Commentary Magazine


Topic: Anthony Weiner

Let Us Now Praise Public Morality

By the time New York’s Democrats voted in their primary this week, the issue that transfixed the chattering classes earlier in the year had virtually disappeared. As it turns out, both of the disgraced celebrity politicians who sought redemption in this year’s municipal elections were soundly thrashed. The prospect that the political careers of both Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are over is a source of understandable grief to headline writers and the bottom lines of New York’s tabloids, but the rest of the nation surely breathed a sigh of relief at the demise of the hopes of that unholy duo. That should cause those of us who wondered about what the ability of such figures to survive personal scandals meant for America to not be quite as shy about putting forward a case for public morality in the future.

The idea that public figures should be held to a standard of moral conduct is widely ridiculed by most of the chattering classes these days. It’s not that they approve of aberrant or immoral behavior, they tell us, but when those in the cross hairs of scandalmongers are either useful or popular, especially if they are liberals, then we are told not to confuse private conduct with public duties. The notion that there can be any link between immorality and qualification for high office is generally considered to be either passé or downright perverse. But it is also possible that after Weiner and Spitzer flopped at the polls, what we are seeing is that many voters, even in cosmopolitan New York, expect more from those they entrust with public honors than pop stars. If so, then that is something we should not only welcome but also encourage.

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By the time New York’s Democrats voted in their primary this week, the issue that transfixed the chattering classes earlier in the year had virtually disappeared. As it turns out, both of the disgraced celebrity politicians who sought redemption in this year’s municipal elections were soundly thrashed. The prospect that the political careers of both Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are over is a source of understandable grief to headline writers and the bottom lines of New York’s tabloids, but the rest of the nation surely breathed a sigh of relief at the demise of the hopes of that unholy duo. That should cause those of us who wondered about what the ability of such figures to survive personal scandals meant for America to not be quite as shy about putting forward a case for public morality in the future.

The idea that public figures should be held to a standard of moral conduct is widely ridiculed by most of the chattering classes these days. It’s not that they approve of aberrant or immoral behavior, they tell us, but when those in the cross hairs of scandalmongers are either useful or popular, especially if they are liberals, then we are told not to confuse private conduct with public duties. The notion that there can be any link between immorality and qualification for high office is generally considered to be either passé or downright perverse. But it is also possible that after Weiner and Spitzer flopped at the polls, what we are seeing is that many voters, even in cosmopolitan New York, expect more from those they entrust with public honors than pop stars. If so, then that is something we should not only welcome but also encourage.

It must be admitted that each such case of a transgressor seeking redemption is different. The free pass much of the nation gave—and continues to give—President Clinton for his lies about sex and dalliances with a White House intern in the Oval Office led some, like William Bennett, to lament “the death of outrage” and to rightly point out the deleterious impact this would have on society as a whole. Perhaps if Weiner or Spitzer had not both been generally despised as obnoxious political loners even when they were riding high, they, too, might have been quickly forgiven and their detractors ostracized as Puritan hypocrites. Perhaps also the nature of some of these offenses has something to do with it as straight-forward adultery, such as that committed by former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, was more easily understood by voters in a society where divorce is commonplace than the bizarre doings of Weiner or Spitzer’s money-laundering that enabled his patronage of prostitutes.

Indeed, in Weiner’s case, it was, as was true of Clinton, the lies that were most damnable. Perhaps the time has not yet arrived when Americans will think nothing of a member of the House of Representatives tweeting photos of their genitals to strange women, but I doubt there will ever be much tolerance for those who do such things and then claim that the journalists (like the late Andrew Breitbart) who reported it were perpetrating a hoax. Nor will the public ever accept a politician who claims he’s reformed and then is revealed to have continued his mad behavior long after he said he went straight, as Weiner did.

But in a country whose worst problems are caused in no small measure by social pathologies such as illegitimacy and the breakdown of the family, can we really afford to be blasé about those who aspire to lead the nation whose personal immorality becomes a matter of public record?

To praise public morality doesn’t mean that we should be putting politicians who can’t behave in the stocks. We all make mistakes and those who are not reticent about casting the first stone should remember what happened to the political careers of adulterous House Republicans who impeached Clinton on charges relating to sexual impropriety. Neither party has a monopoly on morality or truth.

But it does mean that we should not treat these matters as lightly as many in the media would have us do when their favorites are not the targets of the tabloids. Outrage about wrongdoing doesn’t mean we must chain those who sin to a rock. A nation with high moral standards need not be a nation of saints, but it is one that knows the difference between right and wrong. Heaven help us if we ever become a country where not knowing that difference is no longer a political problem. The idea that there is no connection between loose morals and public integrity is a theory that admirers of John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and others adhere to. But that is a case that is hard to make for most ordinary politicians whose honesty is usually a fungible commodity.

Earlier this year, Mark Sanford ran for and won a congressional seat by apologizing endlessly for his misdeeds. That played well in a religious state where belief in redemption is widespread. Weiner and Spitzer’s apologies were perfunctory and quickly abandoned and they found out that in sophisticated New York, not so many people love a former sinner as in the south. Let’s hope their defeats will serve as an example that will help remind our leaders that their belief that they have impunity to misbehave says more about their egos than it does public opinion.

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Minding the (Gender) Gap in New York City

Of the several New York Democratic mayoral candidates who lost this week’s primary to Bill de Blasio, only one constituted something of a surprise: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. It’s not that Quinn was ever considered a shoo-in–far from it. But she had media buzz building for quite some time, a consistent early lead in the polls, and the tentative support of Michael Bloomberg (which probably cost her votes in the end, but gave her candidacy an early boost).

Unlike Anthony Weiner, Quinn didn’t seem to have any skeletons refusing to stay in the closet. Unlike Bill Thompson, Quinn was able to poll a lead when matched up against the entire field of candidates, while Thompson needed a second-round run-off to build a lead. And it must be said that her current speakership and the media attention she received for being openly gay (she married her partner last year) gave her at least a head start on both the late entries and the no-names. Yet she placed third. What happened?

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Of the several New York Democratic mayoral candidates who lost this week’s primary to Bill de Blasio, only one constituted something of a surprise: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. It’s not that Quinn was ever considered a shoo-in–far from it. But she had media buzz building for quite some time, a consistent early lead in the polls, and the tentative support of Michael Bloomberg (which probably cost her votes in the end, but gave her candidacy an early boost).

Unlike Anthony Weiner, Quinn didn’t seem to have any skeletons refusing to stay in the closet. Unlike Bill Thompson, Quinn was able to poll a lead when matched up against the entire field of candidates, while Thompson needed a second-round run-off to build a lead. And it must be said that her current speakership and the media attention she received for being openly gay (she married her partner last year) gave her at least a head start on both the late entries and the no-names. Yet she placed third. What happened?

A lot of things. But one thing that does not seem to have played a significant role is her gender. That’s one takeaway from today’s New York Times story, “In Quinn’s Loss, Questions About Role of Gender and Sexuality.” But the article seems to answer those questions pretty effectively:

Exit polls showed no gender gap in the results and indicated that Ms. Quinn lost for a number of reasons — her close association with the plutocratic incumbent mayor, her rivals’ ability to outmaneuver her on the issue of stop-and-frisk policing, and her inability to be a change candidate in an election in which voters sought new direction.

Still, her supporters wonder: Why has New York, home of tough, talented women like Eleanor Roosevelt and Anna Wintour, proven resistant to female candidates? And was it simply too much to expect the electorate to embrace a candidate who would be not just New York’s first female mayor, but its first openly gay one, too?

In interviews with allies and opponents, as well as members of the Quinn campaign team, not one person blamed her loss wholly, or even mostly, on gender.

Exit polls showed no gender gap, and neither her supporters (including those who worked for her) nor her opponents thought it made much difference, if at all. But you get the feeling that this article gets written one way or the other. Had there been a “gender gap” in the exit polls, we’d be reading an article about how the fact that Quinn is a woman worked against her in the race. Now that there wasn’t a gender gap, the Times is concerned: why not? That is, why didn’t New York’s women show some solidarity?

