but it doesn’t. It comes from somewhere else — from someone mailing a picture to the account holder.

This is a serious security flaw in the design of Yfrog and Twitter. It allows a malicious outsider to “spoof” a tweet that seems to come from someone else.

In addition, the post looked at problems in the url, arguing  that  “The anomaly in the header indicates that the image was not sent by Weiner. It had to have been sent by someone else.”

Next step was to track down the culprit. It appears that the picture was posted by a conservative who posts under the name Dan Wolfe who first claimed to find the picture. It turns out that the picture supposedly found by Wolfe has irregularities which cast doubt upon Wolfe himself.  “The date stamp on this image is May 30, not May 27. The EXIF data is strange in other ways”   Not surprisingly, Dan Wolfe has been acting pretty strange today:

Explaining his hesitation to speak on the telephone, Wolfe wrote that his ex-wife (working in conjunction with a former girlfriend of his) had twice secretly recorded him and that the resulting tapes had “gotten me in a lot of legal trouble.” As a result, he contended that if his ex-wife’s attorney “got a hold of a call recorded with me on it they’d have a field day with that. I want to try to avoid.”

While not addressing who would make such a recording, how it would surface, or why it would do harm to him, Wolfe concluded, “I am screwed. If all this comes out along with everything I’m dealing with here–I don’t know what to do.”

Update (June 6, 211): Key word in the title is “appears.” Anthony Weiner admits to sending picture. Nancy Pelosi has called for an ethics investigation of Weiner.

Anthony Weiner’s Weiner Remains Big News Over Holiday Weekend

It is obviously a slow time for news when Rep. Anthony Weiner’s weiner is the biggest news story. Having had my Twitter account hacked  in the past year (fortunately without the same consequences) I am inclined to believe Rep. Weiner that he did not send the weiner pic. The woman who received the lewd weiner pic also states that she does not know Weiner:

Friday evening I logged onto Twitter to find that I had about a dozen new mentions in less than an hour, which is a rare occurrence. When I checked one of the posts that I had been tagged in I saw that it was a picture that had supposedly been tweeted to me by Congressman Anthony Weiner.

The account that these tweets were sent from was familiar to me; this person had harassed me many times after the Congressman followed me on Twitter a month or so ago. Since I had dealt with this person and his cohorts before I assumed that the tweet and the picture were their latest attempts at defaming the Congressman and harassing his supporters.

Annoyed, I responded with something along the lines of “are you f***ing kidding me?” and “I’ve never seen this. You people are sick.” I blocked their accounts, made my page private, and let the matter drop, expecting them to eventually do the same.

Within about an hour, however, I realized that I had grossly underestimated the severity of the situation that I had somehow become a part of.

The last 36 hours have been the most confusing, anxiety-ridden hours of my life. I’ve watched in sheer disbelief as my name, age, location, links to any social networking site I’ve ever used, my old phone numbers and pictures have been passed along from stranger to stranger.

My friends have received phone calls from people claiming to be old friends of mine, attempting to obtain my contact information. My siblings have received tweets that are similar in nature. I began taking steps, though not quickly enough, to remove as much personal information from the Internet as possible.

Not because I “was exposed as Weiner’s mistress” or because I “was responsible for the hack,” as Gawker has suggested. I removed my information because I, believe it or not, do not enjoy being harassed or being the reason that my loved ones are targets of harassment.

I have seen myself labeled as the “Femme Fatale of Weinergate,” “Anthony Weiner’s 21-year-old coed mistress” and “the self-proclaimed girlfriend of Anthony Weiner.”

All of this is so outlandish that I don’t know whether to be pissed off or amused, quite frankly. This is the reality of sharing information online in the 21st century. Things that I never imagined people would care about are now being plastered all over blog sites, including pictures of me from when I was 17 and tweets that have been taken completely out of context. I tweeted once (it was reported that I said it twice) that “I wonder what my boyfriend @RepWeiner is up to.”

