Coming from Democrats and Republicans alike, calls are mounting for Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to resign, but it seems that an increasing number of conservatives are trying to use his reprehensible behavior for partisan attacks. On his show yesterday, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh called Weiner “the face of Democrat family values — he is the epitome of the Democrat culture of corruption, the Democrat culture of erection.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the ethics watchdog House Government Oversight Committee, took a different tack, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt yesterday that Democrats will let Weiner off the hook because there’s “a different standard between Republicans and Democrats” when it comes to ethics scandals:
HEWITT: Yeah, so I’m going to come back to that in a segment where we can set it up. But I do have to ask you, Eric Cantor, the leader of the Republicans today, called on Anthony Weiner to quit, said I don’t condone his activity, and I think he should resign. What’s your opinion, Darrell Issa?
ISSA: Well, first of all, I agree with Eric, who’s my leader, and who’s a classmate of mine and a friend. But I think Eric’s missing one point. Anthony Weiner’s not a Republican. He won’t resign. There’s a different standard between Republicans and Democrats. Yes, if he were Chris Lee, well, actually, Chris Lee did less and resigned immediately. There is a different standard that Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor hold us to. And we should hold ourselves to it, but if we don’t, in the case of Chris Lee, who didn’t, you’re gone. They’re not doing that on the other side. [...]
Out of 435 members and six delegates and commissioners, we are going to have human failures. The question is, will we hold ourselves to the standards Republicans are being held to, or the no standards the Democrats hold themselves to?
While Issa is correct is saying there seems to be a “different standard” between the parties when it comes to scandals, he need only look across the Capitol to the Senate to see that he has it backwards. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) admitted in 2007 to patronizing the DC Madam prostitution ring — a crime “a degree or two more egregious” than Weiner’s, as former RNC Chairman Michael Steele said — yet Vitter remains in the Senate to this day. How did Republicans respond to Vitter’s transgression? With “a concerted push” to defend the embattled senator. “[T]he state GOP organized the release of a flurry of supportive statements,” the New Orleans Times Picayune reported at the time.
Issa could also look at the case of former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), who remained in the Senate a full two years after admitting to having an extramarital affair with the wife of a staffer, whom he bribed with $96,000 in hush money and illegally helped acquire a lobbying job. Ensign only resigned last month because of the pending release of a damning Senate Ethics Committee investigation and the possibly that he could be kicked out of the chamber.
In neither case did GOP leaders call for the senators to step down. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was satisfied with Ensign giving up his GOP leadership spot in 2009, saying, “He’s accepted responsibility for his actions and apologized to his family and constituents.” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the Senate’s number two Republican, offered support for Ensign, calling him a good friend and saying he still had a role to play in the party. “He’s a very intelligent senator,” Kyl said. “John is a person of great faith. So I know this is a very, very difficult deal for he and his family.”
In contrast, House Democratic Leaders like Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Steve Israel (D-NY) have called for an ethics investigation, while Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Mike Michaud (D-ME), and many more privately, have called for Weiner’s resignation.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus refused to discuss the Vitter scandal earlier this week, despite being the most vocal leader calling for Weiner’s resignation. But even his predecessor Steele sees some “inconsistency” in the GOP grandstanding.