The Times has no trouble finding sources who will blame that on Quinn, but the criticism of her in the article is so gobsmackingly unfair as to leave the reader wondering why anyone would put their names to the comments. One explanation is one that is backed up by the exit polls: Quinn–admirably, I might add–insisted on running a campaign on the issues instead of gender identity. “I don’t get up in the morning thinking about how I’ll approach this as a woman or a lesbian; I think about the issues,” she apparently told a room full of accomplished women who wanted to tell Quinn how to run a campaign as a woman.

Identity politics did work against her, though, in two ways. First, New York City identity politics are ethnic and racial. As the Times story notes, there was neither a gay vote nor a women’s vote. Without such a voter base, it was to Quinn’s disadvantage that she represented swanky neighborhoods in Manhattan and was thus somewhat detached from the lives of so many of the New Yorkers whose votes she wanted.

Second, some of those Manhattanites turned on her. And here is where her gender made a difference. From the story:

Critiques of Ms. Quinn’s physical attributes came from many corners, even the wealthy Upper East Side women who helped raise money for her mayoral bid. “Why can’t she dress better?’” they would ask Rachel Lavine, a Democratic state committeewoman who was on Ms. Quinn’s finance committee.

“I might think that St. John is not the end all and be all of fashion,” Ms. Lavine said, referring to the upscale clothing line favored by wealthy, older women. “But that’s what they’re saying. ‘Why isn’t she wearing a size two St. John’s dress?’ There’s that kind of constant commentary.”

Referring to Ms. Quinn’s rival Bill de Blasio, she said, “You don’t hear that about de Blasio — ‘Why can’t he buy better-looking suits?’ ”

Her female supporters badmouthed her because they didn’t like the brand of clothing she wore. It’s to Quinn’s credit that she showed no interest in playing these games, either by trying to disqualify criticism of her as simple prejudice or by changing her appearance. She lost, but she lost honorably–against the advice of many of her supporters.

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Bloomberg’s de Blasio Disaster Foretold

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s comments in an interview published over the weekend “shook up” the race to succeed him, as the Wall Street Journal describes it. Bloomberg took issue with what he thought has been an overly class- and race-based campaign by the current Democratic primary frontrunner, Bill de Blasio. While that may sound like exactly the sort of campaign a modern liberal Democrat would run–especially in New York City, where identity politics predominate–the charge was actually unfair.

What’s more, Bloomberg seemed realize this as he said it, as his explanation for his comments indicates:

Mr. Bloomberg said in the interview published Saturday in New York magazine that he thought Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the front-runner, was running a “class-warfare and racist” campaign because he had persistently highlighted income inequality and his biracial family. Mr. de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is African-American.

“I mean he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.”

Not to split hairs, but it’s not quite like Bloomberg pointing out his Jewish background. De Blasio isn’t black; given the degree of controversy over race-related issues both in the city and the country recently, it’s not outrageous at all that de Blasio would feel compelled to demonstrate that he can understand issues facing the African-American community through personal connection.

At any rate, what you sense from Bloomberg is frustration, not outrage. I don’t think Bloomberg cares about ethnic political appeals by de Blasio or anyone else. What most likely bothers him much more is that de Blasio appears to be a disaster waiting to happen. His ideas for the city range from the terrible to the dangerous. De Blasio is leading the “Dinkins Democrats,” as I referred to them here.

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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s comments in an interview published over the weekend “shook up” the race to succeed him, as the Wall Street Journal describes it. Bloomberg took issue with what he thought has been an overly class- and race-based campaign by the current Democratic primary frontrunner, Bill de Blasio. While that may sound like exactly the sort of campaign a modern liberal Democrat would run–especially in New York City, where identity politics predominate–the charge was actually unfair.

What’s more, Bloomberg seemed realize this as he said it, as his explanation for his comments indicates:

Mr. Bloomberg said in the interview published Saturday in New York magazine that he thought Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the front-runner, was running a “class-warfare and racist” campaign because he had persistently highlighted income inequality and his biracial family. Mr. de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is African-American.

“I mean he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.”

Not to split hairs, but it’s not quite like Bloomberg pointing out his Jewish background. De Blasio isn’t black; given the degree of controversy over race-related issues both in the city and the country recently, it’s not outrageous at all that de Blasio would feel compelled to demonstrate that he can understand issues facing the African-American community through personal connection.

At any rate, what you sense from Bloomberg is frustration, not outrage. I don’t think Bloomberg cares about ethnic political appeals by de Blasio or anyone else. What most likely bothers him much more is that de Blasio appears to be a disaster waiting to happen. His ideas for the city range from the terrible to the dangerous. De Blasio is leading the “Dinkins Democrats,” as I referred to them here.

De Blasio attacked rival candidate Christine Quinn for her qualified support for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, whose leadership of the NYPD has helped keep the city safe and make it a model for the rest of the country. Kelly’s name has even been floated to run the federal Department of Homeland Security, a suggestion supported by Republicans and Democrats. De Blasio’s idea of city governance is to locate what has worked in the past–a focus on safe streets and a pro-business atmosphere that has enabled the city to rake in the tax revenue that keeps services running and the social safety net intact–and promise to shred it.

So, if de Blasio is such an irresponsible choice for mayor–and to be fair, he may not intend to keep his promises (threats?) if he wins the election–why would he win in the first place? The answer is because a meager minority of Democratic primary voters will choose the Democratic nominee tomorrow, and because of the Democrats’ partisan advantage in the city that party’s nominee will become the favorite–though far from guaranteed victor–in the general election.

And de Blasio is poised to take a commanding lead into the primary because of the weakness of the rest of the field. Anthony Weiner has cratered in the polls after new scandals arose and he began speaking in a British accent and taunting elderly voters. (A strange, but perhaps not too unexpected, sentence to write.) That left the election without a traditional candidate from the boroughs, putting Queens in play and giving an advantage to the Brooklyn-based de Blasio.

Bill Thompson is another candidate whose weak poll standing has always hidden his strength in a second-round runoff, which takes place if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote. And of course there is the once-putative frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has been startlingly unable to connect with voters and has run a campaign that suggests she never took her competition too seriously, inexcusably in the case of Thompson.

And that brings us back to Bloomberg. The mayor had tentatively sided with Quinn as his successor, but that was only among the likely candidates. He spent his final term in office undermining any credibility Quinn had by desperately casting about for a different successor. He was even willing to import one; he reportedly asked Hillary Clinton and Ed Rendell to run.

The whole circus left the impression that Bloomberg feared leaving his legacy in Quinn’s hands. But the recent Democratic primary contest suggests he feared a Quinn candidacy, not a Quinn mayoralty. He might have expected Quinn to fumble the handoff, which is exactly what happened. If that’s the case, Bloomberg gets points for prescience.

It’s surely possible Quinn could still win, of course. If there’s a runoff, the calculus changes–though, it should be noted, probably not to Quinn’s benefit, demographically. There is some irony here for Quinn. She ran to the left once she saw her rivals do so. That was probably a mistake, and it could cost her the election. Had she secured her place as the “responsible” Democrat, she could have portrayed de Blasio as the extreme candidate he is–well-meaning but eminently naïve and dangerous if given a job with real citywide responsibility, which he has never had.