I am a 21-year-old college student from Seattle. I have never met Congressman Weiner, though I am a fan. I go to school in Bellingham where I spend all of my time; I’ve never been to New York or to DC. The point I am trying to make is that, contrary to the impression that I apparently gave from my tweet, I am not his girlfriend. Nor am I the wife, girlfriend or mistress of Barack Obama, Ray Allen or Cristiano Ronaldo, despite the fact that I have made similar assertions about them via Twitter.

There have never been any inappropriate exchanges between Anthony Weiner and myself, including the tweet/picture in question, which had apparently been deleted before it reached me. I cannot answer the questions that I do not have the answers to. I am not sure whether or not this letter will alleviate any future harassment. I also do not have a clear understanding as to how or why exactly I am involved in this fiasco. I do know that my life has been seriously impacted by speculation and faulty allegations. My reputation has been called into question by those who lack the character to report the facts.

Update (June 6, 2011): Anthony Weiner admitted to sending the picture. Nancy Pelosi has called for an ethics investigation of Weiner.

Newt Gingrich As The Voice of Moderation In The GOP?

I might not agree with Newt Gingrich in many areas, but he is at least making more sense than the other Republicans at the moment. Of course that is a pretty low bar to reach, and Gingrich has the benefit of not having had to actually cast any votes in recent years. National Review accuses Gingrich of tacking left with these comments on Meet the Press:

Newt Gingrich’s appearance on “Meet the Press” today could leave some wondering which party’s nomination he is running for. The former speaker had some harsh words for Paul Ryan’s (and by extension, nearly every House Republican’s) plan to reform Medicare, calling it “radical.”

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” he said when asked about Ryan’s plan to transition to a “premium support” model for Medicare. “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

As far as an alternative, Gingrich trotted out the same appeal employed by Obama/Reid/Pelosi — for a “national conversation” on how to “improve” Medicare, and promised to eliminate ‘waste, fraud and abuse,’ etc.

“I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options,” Gingrich said. Ryan’s plan was simply “too big a jump.”

He even went so far as to compare it the Obama health-care plan.”I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.”

In another surprising move, Gingrich also reiterated his previous support for a “variation of the individual mandate” for health care. “I  believe all of us — and this is going to be a big debate — I believe all of us have a responsibility to help pay for health care,” he said, insisting there is “a way to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy.”

“It’s a system that allows people to have a range of choices that are designed by the economy,” he said. “I don’t think having a free rider system in [health care] is any more appropriate than having a free rider system in any other part of the economy.”

It is a stretch to call Obamacare “radical change” but  I do disagree with one component which Gingrich might call “left-wing social engineering.” I noted some of the problems with Accountable Care Organizations (ACO’s) in the previous post.

Gingrich is being more honest and consistent regarding the individual mandate than his fellow Republicans considering this is an idea which was originally promoted by Republicans. It is especially favorable that Gingrich opposes the GOP-supported plan which would, for all practical purposes, end the Medicare Program.

I hope this is due to actual opposition to the Ryan plan as opposed to responding pragmatically to the degree of opposition to the idea. I am glad to see Gingrich opposing this, but he hardly has a good record at opposing “right-wing social engineering.” We are in a bizarre world if Newt Gingrich is now the voice calling for moderation in the Republican Party–or perhaps a sign of how far right the Republican Party has moved in recent years.

Sarah Palin vs. John F. Kennedy On Separation of Church and State

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has challenged Sarah Palin’s lack of religious tolerance and failure to support our Constitutional guarantees of separation of church and state in an op-ed in The Washington Post. This was in response to Palin’s criticism of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech which explained the separation of his private religious beliefs from his public policy positions as a potential president:

Palin’s argument seems to challenge a great American tradition, enshrined in the Constitution, stipulating that there be no religious test for public office. A careful reading of her book leads me to conclude that Palin wishes for precisely such a test. And she seems to think that she, and those who think like her, are qualified to judge who would pass and who would not.

If there is no religious test, then there is no need for a candidate’s religious affiliation to be “reconciled.” My uncle urged that religion be private, removed from politics, because he feared that making faith an arena for public contention would lead American politics into ill-disguised religious warfare, with candidates tempted to use faith to manipulate voters and demean their opponents.

