Globe Editorial

Weinergate: Only Tsongas speaks out

(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
June 16, 2011

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It’s hard for any profession to police its own members for ethical lapses, and nowhere is that more true that in politics. When a member of Congress runs into trouble, the opposition party may call for his resignation, but his own colleagues frequently refuse to take a stand.

That’s been true in the case of US Representative Anthony Weiner, the New York Democrat with a penchant for sending lewd photos of himself — or rather, regions of himself — to would-be admirers. Although top Democrats obviously want him gone, this state’s all-Democratic House delegation has largely sidestepped the controversy. One obvious motive is a reluctance to see a Democratic seat vacated. Reticence can also be born of friendship; Eighth District Representative Michael Capuano is a former Washington roommate of Weiner’s. Then there’s Fourth District Representative Barney Frank, whose own controversies have made him uncomfortable criticizing others. Given his own past, Frank told reporters Tuesday, “I just don’t think it’s appropriate for me to set myself up as the judge of others.’’

One notable exception to the pattern is Fifth District Representative Niki Tsongas, who has called for Weiner to resign. “It would be appropriate for Congressman Weiner to step down,” she told the Globe Tuesday, reiterating in person a comment she had previously made through a spokesman. That’s not an easy thing for one politician to say of a fellow party member. But kudos to Tsongas, who, coincidentally or not, is the only woman in the delegation, for not ducking.