Instead, Quinn may have convinced voters that there wasn’t enough daylight between her and de Blasio ideologically to make much of a difference. At that point, the election becomes solely about personality and, yes, identity politics. That’s where Bloomberg’s frustration finally boiled over, because that’s where Quinn is most likely to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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NBC Miniseries Won’t Do Hillary a Favor

The news that NBC is planning to film a miniseries on the life of Hillary Clinton may be interpreted in some quarters as just another lollipop being thrown by the network at its Democratic crush. The movie will star actress Diane Lane as the former first lady, senator, and secretary of state and will cover her life from the 1998 Monica Lewinsky scandal up until the present day. Though we are told the work would include “aspects that were both critical of Mrs. Clinton and supportive of her,” it’s not likely the network with a cable news outlet where nary a discouraging word is uttered about liberalism and the Democrats will exert itself to highlight the less savory parts of the Clinton story. But anyone under the assumption that this project, which must be completed and aired before Clinton announces for the presidency in 2016 to avoid NBC having to give her opponents equal time, will boost the drive to make Hillary President Obama’s successor is probably wrong. As the Clintons were reminded this past week as the Weiner scandal caused many Americans to think back on l’affaire Lewinsky, this kind of scrutiny, even if done by friends, doesn’t help them.

If, as Fred Dicker reports today in the New York Post, Bill and Hillary are “livid” about the comparisons being made between their conduct and that of the couple that married at their Chappaqua estate, it can’t be just because they think the former president’s dalliances with an intern in the Oval Office and escapades with various girlfriends and mistresses during his time as governor of Arkansas are not as icky as Weiner’s bizarre Internet activities (a point I thought Peter Beinart rightly disputed last week). It’s because Huma Abedin’s pathetic performance last week beside her disturbed husband is highly reminiscent of the decision by Hillary to stand by her man and to regard his critics as merely the effusion of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Hillary’s potential candidacy is at its intimidating best—at least to serious Democratic contenders who will probably pass on the presidency rather than taker her on—when the discussion is about the need for America to elect its first female president. When the conversation turns to the history of Mrs. Clinton’s troubled marriage, her expected coronation in January 2017 seems a bit less inevitable.

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The news that NBC is planning to film a miniseries on the life of Hillary Clinton may be interpreted in some quarters as just another lollipop being thrown by the network at its Democratic crush. The movie will star actress Diane Lane as the former first lady, senator, and secretary of state and will cover her life from the 1998 Monica Lewinsky scandal up until the present day. Though we are told the work would include “aspects that were both critical of Mrs. Clinton and supportive of her,” it’s not likely the network with a cable news outlet where nary a discouraging word is uttered about liberalism and the Democrats will exert itself to highlight the less savory parts of the Clinton story. But anyone under the assumption that this project, which must be completed and aired before Clinton announces for the presidency in 2016 to avoid NBC having to give her opponents equal time, will boost the drive to make Hillary President Obama’s successor is probably wrong. As the Clintons were reminded this past week as the Weiner scandal caused many Americans to think back on l’affaire Lewinsky, this kind of scrutiny, even if done by friends, doesn’t help them.

If, as Fred Dicker reports today in the New York Post, Bill and Hillary are “livid” about the comparisons being made between their conduct and that of the couple that married at their Chappaqua estate, it can’t be just because they think the former president’s dalliances with an intern in the Oval Office and escapades with various girlfriends and mistresses during his time as governor of Arkansas are not as icky as Weiner’s bizarre Internet activities (a point I thought Peter Beinart rightly disputed last week). It’s because Huma Abedin’s pathetic performance last week beside her disturbed husband is highly reminiscent of the decision by Hillary to stand by her man and to regard his critics as merely the effusion of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Hillary’s potential candidacy is at its intimidating best—at least to serious Democratic contenders who will probably pass on the presidency rather than taker her on—when the discussion is about the need for America to elect its first female president. When the conversation turns to the history of Mrs. Clinton’s troubled marriage, her expected coronation in January 2017 seems a bit less inevitable.

There’s never been much evidence that movies, whether produced for the big screen or the small one, have much impact on presidential elections. Last year, many Republicans feared that various films that focused on the killing of Osama bin Laden would give President Obama a huge edge. But while they probably didn’t hurt the Democratic campaign, it’s not as if Americans—who were reminded about bin Laden’s shooting by Navy SEALs in virtually every speech the president gave for more than year—needed a movie to remind them of the fact. Obama’s historic status and slavish press coverage ensured his reelection and no film, whether positive or negative, was going to change that.

An even better example is the impact that The Right Stuff, the 1983 film version of Tom Wolfe’s book about the original Mercury astronauts, had on the 1984 presidential election. One of the Mercury seven, Ohio Senator John Glenn, was portrayed in the book as something of a prig. That caused some to worry that the film would harm his prospects for the Democratic nomination in 1984. But Ed Harris’s portrayal of Glenn made him appear to be not just moral, but a shining example of a true American hero and the film was thought to boost his chances. But not even a Hollywood lollipop that reminded the nation that the senator had been the first American to orbit the earth was enough to turn Glenn into a viable candidate, and he spent the next 20 years trying to pay off his $3 million campaign debt.

No matter how adoring the film will be, any movie about the Clintons in 1998, even one that also discusses her subsequent government service, distracts the public from the story her campaign will want to tell about her intended rendezvous with history in 2016. Even worse, any biopic will serve as an excuse for critics and defenders to rehash past scandals, whether it involves the Rose law firm, Whitewater, or Paula Jones, that the Clintons had hoped were permanently in their rear view mirror. As much as her career has its roots in her husband’s overwhelming electoral success and the continuing admiration he inspires among Democrats, Hillary’s presidential hopes are based not so much on a desire to go back to the 1990s as on a view of her career that is independent of that of her spouse.

Should Clinton run for president, as everyone assumes will happen, she will be the presumptive Democratic nominee no matter whether Lane makes her seem a goddess or not. But, like the Weiner blowback on Hillary because of her close ties to Abedin, a revival of interest in the most memorable incident of her time in the White House should not be considered a favor to her.

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What Weiner and Clinton Have Taught Us

All veteran journalists know that the only thing to do with fish in a barrel is to shoot them, as the cliché demands. Thus, all members of the media, left, right, and center, have spent this week eagerly popping away at Anthony Weiner and his hapless wife Huma Abedin. And who can blame us? The spectacle of the serial sexter and flasher and his enabler wife is the stuff of implausible fiction, not normal political news. But not everyone is chortling along with a public that can’t seem to get enough of this scandal.

Over at the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart writes to say the calls from conservatives as well as liberal organs like the New York Times for Weiner to leave the race immediately and take his severe behavioral disorder somewhere out of the public square are wrong. Beinart believes it is anti-democratic for prudes to seek to deny the voters their right to vote for the man better known by the name of his alter ego Carlos Danger. Since the need for the body politic to make room for sexual deviants is, I think, nowhere mentioned in the Federalist Papers, I think that’s an odd conception of the essentials of democracy. But in order to make this argument, Beinart stumbles across a profound truth: Democrats have already excused behavior that is, if anything, far worse than Weiner’s bizarre act. And by that he is, of course, referring to Bill Clinton:

By any reasonable standard, Weiner’s behavior is less damning than Clinton’s. Yes, Weiner committed adultery (of a kind). Yes, he repeatedly lied about it. Yes, he humiliated his wife in an effort to save his candidacy. Clinton did all that, too. What Weiner, in contrast to Clinton, has not done—as far as we know—is use his office to reward his paramours. He has not publicly besmirched their character. He has not asked them to violate the law. And he has not violated campaign disclosure laws in his effort to keep them silent. According to legal experts, he has also not committed sexual harassment.

Beinart leaves out Clinton’s lying under oath, but he’s right. But rather than using the refusal of the New York Times to condemn Clinton, let alone demand that Clinton leave the 1992 presidential race or resign once in office, as a rationale to justify Weiner’s continued presence in the public square, what he has done is remind us of the moral bankruptcy of Clinton’s many defenders who continue to ignore the voluminous evidence of his misconduct and treat him as a revered elder statesman–not to mention a future presidential spouse.

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All veteran journalists know that the only thing to do with fish in a barrel is to shoot them, as the cliché demands. Thus, all members of the media, left, right, and center, have spent this week eagerly popping away at Anthony Weiner and his hapless wife Huma Abedin. And who can blame us? The spectacle of the serial sexter and flasher and his enabler wife is the stuff of implausible fiction, not normal political news. But not everyone is chortling along with a public that can’t seem to get enough of this scandal.

