Return to a Sore Subject

"Does anybody care?"

[NOTE: An unusually busy travel schedule combined with terrible hotel WiFi and a week that was already stuffed with juicy and provocative ethics stories resulted in my not fulfilling my duties very well the last three days, for which I apologize sincerely. I’m going to make every effort to catch up this weekend.]

Rep. Weiner resigned at last, noting that his district and its constituents deserved to have a fully functioning representative in Congress, and that he could no longer fulfill that role. True enough, though one has to ask (or at least I do): if the people of Queens and Brooklyn deserve better representation than a hard-working, if dishonest, obsessed and twisted, pariah can offer, what about the people of the 8th District of Arizona, who have a representative who can’t funtion in her post at all?

I was going to wait until the six-month mark in Gaby Giffords’ rehabilitation to raise this matter again, since that will mark a full 25% of the Congresswoman’s term that she has been unable to serve, but the combination of Weiner’s resignation and the news of Giffords being released from the hospital created too much dissonance for me to ignore. I fully expect that I will be writing some version of this post 18 months hence, after Rep. Giffords’ entire Congressional term has passed without her voting on a bill or answering a constituent’s letter. To quote the singing John Adams in “1776,”: “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

Reports from various medical personnel enthused that Giffords has made remarkable progress, and “seems” to understand “most’ of what is being said to her, though she still has trouble articulating responses. That is great progress for someone who has some of her brain blown away by a gunshot at close range, but it sure doesn’t sound like someone who is going to be making a persuasive argument on the House floor any time soon, or ever. So are we serious about this running the country stuff, or aren’t we? Continue reading

As Weiner Finally Goes, Some Lessons That We Already Should Know

I’m sitting in the Washington, D.C. offices of  NPR, waiting to go live at 11 AM. with some ethics commentary about the imminent resignation of Rep. Weiner. He is finally doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, just as his Democratic colleagues are defenestrating him for the wrong reasons. Once yesterday’s old photos surfaced showing Weiner in women’s underwear, his fate was sealed…although it was really sealed already. His forced resignation was inevitable, and the fact that the Congressman was unable to see it so that he could preserve some shred of honor by doing his duty as soon as his disgraceful conduct became public shows how wretched his judgment is.

The 56% of his constituents who, according to polls, thought that he should remain in his job demonstrated their complete lack of understanding of the requirements of leadership and ethics. They weren’t the only ones. It has been fascinating, though depressing, to read the comment threads on various websites and blogs covering the Weiner story, because they are so similar in their rationalizations. The categories, and reasons why they are so misguided, are:

  • Lots of the people criticizing Weiner engage in dubious inline conduct themselves; they are hypocrites.” No, they are non-leaders. When you accept the responsibility of leadership, you accept the duties of  integrity, honesty, and honorable conduct. Rep. Weiner gave up the right to behave as sleazy as the guy we never heard of next door when he ran for office. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz For Rep. Weiner Defenders: Would You Still Think He Shouldn’t Resign If He Did THIS?

Just add his daughter's head, and you have Rep. Gerber's fantasy date.

The Sixth District Court of Appeal in San Jose just ruled that Joseph Gerber, a California man who used his computer to create sexually explicit photos by pasting images of his 13-year-old daughter’s head onto the fully mature, naked bodies of porn performers in lewd poses, was wrongly convicted of possessing child pornography. After all, the pictures didn’t show minors engaging in sex acts, just fully legal adults with his daughter’s head, which apparently really turned Dad on.

The decision is unquestionably correct from a legal standpoint: no children were harmed to create the photos, and they did not depict child porn of any kind, except in Mr. Gerber’s fatherly mind.

Thus the Ethics Alarms question for Alec Baldwin and the reported 56% of New Yorkers who say that sexting, lying Representative Anthony Weiner should not resign his position because of his personal habit of sending smiling photos of his penis and other body parts to porn actresses, scheduling skype phone sex while his pregnant wife is away, and other similar activities, lying it all the while until lies became impossible: Continue reading

Should Rep. Weiner Resign?

Well, at least Weiner got THAT off his chest. Now all he needs to do is resign.

I was giving a seminar on building an organizational culture free from sexual harassment today, and happened to mention Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter misadventures. “Allegedly!” shouted out one of the participants. “Allegedly,” I conceded. “But I’m pretty sure we’re going to find out that he behaved inappropriately; I knew that the minute he said that the crotch in the picture might have been his. Might have been his? What kind of guy his age takes photos of his crotch?” By the time I left the seminar at about 4 PM, Rep. Weiner was already engaged in his excruciating press conference, confessing, apologizing, and taking the full brunt of the media’s onslaught.

A woman had come forward to reveal more photos the Congressman had sent to her over social media…sad, embarrassing photos for any man over the age of 16 that hinted at untreated emotional problems in a man with a new wife, a high-profile job, and so much to lose. Rep. Weiner had to come clean, not that he had been doing a very convincing job of lying over the past week.

Give him credit for a forthright capitulation to the truth, once he changed his story. Continue reading