Weiner to enter rehab, seeks leave of absence

As recently as 48 hours ago, one could make the case that conditions were improving for Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), at least a little. He’d vowed to remain in office; the political world had shifted some of its attention to mocking Newt Gingrich and reading thousands of Sarah Palin emails; and the jokes about Weiner had more or less run their course.

But then we learned that the congressman had communicated online with a high-school student, and the fiasco took another turn.

That the communications with the minor were apparently harmless and innocuous didn’t seem to help. By mid-day yesterday, calls for Weiner’s resignation came from nearly all of the House Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and DCCC Chair Steve Israel.

Soon after, Weiner announced he would seek a leave of absence from Congress and is entering a psychological treatment center.

Mr. Weiner, who friends say has become distraught and fragile in recent days, will use the leave to think about his future and whether to leave Congress, a possibility he has not entirely ruled out, a person close to him said. […]

Mr. Weiner has been talking with a therapist in New York City over the past couple of days, as fallout from his online scandal worsened and he absorbed the message from his colleagues and advisers that his conduct reflected not just bad judgment but perhaps a deeper psychological problem.

“Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” said his spokeswoman, Risa Heller. “In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well.”

On Monday, Weiner said of his online misconduct, “This is not something that can be treated away.” Indeed, it’s not altogether clear what he is seeking treatment for, exactly.

It’s also unclear whether these developments will actually change anything about the larger dynamic. Weiner remains a member of Congress — he’ll continue to be paid and receive benefits, even during a leave of absence — and for those seeking his ouster, taking a time out of sorts may not be sufficient.

There’s still no word on whether Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) — who faced no media feeding frenzy, faced no calls for his resignation, and whose campaign donations to his colleagues were never returned — finds all of this hilarious.