A Philosopher's Blog

Scandal & Resignation

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 14, 2011
Anthony Weiner

Image via Wikipedia

After his attempt to have an affair via Craigslist was exposed, Chris Lee apologized and resigned. On the face of it, that was the honorable and right thing to do.

Anthony Weiner’s case is slightly different. Rather than using Craigslist in an attempt to have an affair, he used various means of communication (Twitter, phone, etc.) to send photos and engage in talk about sex. He alleges that he did not have an actual affair and had no intention of doing so. Since his credibility is rather low, it is not a matter of certitude that he did not have an actual affair or that he did not attempt to initiate one. However, his virtual affairs were morally unacceptable and his lying was certainly unethical.

As to whether he is worse or better than Lee is something of a tough call. While Lee intended to have an affair, he apparently did not succeed. Weiner, however, engaged in ongoing virtual affairs and then engaged in a prolonged campaign of deceit. I am inclined to say that Weiner is worse.

As far as whether a politician  should resign after a sex scandal, much depends on the specifics of the case. However, some general comments can be made.

On one hand, if the actions are not illegal and do not violate the specific rules governing the office (such as congressional ethic), then the actions would not seem to warrant resignation. After all, what would justify expecting a person to resign would seem to require that it be actually relevant to the job. So, for example, if a congressman has an affair using his own resources, then he would not seem to have acted in a way that violated the conditions of his job. If a congressman used federal money to pay for his hookers, then that would be a rather different matter. On this view, Lee need not have resigned.

On the other hand, such a scandal can indicate that the politician’s moral character is deeply flawed in ways that render him (or her) untrustworthy. Unlike many jobs, a high level politician is expected to act in ethical ways and not grossly violate community standards. While this seems odd to say, politician’s depend on their reputation and a politician who has been involved in sex scandal often damages this asset to the point were they can no longer effectively function. While we will tolerate all sorts of sneaky dealings and we expect politicians to lie, the public is still very intolerant of sexual straying on the part of politicians. Bill Clinton is, however, an obvious example. As such, there is also the concern that such a politician will damage his party, thus also giving a practical reason to resign.

The worst part of the Weiner case is not the sexual aspect. That made him into a joke. The worst part is the campaign of lies. While we do expect deceit from politicians, that degree of unrelenting deception in this matter showed that Weiner is quite willing to lie in an unrelenting manner. It also shows that he has some rather weak reasoning skills-at least in certain areas. As such, it seems reasonable to question whether or not he is actually capable of representing the people of his district. There is also the question of whether or not they want him-which is something that must be decided by the due process of the next election. Since there are not any real competency requirements for most political offices, the confidence of the voters seems to be the only real test.




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12 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on June 14, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Mike, would you buy a used car from Weiner?

    Oh, speaking of cars:

    Lying about sexting apparently isn’t Rep. Anthony Weiner’s only gray area.

    When Weiner (D-Queens, Brooklyn) was photographed by the Daily News fleeing the Capitol in his Nissan Pathfinder, it was clear the July 2007 registration sticker in his window was expired, and there was no inspection sticker to be seen. Weiner, through a staffer, said the 1988 Nissan Pathfinder was registered in New York State.

    Not so, said the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

    The New York license plate bolted on Weiner’s Pathfinder – US Congress 9 – had expired as of 2006, according to the DMV.

    “That license plate should not be on a car,” a DMV spokeswoman said. It wasn’t even issued to the Pathfinder, but to another one of Weiner’s cars, a Honda, according to vehicle records.

    Valid plates were issued to Weiner’s Pathfinder, but they don’t have the helpful words “US Congress” on them, and so look less official. It’s unclear what happened to those plates.

    Driving a car with expired plates, let alone those pulled off another vehicle, meant Weiner’s Pathfinder was unregistered, according to the DMV.

    “Switching around license plates is what criminals do,” noted a retired Brooklyn accident investigator. “If you are a congressman, you aren’t supposed to be switching out your plates. I guess that’s the least of his worries.”

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2011/06/13/2011-06-13_dmv_sez_his_suv_unregistered.html#ixzz1PFFmh0iw

  2. T. J. Babson said, on June 14, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Why can’t we have leaders like this guy?

    The pilot who died Sunday when the airship he was inside caught fire and crashed in Germany died a hero, saving the lives of the three passengers onboard by urging them to jump to safety while he stayed behind.

    Mike Nerandzic, 53, a veteran airship pilot who flew for more than 20 years, brought the Goodyear airship to just below 7 feet off the ground and told his passengers to jump. After the three leaped to safety, the airship was soon engulfed in flames and soared to 150 feet due to the loss of weight in the cabin.

    The native Australian has been called a hero after he told them to jump, saying, “We’re having a crash.”

    “We could also hear the cries of the doomed pilot as the fire surrounded him,” one witness said, according to the Daily Mail. “It was terrible.”

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/06/13/blimp-crash-in-germany-claims-pilots-life/#ixzz1PFdzWcY5

    • magus71 said, on June 14, 2011 at 8:44 am

      They’re pretty much gone, TJ. We’re slowly crumbling; I’m convinced of it.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 15, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      Current politics rewards those who look after themselves. This is called good business sense.

  3. magus71 said, on June 14, 2011 at 8:47 am

    The Army’s Noncommissioned Officer Creed states: “I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage.”

    Politicians should be bound by the same oath.

  4. frk said, on June 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    From your POV will all NCO’s adhere to the NCO Creed after the DADT repeal has crept its way to full implementation? That is, will they give 100% to making certain the new rules are adhered to regardless of their own personal feelings about gays?

    • magus71 said, on June 15, 2011 at 2:23 am

      All? Probably not. I’ll do my best and then leave the Army in 2 years when my contract is up.

      • frk said, on June 15, 2011 at 8:35 am

        Well, we’ve learned from so much of what we see in the news that promises by Presidents, Congressmen, lawyers, car salesmen, priests, oil burner repairmen ,etc. . . are made to be ignored. And there is a significant difference between “will not compromise” and a promise to “do my best”. The former is definitely a big reach (often overreach) for a real human being. But the latter can be achieved by anyone, since determining when one is doing one’s best is harder than determining “intent” in the courtroom.

        We’re in an era when people in the audience who are hearing words creeds, oaths , testaments being spoken need to be more skeptical of the words and the speaker.

        • magus71 said, on June 15, 2011 at 11:03 am

          The difference in the Army is that I’m held accountable in a very real way by my oath. Not in some vague “accountable to the people” way. Look what happened to the Navy ship commander who made the video. He wasn’t given the option to resign or stay at his job. He got canned and his career is done.

          • frk said, on June 15, 2011 at 5:02 pm

            Any suggestions how a successful government can be run like a successful military?

            Nothing vague about this for example: (wikipedia)
            “Capital punishment is applied flexibly to a wide range of crimes, some of which are punishable by death in no other judicial system in the world. Economic crimes such as tax fraud have appeared routinely among the dockets of those receiving the death sentence, as have drug offences. Capital punishment in China can be imposed on crimes against national symbols and treasures, such as theft of cultural relics and (before 1997) the killing of pandas.[7] Corruption, property crimes such as theft, and smuggling gold, silver or other precious metals are also amongst the 68 crimes that are eligible for the death penalty in China.

            “Capital punishment is also imposed on inchoate offenses, that is, attempted crimes which are not actually fully carried out, including repeat offenses such as attempted fraud. The recidivistic nature of the offenses, not their seriousness per se, is what is adjudicated to merit the capital sentence.”

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