Over at the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart writes to say the calls from conservatives as well as liberal organs like the New York Times for Weiner to leave the race immediately and take his severe behavioral disorder somewhere out of the public square are wrong. Beinart believes it is anti-democratic for prudes to seek to deny the voters their right to vote for the man better known by the name of his alter ego Carlos Danger. Since the need for the body politic to make room for sexual deviants is, I think, nowhere mentioned in the Federalist Papers, I think that’s an odd conception of the essentials of democracy. But in order to make this argument, Beinart stumbles across a profound truth: Democrats have already excused behavior that is, if anything, far worse than Weiner’s bizarre act. And by that he is, of course, referring to Bill Clinton:

By any reasonable standard, Weiner’s behavior is less damning than Clinton’s. Yes, Weiner committed adultery (of a kind). Yes, he repeatedly lied about it. Yes, he humiliated his wife in an effort to save his candidacy. Clinton did all that, too. What Weiner, in contrast to Clinton, has not done—as far as we know—is use his office to reward his paramours. He has not publicly besmirched their character. He has not asked them to violate the law. And he has not violated campaign disclosure laws in his effort to keep them silent. According to legal experts, he has also not committed sexual harassment.

Beinart leaves out Clinton’s lying under oath, but he’s right. But rather than using the refusal of the New York Times to condemn Clinton, let alone demand that Clinton leave the 1992 presidential race or resign once in office, as a rationale to justify Weiner’s continued presence in the public square, what he has done is remind us of the moral bankruptcy of Clinton’s many defenders who continue to ignore the voluminous evidence of his misconduct and treat him as a revered elder statesman–not to mention a future presidential spouse.

Beinart is also correct to note that if phone cameras had been available back in Arkansas when then Governor Clinton was running riot with the assistance of his faithful State Trooper bodyguards, the evidence of his disgusting carryings-on might have been too much for even his cheering section in the press to ignore or excuse. There is more than a grain of truth in his point that the difference between Weiner’s indiscretions and those of Clinton and previous generations of sexual predators and philanderers entrusted with high public office is primarily one of technology.

The point about Clinton is telling because it reminds us that allowing people who abuse and lie in the manner that Bill and Hillary did—and which Anthony and Huma would like to emulate—has consequences. The willingness of Democrats and liberal soapboxes like the Times to embrace Clinton in 1992 set us up for what would follow. From that point on, every lying predator in political office or seeking one has been able to say that if Clinton could be excused, so could they.

People like Beinart and others continually tell us that we were right to give the Clintons a pass and that it would have been a tragedy if other sexual miscreants who found their way into the Oval Office like John F. Kennedy had been made accountable for their conduct since it would have deprived of us of their gifts. Yet if there is anything that is an eternal truth about democracy it is that no man or woman is indispensable. We are a nation of laws, not men. That’s something that should not be forgotten three years from now when Huma’s mentors the Clintons attempt to regain their lapsed lease on the White House.

Perhaps what Beinart calls the “disproportionate” response to Weiner is merely the result of him being a “pioneer” in the field of using social media to misbehave rather than more private means. But instead of shrugging at this spectacle and resigning ourselves to more like it in the future as Beinart glumly expects we must, perhaps this is the moment for Americans to finally say that we demand more of those charged with the public’s trust. If the Clintons and the Weiners have taught us anything, it is that there is still a viable argument to be made for public morality.

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Women Fed Up With Weiner–And His Wife

It’s not often that one finds the opinion on a politician echoed in the pages of the New York Times and the New York Post on the same day. Politicians like Anthony Weiner don’t come around every day, however–something voters should count as a blessing. Female political analysts and amateurs alike have had strong and remarkably similar responses to the performance given by Huma Abedin at her husband’s press conference Wednesday, convened to respond to new reports of online extramarital contact with young women.

While initially quite sympathetic to Abedin when the allegations first arose last year, the tide of public opinion has taken a sharp turn this time around. What changed? In yesterday’s New York Post Karol Markowicz explains:

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It’s not often that one finds the opinion on a politician echoed in the pages of the New York Times and the New York Post on the same day. Politicians like Anthony Weiner don’t come around every day, however–something voters should count as a blessing. Female political analysts and amateurs alike have had strong and remarkably similar responses to the performance given by Huma Abedin at her husband’s press conference Wednesday, convened to respond to new reports of online extramarital contact with young women.

While initially quite sympathetic to Abedin when the allegations first arose last year, the tide of public opinion has taken a sharp turn this time around. What changed? In yesterday’s New York Post Karol Markowicz explains:

What makes Huma Abedin different isn’t that she stood by her man, while pregnant, as he publicly disgraced their marriage, and lied about it repeatedly while blaming the same “vast right-wing conspiracy” as Hillary.

No, Abedin took it a step further. She didn’t want him to resign, according to what Anthony Weiner later told The New York Times — plus, she encouraged him to jump into the mayoral race.

Mind you, from what the couple now tells us, she knew when she was pushing him to run that he’d kept up the sexting for months and months after he left Congress.

And, as the two were plotting his political comeback, Abedin posed for soft-focus People Magazine photos painting the picture of a happy family that had moved on from Weiner’s indiscretions.

Moved on? Shortly after their publication, he sent new pictures of his privates to new women.

On Tuesday, Weiner was telling everyone that he told Abedin everything. Was he lying again, or has she known all along? If she has, then when she told People, “Anthony has spent every day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be,” she was lying.

And if she wasn’t lying then, she’s lying now, because she’s backing his claim that he told her everything.

During her prepared speech Abedin remarked, “I do very strongly believe that that is between us and our marriage.” Awkward phrasing aside, Abedin couldn’t be more wrong. A new poll from NBC 4 New York, the Wall Street Journal, and Marist showed that the lead that Weiner once enjoyed in the race has disappeared, with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn now garnering 25 percent of the support of the city’s Democrats compared to 16 percent for Weiner. Last month the same poll showed Weiner leading Quinn by five percent.

While some, like Gloria Steinem in the Times, expressed apprehension commenting on the wife of a political candidate, many other women view Abedin as an active participant in Weiner’s continued manipulation of New York voters. By vouching for his rehabilitation time and again, Abedin, a political heavyweight in her own right, risks the destruction of her reputation alongside her husband. That reputation isn’t just built on Abedin’s political role as Hillary Clinton’s advisor, but also as a wife and mother. It is that latter image that’s taking a beating today. Lisa Bloom, an opinion columnist for CNN, explained why Abedin’s behavior was so reprehensible from one woman to another:

Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, was reduced to the standing-by-her-man-at-the-news-conference archetype, a dated wife-as-doormat visual it’s time to eliminate from our political theater.

Sure, she can keep him around if she wants to. But we don’t have to bless their craven political move to stand together before the cameras to protect his career, nor do we have to play along as they both pretend that this is something other than more public degradation of her. That they are both consenting adults who participate in this behavior does not make it acceptable to the rest of us. (Simple test: Would you want your daughter in that tableau?)

By continuing to stand by her husband, and asking voters to do the same, Abedin has lost any goodwill and sympathy she might once have garnered as the jilted pregnant wife. The saying goes “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” New Yorkers don’t appreciate being made fools of. While they may not care about the extramarital affairs Weiner conducts while his wife seemingly looks the other way, they don’t appreciate being lied to or manipulated. For their own sake and for the City of New York, it’s time for the Weiners to drop the redemption act and move on from the mayoral race.

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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.)

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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.

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When Ambition Trumps Shame

There are times when we must acknowledge that we are not just watching the news but witnessing history. This evening Huma Abedin, the longtime aide to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, broke new ground in the “stand by your man” routine that has been imposed on the wives of sinning politicians. Previously, Silda Spitzer was widely thought to have given the most painful performance in this category as she stood by her husband Eliot with a stricken look on her face as he resigned in the wake of news about his patronage of prostitutes. But today, Abedin went far beyond the mark set by Spitzer as she accompanied her husband Anthony Weiner to a press conference at which he answered questions about the latest revelations of his bizarre Internet usage. Abedin not only stood by her man but actually spoke herself, issuing a statement which told of the “ups and downs” of her marriage and her struggle to decide whether or not leave Weiner when she found out about what he had done. Having chosen to “forgive” Weiner, the implication is that somehow that obligates New Yorkers to do the same and elect him mayor. Whether New Yorkers are prepared to accept this formulation remains to be seen.

