Weiner sparks discussion about passion, ‘distemper’

WEINER SPARKS DISCUSSION ABOUT PASSION, ‘DISTEMPER’…. Late last week, House Republicans took the surprising step of killing the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, blasting federal funds for 9/11 victims as a “slush fund.” In a video I suspect everyone has seen by now, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y), whose constituents include many directly affected by this legislation, condemned GOP arguments in a fiery floor speech.

Weiner’s display generated more discussion than is usual for a two-minute set of remarks on the House floor, but the reactions from the left have generally been quite positive. David Kurtz described Weiner as “my kind of Democrat.” Michael Tomasky added, “This is what the Democrats need more of. One of the big differences between the two parties is a really simple thing: passion…. [Democrats] just need to show people they have some fight in them.”

Greg Sargent took a different tack, lauding Weiner’s passion as “emotionally satisfying,” but arguing that “raging against the GOP opposition machine’s successful efforts to tie Dems in knots just makes Dems look whiny, weak and impotent.”

I think there’s some room for both contingents to be right about this — passion is good, and so is tactical awareness — but I noticed over the weekend that the establishment line was less kind. Here’s Dan Balz:

What happened on the House floor Thursday underscores why many Americans have lost confidence in the institution and its members. Anyone watching cable news the past 48 hours has probably seen Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) in a full-throated diatribe — aimed at the Republicans.

Weiner may have had good reason to be upset. Republicans added a politically charged amendment involving illegal immigrants to an otherwise seemingly popular bill that would enhance health benefits for first responders to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, who continue to suffer respiratory and other ailments.

Weiner knew that the bill was being held up by politics. But he lost control on the floor of the House. His behavior, not the merits of his argument, became the story. Aficionados of New York politics contend that Weiner’s attention-getting display is part of a strategy to make himself mayor after Michael Bloomberg finishes his third term. Whatever his motives, Weiner turned into the poster child for congressional distemper.

There are, in effect, two ways the media could come down on a story like this. Weiner either (a) delivered a powerful stem-winder, passionately denouncing pointless Republican obstructionism, and giving voice to a frustrated progressive base; or (b) lost his cool, overshadowed his subject, and “turned into the poster child for congressional distemper.”

I get the sense the media responds with a reflexive discomfort to heated Democratic emotions.