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The Anthony Weiner Spectacle

Some cases involving sexual infidelity and whether it should disqualify someone from an election and public office are complicated. The one involving Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former member of Congress who is now running for mayor of New York City, isn’t one of them.

“Carlos Danger,” Weiner’s sexting pseudonym, is a man who is disturbed on multiple levels. He’s chronically unfaithful and irresponsible, stunningly reckless and impulsive, drawn to risk and danger like a moth to a flame, and a serial liar. He is also a man of jaw-dropping ambition and arrogance. His press conference yesterday, with his wife Huma Abedin by his side, was depressing and painful to watch. He apparently didn’t believe his infidelity was enough of a humiliation of her; he felt the need to use her as a prop in, and a spokeswoman for, his election. (It needs to be said that she was willing to go along with it.)

These may not qualify as hanging offenses or crimes, but they ought to disqualify Weiner from becoming mayor of New York City.

The psychological dimensions of this case are too complicated for most of us to untangle. But it’s obvious even to people without a degree in psychiatry that Mr. Weiner has a compulsive need for public adoration that finds its expression in running for and serving in public office. His vanity seems to demand it, to the point that he’s convinced himself that the Empire City cannot function unless he’s mayor. This is, of course, ludicrous. But Weiner (and apparently his long-suffering wife) have convinced themselves that he is New York City’s Indispensable Man.

The layers of rationalization are something to behold. A man on a rather extraordinary ego trip has convinced himself that what he’s doing is a form of self-sacrifice, that he’s willing to endure this humiliation in the name of public service.

What we’re seeing, of course, is an example of a sybarite, of self-indulgence that would be hard to equal. Very few of us are interested in learning more than we have about Anthony Weiner’s sex life and social pathologies. He can do all of us a great favor by withdrawing from his mayoral race. He is a genuinely sick individual who needs help to rebuild his broken life. He should do so away from politics, away from television cameras, away from magazine profiles and the limelight. It’s unclear whether Mr. Weiner and his wife can ever repair their lives; but it would be impossible for him to do so if he were to be rewarded with an election victory and the ego gratification that would go with it. For him to beat the odds and win the race would be the worst possible things that could happen to his supposed recovery. His feeling of invincibility would be off the charts; an even more twisted ending would await him.   

Withdrawing from the mayoral race would be best for the people of New York and the rest of us, and that matters. But it would also be best for Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin.

It’s time to end this ugly spectacle.