Let’s state upfront that the mysteries of the Weiner-Abedin marriage or that of any other politician ought not to be treated as public property. But when these politicians use their wives as human shields against the brickbats coming their way as a result of their own misbehavior, such unions are revealed to be more political compacts than personal business. In acting in this manner, Abedin appears to be following in the footsteps of her mentor Hillary Clinton, whose willingness to stand by her man when he dallied with a White House intern saved President Bill Clinton’s bacon. But the public spectacle of the Weiner-Abedin press conference illustrates that this model of behavior reveals their pact to be based on a joint decision to pursue political power no matter what the costs to their privacy or how much shame they brought on their family. Given that her own need to enable his lust for power seems to have trumped every other natural instinct she might have had, it raises the question of how much credence voters will place in Abedin’s vouching for the would-be mayor.

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There are times when we must acknowledge that we are not just watching the news but witnessing history. This evening Huma Abedin, the longtime aide to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, broke new ground in the “stand by your man” routine that has been imposed on the wives of sinning politicians. Previously, Silda Spitzer was widely thought to have given the most painful performance in this category as she stood by her husband Eliot with a stricken look on her face as he resigned in the wake of news about his patronage of prostitutes. But today, Abedin went far beyond the mark set by Spitzer as she accompanied her husband Anthony Weiner to a press conference at which he answered questions about the latest revelations of his bizarre Internet usage. Abedin not only stood by her man but actually spoke herself, issuing a statement which told of the “ups and downs” of her marriage and her struggle to decide whether or not leave Weiner when she found out about what he had done. Having chosen to “forgive” Weiner, the implication is that somehow that obligates New Yorkers to do the same and elect him mayor. Whether New Yorkers are prepared to accept this formulation remains to be seen.

Let’s state upfront that the mysteries of the Weiner-Abedin marriage or that of any other politician ought not to be treated as public property. But when these politicians use their wives as human shields against the brickbats coming their way as a result of their own misbehavior, such unions are revealed to be more political compacts than personal business. In acting in this manner, Abedin appears to be following in the footsteps of her mentor Hillary Clinton, whose willingness to stand by her man when he dallied with a White House intern saved President Bill Clinton’s bacon. But the public spectacle of the Weiner-Abedin press conference illustrates that this model of behavior reveals their pact to be based on a joint decision to pursue political power no matter what the costs to their privacy or how much shame they brought on their family. Given that her own need to enable his lust for power seems to have trumped every other natural instinct she might have had, it raises the question of how much credence voters will place in Abedin’s vouching for the would-be mayor.

While there are many questions still to be answered about Weiner, the one thing we know tonight is that he has no intention of dropping out of the race for mayor. Nothing, not even the news that he continued his bizarre behavior in which he sent women he didn’t know naked pictures of himself as well as sexually explicit texts even after he resigned from Congress and vowed to seek redemption via therapy and contrition, seems to be enough to make him leave the public square voluntarily. There is no reason, other than Weiner’s word, to believe that he has actually stopped acting in this manner or that he won’t revert to it in moments of stress if he were elected. But it is an open question as to whether his latest humiliation of his wife will serve to help or to hurt his candidacy.

It is also open to inquiry as to what the public will make of a family where ambition is the only operating principle. No one can tell anyone else when they ought to abandon a straying spouse, especially when children are involved. But anyone who watched this unusual performance live on television had to be asking themselves not how Abedin forgave Weiner but how she could believe him now despite the therapy she spoke about. Since Weiner continued his misconduct for many months after resigning from Congress it makes it hard to believe anyone could trust his judgment.

It may be that New Yorkers care about none of this or are so entranced by the Weiner circus that they will gratify his desire to be mayor. But no matter the outcome of this race, what Weiner and Abedin have done is to reinvent the notion of public redemption in such a way as to allow a transgressor to survive even if his misdeeds went on far longer than we thought or even if the steady drip of revelations of bad conduct never ended. If they succeed, it will set a precedent that will establish such a low standard of conduct that it will enable almost anyone to survive scandals. And that is not something that anyone should celebrate.

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A Penalty for Polluting the Public Square?

In recent weeks there’s been a lot of self-congratulation on the part of some pundits who believe the relative acceptance of scandal-ridden politicians by the voters is a sign of maturity in the American body politic. If, we were told, men like Rep. Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, and Eliot Spitzer could be embraced by the public—Sanford won a special congressional election in South Carolina while the latter two have risen to the top in polls in this year’s New York City municipal elections—then it was taken as a sign that Americans were no longer interested in public morality and had left any Victorian inhibitions about public life behind. There was already plenty of evidence for this trend prior to this year. Former President Bill Clinton’s disgraceful carrying on with a White House intern is practically forgotten. Similarly, Louisiana voters seem to have forgiven Senator David Vitter for his patronage of prostitutes. But if Anthony Weiner survives the publication of more embarrassing evidence from the scandal that ended his congressional career, an entirely new boundary will have been crossed.

As he told us when he entered this year’s race to become the next mayor New York, there was more proof out there of his bizarre use of the Internet. But while New Yorkers may have been willing to support Weiner on the assumption that his aberrant behavior was in the past, the publication of sexually charged text exchanges between the former congressman and a woman who is not his wife may be a bridge too far for even the enlightened citizens of Gotham. Weiner’s initial admission that at least some of what has been made public by a gossip website is accurate, as well as the possibility that some of the exchanges took place after he was forced out of Congress, alters the political calculus of his comeback. Not only is Weiner compelled to relive the shame of the initial scandal, these revelations may show that his misbehavior continued even after he vowed to change his ways and affect the willingness of his wife to continue vouching for him as she has throughout the campaign. Given the deluge of ridicule that is about to land on his head again, I think it’s now even money as to whether Weiner’s candidacy survives this incident and highly doubtful that he can ever be elected mayor.

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In recent weeks there’s been a lot of self-congratulation on the part of some pundits who believe the relative acceptance of scandal-ridden politicians by the voters is a sign of maturity in the American body politic. If, we were told, men like Rep. Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, and Eliot Spitzer could be embraced by the public—Sanford won a special congressional election in South Carolina while the latter two have risen to the top in polls in this year’s New York City municipal elections—then it was taken as a sign that Americans were no longer interested in public morality and had left any Victorian inhibitions about public life behind. There was already plenty of evidence for this trend prior to this year. Former President Bill Clinton’s disgraceful carrying on with a White House intern is practically forgotten. Similarly, Louisiana voters seem to have forgiven Senator David Vitter for his patronage of prostitutes. But if Anthony Weiner survives the publication of more embarrassing evidence from the scandal that ended his congressional career, an entirely new boundary will have been crossed.

As he told us when he entered this year’s race to become the next mayor New York, there was more proof out there of his bizarre use of the Internet. But while New Yorkers may have been willing to support Weiner on the assumption that his aberrant behavior was in the past, the publication of sexually charged text exchanges between the former congressman and a woman who is not his wife may be a bridge too far for even the enlightened citizens of Gotham. Weiner’s initial admission that at least some of what has been made public by a gossip website is accurate, as well as the possibility that some of the exchanges took place after he was forced out of Congress, alters the political calculus of his comeback. Not only is Weiner compelled to relive the shame of the initial scandal, these revelations may show that his misbehavior continued even after he vowed to change his ways and affect the willingness of his wife to continue vouching for him as she has throughout the campaign. Given the deluge of ridicule that is about to land on his head again, I think it’s now even money as to whether Weiner’s candidacy survives this incident and highly doubtful that he can ever be elected mayor.

