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THOMAS: A time for sadness, not political wins

‘‘A member ... officer or employee of the House shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.’’

— Code of Official Conduct, Rule XXIII, Clause 1

One might expect a conservative like me to pile on Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., joining many of my fellow conservatives on the heap. I’ve heard the jokes and read the double entendre headlines in the New York Post and other publications.

After the high and mighty promise of Rep. Nancy Pelosi to ‘‘drain the swamp’’ of Republican corruption following recent GOP sex scandals, some conservatives might see this as payback. They shouldn’t, both they and our institutions of government could benefit from a little soul searching.

There are at least two truths emerging from this tawdry episode of tweeting half and apparently fully naked pictures of the congressman to women he did not know — though it would not have been any better had he known the women.

First, despite the posturing of some Republicans, no one should claim he — or she — would not do the same thing, or something worse, given similar circumstances and opportunity. Weiner’s ‘‘crime’’ is that he is a sinner like the rest of us. The pictures illustrate a personal moral failing. The lying about it was a breach of trust and offense to the House of Representatives and to the people of his district who put sufficient faith in him to elect him to office and pay his salary and benefits. His colleagues and his constituents have a right to expect honesty and some self-control from someone placed in high office.

The second truth is that the expectations of our culture are now so low that we no longer honor and value people of integrity, only celebrity. It matters not how one becomes famous. It matters only that they are known outside their circle of family and friends. Have you noticed any magazines at the supermarket checkout line that honor long marriages, people of character and commitment? It’s the same with television. A nation gets more of what it promotes and less of what it debunks.

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, once known as ‘‘client number 9,’’ is making a nice living at CNN, following his dalliances with high-priced call girls. Lack of integrity and personal moral character used to get one shunned. Now it can get you your own TV program.

‘‘Crime doesn’t pay,’’ lawmen used to say. Today it can. Sometimes moral failings can pay handsomely, depending on how one bounces back.

Should Weiner resign? He would if he had any integrity, but he said in a news conference Monday that he intends to stay. Should he be expelled? Republicans might like to make him the poster boy for Democratic ‘‘family values,’’ but again, going down that road will only lead to reminders that Republicans have several of their own in the ethical and moral ditch.

One senses a rush to get this over with before election season is upon us. Pelosi has asked the House Ethics Committee to take up the matter.

I am not a sex addiction expert, but my wife, a retired family therapist, earned a certificate in sex addiction as part of her post-graduate education. She says that Weiner has an obvious problem. Therapy is available for such things, she says, but like all addictions, it requires a humbling of one’s self. Humility is not a surplus commodity among many members of Congress.

This conservative hopes Weiner gets help for his problem and that his wife stays with him and encourages him in his treatment. His rehabilitation should be the goal. It is a ‘‘family value’’ all of us could applaud, regardless of political differences.

Email nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at tmseditors@tribune.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/calthomas.