Another day, another Anthony Weiner sexting scandal. The former US Congressman, who resigned in disgrace after denying that he Tweeted a picture of his crotch to a series of women (he was busted because he accidently sent it to all of his followers), is running to be mayor of New York City. Turns out, he didn’t stop sending selfies after he resigned. And he STILL wants to be mayor. By RICHARD POPLAK
When my editor assigned me this story, his email was short and simple: “WHAT is wrong with this dude???” In those five words, one of them all in caps, followed up by three nonplussed question marks, Anthony Weiner’s spaghetti tangle of a psychological profile lies in wait. I’d shift the emphasis slightly, and add a question mark: What is WRONG with this dude???? But the answer would be the same.
I have no freaking idea. No one does. The guy, in his own special way, seems entirely sui generis.
There are, however, elements of Weiner’s story that point to a moment in representative democracy’s rapidly plummeting arc. The man seems to believe that accountability is for other people, that his impulses and desires must be fulfilled instantly, and that despite his clearly unacceptable sexual pathologies—sexting unsolicited pictures of one’s private parts is, make no mistake, an unacceptable sexual pathology—he is nonetheless fit to guide the destiny of eight million humans in one of the planet’s flagship cities.
In movie after movie, New York City is destroyed by alien invasions. Far more likely, Anthony Weiner’s shvantz will turn the place to dust. Polling suggests that his candidacy is a viable one, and that can be whittled down to two things. 1) He has a profile, i.e. he’s a celebrity. 2) He is an effective and charming retail politician, tub-thumping the “middle-class” every chance he gets, remarkably, robotically on message as he worms his way through a city only barely paying attention to the coming elections.
In his way, Weiner’s latest admission—that he sexted pictures after resigning from Congress, after the scandal rocked the political scene and ripped through his family—only serves to up his profile. And the power and seductiveness of his celebrity should not be underestimated, all of it burnished by the presence of his wife, Huma Abedin, who is in turn spit-shined by her closeness to the Clintons.
Take the “fair” (read: puff) piece in the New York Times Magazine in April of this year, which served as a public service announcement for Weiner’s mayoral candidacy, and tried to explain why his wife, aide to no one less than Hilary Rodham, has stuck by his side. Written by Jonathan van Meter, titled “Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin’s Post-Scandal Playbook”, the piece followed a bit of “toe-dipping” in People—the usual glossy shots of glowing parents of a bouncing new baby—which the couple claimed was meant to devalue paparazzi pics of the newest Weiner on the block.
The piece revolved around the question of whether voters in New York City would be willing to give Weiner a “second chance”. That is, of course, a flawed question: voters have not given him a first chance, considering Congress and mayor are two different positions. The real question is whether Anthony Weiner can be trusted, and there are certainly lessons to be drawn from how he dealt with the original sexting story, which broke on a gossip site. But here’s the piece’s nut graph, which proves just how thoroughly NYT was played:
By agreeing to be interviewed, Weiner and Abedin would seem to be trying to give voters what they want — and gauge public reaction. But it’s clear that the idea of talking about the scandal and its aftermath appeals to them on a personal level too. “We have been in a defensive crouch for so long,” Weiner said. “We are ready to clear the decks on this thing.” Their lives have become too small, too circumscribed, too claustrophobic for a couple accustomed to public life. They haven’t been to a major event together — no White House Correspondents Dinner, no red-carpet events — in nearly two years. “We didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable,” Abedin said, “but also, we just didn’t want to deal with it. I have now gotten used to people asking, over and over again, ‘How is Anthony?’ Oh, he’s good! ‘But how is he doing?’ He’s doing fine.”
Weiner and Abedin have realixed, it seems, that the only way out is through. So they have agreed to talk — and talk and talk — for the first time about what happened and why and what it looks like from the inside when your world comes crashing down because of, as Weiner puts it, “one fateful Tweet.”
As it turns out, there was more than one fateful Tweet; Weiner continued to lie about the timeline of his indiscretions. It is now clear that the mayoral-wannabe is a serial sender of lewd messages via social media sites, and that he is unwilling or unable to consider the damage this does to his fundraisers, advisors, employees and volunteers, to say nothing of his family. The New York Times yesterday reversed its even temperament, and called for Weiner to step down from the race, perhaps fully congisant of how its own shilling has contributed to a celebrity sheen that may be enough to win in an uninspired field.
Americans are actually lovely people, and they live to give their compatriots a second chance. Forgiveness: a pillar of Judeo-Christian values. But there’s a fine line between forgiveness and guilelessness. New Yorkers, clearly, have passed it.
Which brings us to Weiner’s wife, the impossibly long-suffering Huma Abedin. If ever there were an accomplished woman who seems destined to be dragged through the slime for the rest of her married life, it is this skinny waif, who stood alongside her husband during his latest round of dissembling, quivering in shame. She read from the standard Good Wife playbook, pledging support and solidarity—all for appearances, for the dream of Clintonian world-beating privilege that awaits the power couple willing to put human emotions aside for the godhead of success. Hillary Clinton clearly made the right choice—her husband’s indiscretions have not damaged her prospects. But has Huma Abedin? Most of us can understand sexual appetite when it’s exercised on an actual person. But routinely sending pictures of your junk via open social networks seems like a kink crossed with mammoth, earth-shattering stupidity. The shame of it. The sheer disrespect of it.
Anthony Weiner does not need to be in a race for a political position. He needs to be in serious, lockdown style therapy—medicated to the gills for the good of himself, his family, and society at large. There are no upsides to his behaviour, and no upsides to his winning. Oh, and kill the man’s social network accounts, for the Lord’s sake! DM
Photo: Former U.S. Congressman from New York and currently Democratic candidate for New York City Mayor Anthony Weiner speaks to the media outside his New York City apartment July 24, 2013. Weiner on Tuesday vowed to stay in the race despite admitting sending sexually explicit messages and photos to women even after the online sex chat scandal that cost him his congressional sea. REUTERS/Mike Segar