Peggy Noonan’s hierarchy of political sins

When Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) came clean this week and publicly acknowledged his inappropriate online activities, my first question was whether he’d done anything illegal. From there, I wondered whether he’d violated any congressional rules. And after that, I compared Weiner’s transgressions to other recent sex scandals, found it lacking, and wondered what the big deal is all about.

But the Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan thinks this approach is backwards. Weiner’s sin doesn’t pale in comparison to more substantial scandals — in her mind, it’s worse.

Of course he should resign — or, better, and as a statement, the House should remove him. I speak as a conservative who wishes to conserve. If I were speaking as a Republican I’d say, “By all means keep him, let him taint all your efforts.”

But sometimes all of Washington has to put up its hand up like a traffic cop and say no. It has to say: That doesn’t go here, it’s not acceptable, it’s not among the normal human transgressions of back stairs, love affairs and the congressman on the take. This is decadence. It is pornography. We can’t let the world, and the young, know it’s “politically survivable.” Because that will hurt us, not him, and define us, not him. So: enough.

Oh, I see. Corruption and adultery are “normal human transgressions,” and are therefore easy to dismiss. But, in Noonan’s eyes, Weiner having lewd communications with women online is really offensive, and therefore worthy of expulsion.

I especially like the “won’t someone think of the children” tack. We can let “the young” know that family-values, right-wing evangelicals can hire prostitutes and it’s “politically survivable,” but Weiner’s misdeeds will undermine the integrity of the country and the American populace unless he resigns in disgrace.

I’m certainly not going to defend Weiner’s conduct, but to list a hierarchy of sin, and put his online activities near the top, even ahead of corruption, strikes me as not only misguided, but evidence of priorities in need of reevaluation.

Steve M., by the way, had quite a kicker on this: “And in case you’re wondering, if you go to Peggy Noonan’s archived oeuvre, you will search in vain for the names Vitter and Ensign.”

Imagine that.