For redemption to work there must be closure, and it’s almost certain that this ridiculous discussion will continue. Moreover, given Weiner’s initial lies about his behavior two years ago, any denials issued today about the dating of this exchanges must be taken with a shovelful of salt.

Americans love comeback stories and seem willing to give people second chances. But even if this episodes dies down, Weiner must now ask New Yorkers for a third chance, and that seems a stretch even if you consider the weakness of his competition.

It’s also an interesting question to see if Weiner’s decline either helps or hurts Spitzer. It may be that the collapse of Weiner will make it easier for Spitzer to win the post of controller, but it’s also entirely possible that some of the disgust of the voters for Weiner’s continuing antics will attach to Spitzer. It remains to be seen if the “ick” factor of Weiner’s Internet fetish will ultimately be considered less forgivable than Spitzer’s more traditional employment of call girls.

But however this shakes out in New York, the spectacle of voters being asked to give politicians a pass for this kind of misbehavior is also an argument for reverting to a moral code that might require them to stay out of public life once they’ve transgressed. None of us are perfect and we all require forgiveness at times. But the notion that it is too much to ask those given the honor and the responsibility of power to behave themselves is one that can sink under the weight of ridicule.

If Anthony Weiner accomplishes anything this year, it might be to remind us that there is a case to be made for probity and decorum in the public square and that Americans prefer not to be led by sexual scoundrels. If that makes us prudes who want to preserve supposedly antiquated ideas about public morality, then so be it. Let’s have an end to faux campaigns of redemption and fake apologies. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with requiring politicians who can’t avoid personal scandal that brings dishonor on their offices and their families to simply go away. It’s time for Weiner or anyone like him to stop bothering us with their addictions to power and sexual misconduct and find peace out of the public eye. There ought to be a penalty for polluting the public square in this manner, and Weiner should pay it.

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Why Everybody Hates Eliot

Earlier today, MSNBC’s Morning Joe program provided a public service when it supplied us with an answer to the question that had been bothering me for the last day: why is it that the liberal political and media establishment is so unwilling to give one of their own a second chance? Given an opportunity to sell a national audience on his quest for personal redemption and a renewed political career, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer talked about his regrets about his hubris as well as his desire to return to public service by running to be controller of New York City. But not satisfied with that, Spitzer felt the need to eschew the intellectual arguments for his return to the public eye and tried for some emotion. When asked how he had changed in the years since he crashed and burned in the midst of his prostitution scandal, Spitzer attempted to manufacture some tears when speaking about “the pain” he had gone through. But, like his brief term as governor that was disrupted by out-of-control behavior that involved both public and private misconduct, the effort was a failure. No tears fell.

It was the sort of transparently false and feeble performance that has killed many a theatrical career but it also may have provided something of an explanation as to why the same liberal organs that once lionized Spitzer are now determined to thwart his comeback bid. Hypocrisy is a common failing among the chattering classes—especially its liberal battalion—but chutzpah on this scale in which a fallen pol seeks to use money and celebrity to reclaim his hold on power appears to be a bridge too far for most of them. That was shown today as the New York Times responded to Spitzer’s assault on the electorate with a two-pronged counter-attack. A front-page feature highlighted the dismay of the city’s liberal elites about his candidacy as well as the disgust of labor unions and the business community, and was echoed by a scathing editorial. The editorial made it clear that unlike the equivocal if not largely favorable response to fellow reformed miscreant Anthony Weiner’s comeback attempt, the Times and its main constituencies were prepared to stop at nothing to derail him. The would-be redeemed sinner’s chutzpah is simply too much to take even for the Times. Everybody, it seems, hates Eliot Spitzer.

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Earlier today, MSNBC’s Morning Joe program provided a public service when it supplied us with an answer to the question that had been bothering me for the last day: why is it that the liberal political and media establishment is so unwilling to give one of their own a second chance? Given an opportunity to sell a national audience on his quest for personal redemption and a renewed political career, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer talked about his regrets about his hubris as well as his desire to return to public service by running to be controller of New York City. But not satisfied with that, Spitzer felt the need to eschew the intellectual arguments for his return to the public eye and tried for some emotion. When asked how he had changed in the years since he crashed and burned in the midst of his prostitution scandal, Spitzer attempted to manufacture some tears when speaking about “the pain” he had gone through. But, like his brief term as governor that was disrupted by out-of-control behavior that involved both public and private misconduct, the effort was a failure. No tears fell.

It was the sort of transparently false and feeble performance that has killed many a theatrical career but it also may have provided something of an explanation as to why the same liberal organs that once lionized Spitzer are now determined to thwart his comeback bid. Hypocrisy is a common failing among the chattering classes—especially its liberal battalion—but chutzpah on this scale in which a fallen pol seeks to use money and celebrity to reclaim his hold on power appears to be a bridge too far for most of them. That was shown today as the New York Times responded to Spitzer’s assault on the electorate with a two-pronged counter-attack. A front-page feature highlighted the dismay of the city’s liberal elites about his candidacy as well as the disgust of labor unions and the business community, and was echoed by a scathing editorial. The editorial made it clear that unlike the equivocal if not largely favorable response to fellow reformed miscreant Anthony Weiner’s comeback attempt, the Times and its main constituencies were prepared to stop at nothing to derail him. The would-be redeemed sinner’s chutzpah is simply too much to take even for the Times. Everybody, it seems, hates Eliot Spitzer.

The Times editorial was remarkable in a number of respects. For an editorial column that has seemed to pride itself in recent years on unrelieved stuffiness and terminal pomposity, the paper’s willingness to cut loose on Spitzer in this manner was as refreshing as it was unexpected. The piece lambasted Spitzer and Weiner as “charter members of the Kardashian Party,” who seek to use their notoriety as “the quick, easy path to redemption.” It even referred to Spitzer as “Client 9”—the infamous codename for the former governor used by the prostitution establishment that he patronized—an astonishing breach of the paper’s normally highfalutin tone. Honestly, I didn’t know they had it in them. Spitzer’s odious character is apparently enough to cause even the most hidebound liberal talking shop to lose their cool.

To the Times’s credit, the paper rightly noted (as our John Steele Gordon did yesterday) that his predilection for purchasing illicit sex wasn’t the only thing wrong with Spitzer when he was forced to resign. The lying and the cheating (as well as the illegal money laundering methods he employed to hide his rather extravagant payments to the “escort” service) about sex was bad. But it was not as awful as what he did in Albany as the self-described “steamroller,” which alienated allies as well as opponents. The reason his sexual transgression resonated with so many people is that it seemed of a piece with everything else he did. It made sense that a man who acted like a thug and bully in public would feel the need to purchase women whom he could command in that manner.

Along with Weiner, Spitzer has condemned New York to what the Times rightly calls “a summer of farce” in which their personal quest for ego gratification after being deprived of the attention they crave will overshadow discussion of the issues. No doubt we will have more fake tears from Spitzer as well as more tedious attempts from the former governor to portray himself as the solution to New York’s problems rather than the embodiment of the cancer eating away at our public life.

I don’t know whether the revulsion toward Spitzer on the part of so many liberal elites will be enough to offset his advantage in name recognition and money stemming from his family’s vast personal fortune. Perhaps, as the Times editorial seems to indicate, there is a growing recognition that the Bill Clinton paradigm of giving politicians a pass for misconduct undermines public ethics. All of us are flawed and Americans love the idea of second chances, but we also know that it isn’t too much to ask those entrusted with high public office to behave themselves or to ask them to stay out of the limelight when they cannot. But whether or not Spitzer or even Weiner can be stopped, it is a sign of health in our political culture that so many who might have once been counted on to give them a pass in the name of solidarity with liberal stalwarts are no longer willing to silently acquiesce to this sordid circus. 

