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With Anthony Weiner set to resign, political sex scandal enters next phase

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John Minchillo/AP/File

(Read caption) In this June 6 file photo, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., leaves a news conference in New York, where he confessed that he tweeted a lewd photo to a young woman and admitted to "inappropriate" exchanges with six women before and after getting married. According to AP sources, on Thursday, June 16, 2011, Weiner tells associates he will resign.

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The sad, drawn-out saga of Anthony Weiner is moving to the next chapter: The seven-term Democratic congressman from New York – caught with his electronic pants down, so to speak – is set to resign Thursday afternoon.

There’s no doubt the Democratic leadership in Congress is heaving a sigh of relief. But it’s not exactly a happy day for the caucus. Mr. Weiner was a vociferous advocate for progressive causes, keeping many a disgruntled liberal happy that at least someone in the party was speaking up, especially given the disappointment with President Obama.

But Weiner’s role in the House as an attack dog was already history, even had he opted to stick it out representing New York’s Ninth District, which he had the right to do. Weiner’s unraveling began in late May, when a young woman in Washington State revealed that she had received a lewd photo from Weiner via social media. Weiner claimed his account had been hacked. Then, on June 6, with prodding by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, Weiner came clean: He admitted to the sexting, including one X-rated photo, and to sexual communications with about six women around the country.

Through it all, Weiner insisted on staying in Congress, saying his voters backed him up. Polls showed that indeed a majority wanted him to stay.

Over the weekend, Weiner requested a leave of absence from the House and said he would seek “treatment.” The leave was granted, but the Democratic leadership – and Mr. Obama – still wanted him out. Weinergate was an embarrassment and a distraction, they cried in unison. Meanwhile, more pictures came out.

The key to Weiner’s announcement Thursday – set for 2 p.m. Eastern time – may be his wife, Huma Abedin, a close aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Ms. Abedin left on a trip to Africa the day after Weiner’s tearful admission, and she returned to Washington early Wednesday. The word from Weiner’s camp was that he would make no decision without talking it over in person with his wife of less than a year.

Soon Weiner will be an ex-congressman, and yet another political sex scandal will move to its next phase: Can he and his wife, who is expecting their first child, save their marriage? What will Weiner, who has no other career but politics to fall back onto, do with his life? Can there be a comeback, in the style of another fallen New York Democrat, former Gov. (and former prostitute patron) Eliot Spitzer, now a CNN talk host?

And perhaps most important for the entire political class, when will these alpha male politicians – of both parties – stop misbehaving and remember the public trust? And keep their pants on?

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