Kennedy cited Thomas Jefferson to argue that, as part of the American tradition, it was essential to keep any semblance of a religious test out of the political realm. Best to judge candidates on their public records, their positions on war and peace, jobs, poverty, and health care. No one, Kennedy pointed out, asked those who died at the Alamo which church they belonged to…

She continued to contrast Kennedy’s position with Palin’s preferred position as promoted by Mitt Romney which was contrary to the views of the founding fathers:

Palin praises Romney for delivering a “thoughtful speech that eloquently and correctly described the role of faith in American public life.” But if there should be no religious test in politics, then why should a candidate feel compelled to respond to misplaced questions about his belief in Jesus?

When George Romney, Mitt Romney’s father, was a presidential candidate in 1968, he felt no such compulsion. Respect for the Constitution and the founders’ belief in the separation of church and state suggests that those kinds of questions should not play a role in political campaigns.

Palin contends that Kennedy sought to “run away from religion.” The truth is that my uncle knew quite well that what made America so special was its revolutionary assertion of freedom of religion. No nation on Earth had ever framed in law that faith should be of no interest to government officials. For centuries, European authorities had murdered and tortured those whose religious beliefs differed from their own.

To demand that citizens display their religious beliefs attacks the very foundation of our nation and undermines the precise reason that America is exceptional.

Palin’s book makes clear just how dangerous her proposed path can be. Not only does she want people to reveal their beliefs, but she wants to sit in judgment of them if their views don’t match her own. For instance, she criticizes Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), a Democrat and a faithful Catholic, for “talking the (God) talk but not walking the walk.”

Who is Palin to say what God’s “walk” is? Who anointed her our grand inquisitor?

This is a woman who also praises Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, even though Lincoln explicitly declared, “But let us judge not that we not be judged.” The problem for those setting up a free-floating tribunal to evaluate faith is that, contrary to Lincoln, they are installing themselves as judges who can look into others’ souls and assess their worthiness.

Townsend wrote further on the importance of separation of church and state:

John F. Kennedy knew that tearing down the wall separating church and state would tempt us toward self-righteousness and contempt for others. That is one reason he delivered his Houston speech.

Palin, for her part, argues that “morality itself cannot be sustained without the support of religious beliefs.” That statement amounts to a wholesale attack on countless Americans, and no study or reasonable argument I have seen or heard would support such a blanket condemnation. For a person who claims to admire Lincoln, Palin curiously ignores his injunction that Americans, even those engaged in a Civil War, show “malice toward none, with charity for all.”

Palin fails to understand the genius of our nation. The United States is one of the most vibrant religious countries on Earth precisely because of its religious freedom. When power and faith are entwined, faith loses. Power tends to obfuscate, corrupt and focus on temporal rather than eternal purposes.

Somehow Palin misses this. Perhaps she didn’t read the full Houston speech; she certainly doesn’t know it by heart. Or she may be appealing to a religious right that really seeks secular power. I don’t know.

I am certain, however, that no American political leader should cavalierly – or out of political calculation – dismiss the hard-won ideal of religious freedom that is among our country’s greatest gifts to the world. As John F. Kennedy said in Houston, that is the “kind of America I believe in.”

The New York Times Points Out The Failure Of Democrats–And Not Only The Former Speaker

The New York Times believes that the Democrats need a new minority leader in the House:

Ms. Pelosi announced on Friday that she would seek the post of House minority leader. That job is not a good match for her abilities in maneuvering legislation and trading votes, since Democrats will no longer be passing bills in the House. What they need is what Ms. Pelosi has been unable to provide: a clear and convincing voice to help Americans understand that Democratic policies are not bankrupting the country, advancing socialism or destroying freedom.

All true, but not only of Nancy Pelosi. The Democratic Party as a whole has been suffering from an inability to articulate its views and give voters reason to stick with them once the limited memories of the voters have forgotten George Bush. When Democrats fail to explain their views, they allow the Republicans to define them, and Republicans have become very good at presenting distorted views of what Democrats believe. Hell, if Democrats really believed half the things which is claimed by Fox and right wing talk radio I certainly wouldn’t vote for them.