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Weiner’s Strategy Already Paying Dividends

The latest poll of the New York mayoral race is awakening the public to what many seem to find a horrifying prospect: Anthony Weiner can win. Weiner has, the report alerts us, gone “in just a few weeks from disgraced has-been to mayoral front-runner.” In truth, this may trade underestimating the former congressman’s chances for overestimating them in one breath. There were always certain elements of the race that promised to make it competitive, even if Weiner was an underdog.

But aside from Weiner’s campaign war chest, they cut both ways. For example, he had full name recognition early in the race. But that name recognition also meant there wasn’t much room for him to get a fresh start in the minds of voters. He also hails from the boroughs, having represented Queens and Brooklyn, and thus he has an advantage over Manhattan’s Christine Quinn with regard to New York’s famously important identity politics. At the same time, since the sex scandal that drove him from office painted him as a bit of a cad, it’s not clear voters actually want to identify themselves with Weiner (and perhaps it’s even more troubling if they do).

All is not lost for Quinn–far from it. Indeed, while the NBC report calls Weiner the frontrunner, he would actually still lose the Democratic primary under conditions that mimicked the poll results. NBC explains:

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The latest poll of the New York mayoral race is awakening the public to what many seem to find a horrifying prospect: Anthony Weiner can win. Weiner has, the report alerts us, gone “in just a few weeks from disgraced has-been to mayoral front-runner.” In truth, this may trade underestimating the former congressman’s chances for overestimating them in one breath. There were always certain elements of the race that promised to make it competitive, even if Weiner was an underdog.

But aside from Weiner’s campaign war chest, they cut both ways. For example, he had full name recognition early in the race. But that name recognition also meant there wasn’t much room for him to get a fresh start in the minds of voters. He also hails from the boroughs, having represented Queens and Brooklyn, and thus he has an advantage over Manhattan’s Christine Quinn with regard to New York’s famously important identity politics. At the same time, since the sex scandal that drove him from office painted him as a bit of a cad, it’s not clear voters actually want to identify themselves with Weiner (and perhaps it’s even more troubling if they do).

All is not lost for Quinn–far from it. Indeed, while the NBC report calls Weiner the frontrunner, he would actually still lose the Democratic primary under conditions that mimicked the poll results. NBC explains:

Weiner, who entered the race two years after resigning his congressional seat amid a sexting scandal, now leads City Council Speaker Christine Quinn 25 percent to 20 percent among registered Democrats, the poll by Marist found. That’s a flip-flop from the last survey in May, when Quinn, the longtime front-runner, led Weiner 24 percent to 19 percent.

And a runoff in the Democratic contest seems increasingly likely — no candidate appears close to capturing the 40 percent needed on Sept. 10, which would force a second contest between the top two finishers.

The poll shows that, in those scenarios, Weiner does not lead, but has gained a great deal of ground since the previous survey. In a runoff between Quinn and Weiner, she beats him 44 percent to 42 percent, with 14 percent undecided. That’s a change from last month’s poll that found 48 percent for Quinn, 33 percent for Weiner and 18 percent undecided.

According to the poll, former comptroller and previous Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson would also edge Weiner in a run-off round. The important part of the story, for Weiner, is the direction of the numbers. Not only are his current poll numbers better than they were, but the number of New York voters who said they wouldn’t consider voting for him has dropped from 52 percent to 45 percent. That means his name recognition isn’t stopping him from changing minds and the sexting scandal isn’t a dealbreaker for most voters.

However, as I wrote yesterday, the scandal may not be completely in the past since Weiner has admitted there are still incriminating photographs of him that could surface. Voters may be willing to forgive Weiner for past indiscretions, but they will not look kindly on the possibility that those headlines will return and dominate the news cycle not only for the fall election but also throughout a theoretical first mayoral term. He’s far from in the clear.

So what will Weiner do to shore up his lead? He received a bit of good luck this week when Quinn, who is currently speaker of the City Council, approved a law that would hamper the New York Police Department’s ability to identify suspects. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the NYPD’s tactics have been the subject of some astoundingly ignorant reporting and malicious misinformation, which may obscure their sky-high approval ratings. One such poll, released in January, found Kelly’s approval to be well above water across ethnic and racial lines; black voters gave him his worst showing at 63 percent approval. (His overall approval/disapproval was 75/18.)

As I’ve explained in the past, New Yorkers may be liberal by and large, but even liberals like safe neighborhoods. Before Anthony Weiner declared his candidacy, Quinn may have been able to claim to be the rightward edge of the Democratic field of candidates with regard to the NYPD, but she is still too far left on the issue for many voters. In March, for example, she threw her support behind the establishment of an inspector general for the NYPD.

Weiner didn’t. And when he spoke this month at a gathering hosted by Al Sharpton, Weiner only said the city’s successful stop and frisk policy should not be used “as a racial tool.” He didn’t say that it was being used that way, and would get no more specific about his own police policy except to say that he, too, wouldn’t be “using stop-and-frisk as a racial tool” if elected mayor.

Weiner shouldn’t yet be considered the true frontrunner. But Quinn is running her campaign as if Weiner is not in the race, and the latest poll is an early verdict on that strategy.

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Was Weiner Ethically Obliged Not to Run?

Today’s New York Times story on the continuing harassment and humiliation of the women at the center of the Anthony Weiner scandal is a play in two acts. Two weeks ago the Times first posted the story, but it was immediately taken off the website and replaced with a production note: “An article was posted on this page inadvertently, before it was ready for publication.”

The Times declined to comment further in response to Politico’s inquiries, but pointed readers to a post by the Times’s public editor, explaining: “From what I’ve been able to piece together, there was a miscommunication among Times editors. Some thought the article was ready to go, and sent it on through the editorial production cycle. At least one other editor — higher up on the food chain — disagreed about its readiness and did not intend it to be published, at least not at that point.”

Yet as time went by, the story didn’t reemerge on the paper’s website. So Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski used Google searches to try to piece together the story, and published his findings yesterday. You can probably guess what happened next: the Times immediately published the article–for good (it appears), denying, of course, that their decision had anything to do with Kaczynski’s piece. The result is that the former liberal hero Weiner’s coverage in the Times goes from bad to worse.

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Today’s New York Times story on the continuing harassment and humiliation of the women at the center of the Anthony Weiner scandal is a play in two acts. Two weeks ago the Times first posted the story, but it was immediately taken off the website and replaced with a production note: “An article was posted on this page inadvertently, before it was ready for publication.”

The Times declined to comment further in response to Politico’s inquiries, but pointed readers to a post by the Times’s public editor, explaining: “From what I’ve been able to piece together, there was a miscommunication among Times editors. Some thought the article was ready to go, and sent it on through the editorial production cycle. At least one other editor — higher up on the food chain — disagreed about its readiness and did not intend it to be published, at least not at that point.”

Yet as time went by, the story didn’t reemerge on the paper’s website. So Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski used Google searches to try to piece together the story, and published his findings yesterday. You can probably guess what happened next: the Times immediately published the article–for good (it appears), denying, of course, that their decision had anything to do with Kaczynski’s piece. The result is that the former liberal hero Weiner’s coverage in the Times goes from bad to worse.

Whereas the June 12 Times article explained to readers that Weiner was a vicious, shallow, disloyal, and ineffectual congressman, today’s reminds readers that his sexting scandal was not just about him. And he’s not the only one trying to put this incident in the past. The headline is “For Women in Weiner Scandal, Indignity Lingers,” and the story reads as if the intent is to shame Weiner for running for mayor:

Anthony D. Weiner’s improbable campaign for mayor of New York City is a wager that voters have made peace with his lewd online behavior, a subject he has largely left behind as he roils the race with his aggressive debating style and his attention-getting policy proposals.

But for the women who were on the other end of Mr. Weiner’s sexually explicit conversations and photographs, his candidacy is an unwanted reminder of a scandal that has upended their lives in ways big and small, cutting short careers, disrupting educations and damaging reputations.