The Democrats saved the country from a depression but failed to get the credit. Democrats saved the auto industry and saw Michigan turn into a red state. Democrats gave the country a major tax cut, but tea party supporters march in the street believing that Obama raised their taxes. Democrats passed a health care plan which takes many ideas from the Republican Party of the 1990’s, freeing individuals from the whims of the insurance industry, and Republicans managed to fool voters into believing this was a government take over of health care. Meanwhile seniors voted Republican, supporting a party with policies which would seriously harm Medicare, believing distorted claims that the Democrats were cutting Medicare (as opposed to cutting George Bush’s subsidies to insurance companies handling Medicare Part D plans).

Democrats must find a way to counter the Republican misinformation. That’s all Democrats–not only Nancy Pelosi.

Of course correcting the problem is not only a matter of explaining how Democrats support freedom and a market economy (as opposed to Republican policies of concentrating wealth in the hands of a small minority). Democrats must do a better job of debunking the false Republican frames, such as showing that the “small government” supported by conservatives intrudes far more upon the lives of individuals than the government supported by Democrats. Democrats must also be consistent in their policies. Obama should have stuck to his campaign position and opposed the individual mandate. Dealing with the free-rider problem would be more complex without a mandate, but it could be done. Backing down and accepting an individual mandate only helps fuel conservative memes about Democrats. Democrats further complicated this with their naive belief that voters who opposed health care reform when it passed would change their minds by this fall.

Little legislation is likely to be passed this year. Democratic leaders (regardless of whether this includes Nancy Pelosi) should devote this time to figuring out exactly what they stand for and explaining this to voters. Obama has often said the right thing, but his actual explanations of policy get lost among all the shouting. Democrats need to work harder to amplify his actual positions in order for them to be heard above the right wing noise machine.

Some of the pundits analyzing the midterm elections described how the Republicans had a successful two-year strategy to return to power. Actually the strategy has been in play for far longer. The right wing noise machine has developed a false narrative about what Republicans and Democrats believe which enabled them to regain much of their lost support. Fortunately long term demographics continue to work against a party which rejects science and reason, and which acts contrary to the long term trend for greater individual liberty in this country. Democrats can speed up the process by better explaining how they really differ from Republicans.

Pelosi Running To Remain Democratic House Leader

After a lot of speculation she would do it, CNN has just issued a bulletin that Nancy Pelosi will run to be House Minority Leader. So far the only real opposition has come from the right. I had hoped she might step aside and that another liberal candidate might arise to replace her.

Polls Show Race Tightening, But Democrats Still Have Uphill Battle

If you were to follow the conventional wisdom coming from the news media pundits you might believe that the Democrats are facing certain doom and Barack Obama is highly unpopular. There is still over a month before the election and there are signs that the election is tightening. While both houses of Congress are now in play, it is too early to predict the results. One problem with the conventional wisdom saying that the Democrats will do poorly is that this could influence behavior and harm Democratic chances, such as by reducing contributions when donors believe the race is futile.

The latest polls are showing that the difference in the generic ballot and in enthusiasm are not looking as badly for Democrats as previously. Republicans might have been more enthusiastic for months about a chance to vote out the Democrats, but the prospect of the extremist ideas of the GOP dominating Congress is starting to make more Democrats  interested in voting. Democrats remain at a disadvantage in having to defend many seats which have traditionally been held by Republicans before the 2006 and 2008 elections. Voters in off-year elections are also more likely to be older and more partisan as opposed to the younger and more independent voters who propelled Obama to victory.

While Obama’s popularity is down (as Ronald Reagan’s was at this point in his presidency), the claim coming from many Republicans that Democrats wish to distance themselves for Obama, like most memes spread by the right wing media, is false. Democratic leaders are actually encouraging Obama to campaign more, knowing that he can often connect with the voters more successfully than members of Congress can. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Obama is not on the ballot and Democratic candidates still have to get a discouraged electorate to turn out to vote for them.

Some of the polls do not mean very much but make for some interesting discussion. Besides showing a tightening in the race, the recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll tried to show what the electorate wants and does not want. The manner in which this was reported gave a false impression of contradictory results as there are sizable numbers of both Democrats and Republicans answering making the desires of both come out high in the results. That said, here is how NBC summarized what voters don’t want:

And here are the most unacceptable outcomes: Palin becoming the GOP’s leading spokesperson (55% unacceptable), Pelosi continuing as speaker (51%), the Democrats continuing to hold the majority in Congress (42%), and the Tea Party becoming a major force in Congress (41%). If some of these results seem somewhat contradictory, well, they are. But these two lists do give you a gauge — however imperfect — what voters want and what they don’t. Here’s a final set of numbers: 41% said it’s an acceptable outcome if President Obama is dealt a setback in the midterms, while an identical 41% said it would be unacceptable, which is just more evidence that November will be more of a referendum on the economy and Washington than on the president.

It is a good sign that a majority do not want Palin leading the Republican Party, but I’m surprised by how much worse she came out here compared to the Tea Party.

If we bought the argument that Obama is to blame for the Democrats’ problems, the natural question would be whether he is susceptible to a primary challenge within his own party. In a poll which has near zero predictive value of what would happen in an actual race, Gallup found that Obama leads Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical Democratic primary race by 52 percent to 37 percent. Not surprisingly, Obama does better among liberals while the more conservative Clinton does better among conservative and female voters.

Planned Islamic Community Center Turns Politicians Of Both Parties Into Babbling Idiots

The planned Islamic Community Center planned near ground zero has resulted in a lot of nonsense. Most of it has come from the right, who mischaracterized it as a Ground Zero Mosque, with the right wingers showing no respect for either freedom of religion or property rights. Some of the nonsense also came from the Democrats. I really don’t know what Nancy Pelosi is talking about here, as she speaks of looking into “who is funding the attacks against the construction of the center.”  Her clarification does not make much more sense. (Of course this is not the first time I’ve questioned if Nancy Pelosi was making sense).

What is obviously going on here (along with Harry Reid trying to sound like a conservative on this in the midst of a tough election campaign) is that the Democrats still have absolutely no idea how to counter the the hateful and ignorant rhetoric from the far right. Instead they look at the polls and find that a majority of Americans support the conservative position in this and fear saying anything meaningful.

If  Islamic terrorists who had flown planes into the World Trade Building had wanted to build a mosque near ground zero I would understand the opposition. Of course those who desire to build the Community Center had no more connection to 9/11 than Saddam Hussein did.

As long as the Democrats fail to provide leadership and manage to speak out intelligibly on such issues a majority of people will listen to the right wing position. Democrats need to counter Republican rhetoric and misinformation with intelligent and factual responses. They won’t win by chickening out and hoping that Rachel Maddow or liberal bloggers will manage to bring some sense to the debates.

Update: Not Howard Dean too.

The Worst People In American History–To Conservatives

Right Wing News conducted a survey of conservative  bloggers to find out who they thought were the worst twenty-five people in U.S. history. John Wilkes  Booth beat out Nancy Pelosi, but only by one vote. Jimmy Carter leads, followed by Barack Obama. Both are well ahead of Timothy McVeigh, who also trails Ted Kennedy, FDR, and LBJ.  The results:

23) Saul Alinsky (7)
23) Bill Clinton (7)
23) Hillary Clinton (7)
19) Michael Moore (7)
19) George Soros (8)
19) Alger Hiss (8)
19) Al Sharpton (8)
13) Al Gore (9)
13) Noam Chomsky (9)
13) Richard Nixon (9)
13) Jane Fonda (9)
13) Harry Reid (9)
13) Nancy Pelosi (9)
11) John Wilkes Booth (10)
11) Margaret Sanger (10)
9) Aldrich Ames (11)
9) Timothy McVeigh (11)
7) Ted Kennedy (14)
7) Lyndon Johnson (14)
5) Benedict Arnold (17)
5) Woodrow Wilson (17)
4) The Rosenbergs (19)
3) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (21)
2) Barack Obama (23)
1) Jimmy Carter (25)

It also appears that, in their view, we are living in really bad times considering how many of the worst people in American history are now living or were around in the not very distant past.