It should be noted that for some of these women the scandal is the result of choices they have made. They knew who Weiner was when they got involved with him, and presumably knew the risks. For one of them, Weiner’s political star power was much of the draw. But that’s not true of all the women. One young college student said she only talked politics with him, and that she “was shocked by his unwanted advance.” And then Weiner made a famous misstep:

When Mr. Weiner inadvertently posted the image publicly on Twitter, the Internet quickly rendered its own verdict, branding Ms. Cordova, incorrectly, she says, a participant in his online dalliances. The news media dug up Ms. Cordova’s old yearbooks and sifted through police records, publicizing her youthful indiscretions. The attention prompted her to withdraw from academic classes. She moved from Seattle to New York City, before Mr. Weiner’s decision to run for mayor, eager to leave a place where she had become known for her ties to the unfolding drama.

But, with Mr. Weiner back in the spotlight, the story has followed her across the country. A few weeks ago, a reporter showed up, unannounced, at her office, asking her about Mr. Weiner.

You can argue that if Cordova wanted to get away from the attention brought on by her association with Anthony Weiner, moving from Seattle to New York City–Weiner’s home town and the media capital of the world–wasn’t the best choice. But Cordova at least seems to have wanted neither the lascivious attention of Anthony Weiner nor the prying attention of the news media. One of the other women involved, who exchanged explicit messages with the former congressman and is now writing a book about it, is a far less sympathetic figure in this story.

Another of the women, a former adult film actress, asked Weiner not to run for mayor because of the story. That brings up an interesting question: Does Anthony Weiner have a responsibility to these women to stay out of the limelight? The answer with regard to the women who sought Weiner’s affections and now the publicity of a book tour is clearly no. But what about the others?

I suppose that’s one question the voters of New York City will answer in the fall election. They may think–as the Times seems to–that Weiner is humiliating these women all over again to feed his own ego and desire for power. But the election will truly test how difficult it is to regain political stature after a sex scandal. Weiner has admitted that there are more lewd photos out there, which means the mayoral election won’t take place after the scandal, but amid the scandal. If he’s elected in those conditions, it will prove voters to be forgiving and the rest of the field of candidates to be even less formidable than they seemed.

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A Devastating Portrait of Anthony Weiner’s Time in Congress

Politicians whose careers get sidetracked by sex scandals often find their way back to political redemption in part because voters tend to compartmentalize the officeholder’s legislative responsibilities and his personal life. The two aren’t always so separable; Republican former South Carolina governor and now Congressman Mark Sanford’s infidelity was matched by the irresponsibility of his skipping out of the state unannounced to meet his girlfriend.

Voters in New York have yet to decide if they’re ready to let Democratic former congressman and current mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner come in from the cold after his own sex scandal precipitated his resignation from Congress. Voters may be considering whether the scandal is relevant to Weiner’s political qualifications. It is. And for a more fundamental issue than Weiner’s penchant for dishonesty and blaming others. The New York Times, in a devastating analysis today, explains why:

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Politicians whose careers get sidetracked by sex scandals often find their way back to political redemption in part because voters tend to compartmentalize the officeholder’s legislative responsibilities and his personal life. The two aren’t always so separable; Republican former South Carolina governor and now Congressman Mark Sanford’s infidelity was matched by the irresponsibility of his skipping out of the state unannounced to meet his girlfriend.

Voters in New York have yet to decide if they’re ready to let Democratic former congressman and current mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner come in from the cold after his own sex scandal precipitated his resignation from Congress. Voters may be considering whether the scandal is relevant to Weiner’s political qualifications. It is. And for a more fundamental issue than Weiner’s penchant for dishonesty and blaming others. The New York Times, in a devastating analysis today, explains why:

When President Obama needed every Democrat in Congress to back his health care plan in 2009, Representative Anthony D. Weiner threatened behind the scenes to torpedo the package in favor of a more sweeping measure. He backed off after he was promised a bigger share of the spotlight during the highly watched debate.

The previous year, when advocates of immigration reform invited Mr. Weiner to a round-table discussion with business leaders and more senior New York City members of Congress, he demanded to turn it into a hearing, featuring himself in a gavel-wielding role. Rebuffed, he failed to show up.

In 12 ½ years in Congress, he sponsored and wrote only one bill that he steered to enactment: a measure pushed by a family friend who gave his campaigns tens of thousands of dollars in donations.

And those are just the first three paragraphs. Anthony Weiner’s boundless self-regard and complete lack of self-control combine to make him a volatile, nasty, and particularly ineffective legislator. He had become in some quarters a liberal hero for his grandstanding and his yelling on the House floor. And he may have meant it. But he was not there as a representative of the people or their interests; he was there because that’s where the cameras could catch his one-man reality show.

The Times article includes speculation from those who worked with Weiner that all this attention-getting was about raising his profile to eventually run for mayor of New York City. That is unproven, but certainly believable. Had he stayed in Congress scandal-free, he would have been the favorite in this year’s election. He is, in New York political parlance, “from the boroughs”–a reference to his ethnic outer-borough roots and a major advantage in the world of New York City identity politics over the current frontrunner, Christine Quinn of Manhattan. It was generally assumed that he wanted to be mayor more than he wanted to be a congressman.

And that might explain, though not excuse, his disinterest in his congressional day job. He was biding his time. But the more likely explanation is that Weiner must feed his ego. As one former colleague, Ohio Democrat Zachary T. Space, told the Times: “It was like he had a megaphone surgically attached to his mouth.” Aides complained about his temper and colleagues about his disloyalty. He drove people crazy and he drove them away.

Put simply, it’s a temperament issue. The sex scandal was the seemingly inevitable product of the same temperament that made him a poor representative of the people of New York the last time they elected him. Recasting himself as a family man won’t change that.

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Weiner’s Non-Redemption Campaign

The Anthony Weiner comeback is a godsend for journalists as well as a source of worry for his rivals in the race to be the next mayor of New York. It’s not just that Weiner is a fascinating character whose ambition, ego and single-minded drive for political power makes for a compelling story. Anyone who has followed his career has to admit that he has natural political talent and the ability to make people notice and even follow him, traits that have always stood him in good stead as he rose up the political ladder. But if he is to be successful in his attempt to revive his career after the bizarre scandal and the lies that forced him to resign from Congress in 2011, shouldn’t the Weiner reboot be predicated at least in part on the idea that he is a changed man from the guy who popularized the word “sexting” and whose brazen denials and false accusations of a hoax on the part of his critics outraged the nation?

As Maggie Haberman reveals in a must-read story in Politico today, the answer to that question is no. Weiner is not entirely unrepentant in that he’s sorry he got caught and for the humiliation he caused his wife. But there’s no pretense that he has undergone any real introspection about the character traits and problems that sent him off the rails. Indeed, as he tells Haberman in an interview, he seems to think New Yorkers want him to be the exactly same obnoxious guy whose aberrant behavior made him one of the most notorious figures in our recent political history.

Weiner is within his rights to act in this way, and if a majority of New Yorkers agrees that he is still the best man to lead their city government, he’s going to wind up the next mayor. But both he and his backers are taking a huge gamble. Without any sense that he understands what drove him to bad behavior or any real commitment to change, what guarantee does anyone have that he won’t slip back to it or do something else that is just as weird, or even worse, in the future?

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The Anthony Weiner comeback is a godsend for journalists as well as a source of worry for his rivals in the race to be the next mayor of New York. It’s not just that Weiner is a fascinating character whose ambition, ego and single-minded drive for political power makes for a compelling story. Anyone who has followed his career has to admit that he has natural political talent and the ability to make people notice and even follow him, traits that have always stood him in good stead as he rose up the political ladder. But if he is to be successful in his attempt to revive his career after the bizarre scandal and the lies that forced him to resign from Congress in 2011, shouldn’t the Weiner reboot be predicated at least in part on the idea that he is a changed man from the guy who popularized the word “sexting” and whose brazen denials and false accusations of a hoax on the part of his critics outraged the nation?

As Maggie Haberman reveals in a must-read story in Politico today, the answer to that question is no. Weiner is not entirely unrepentant in that he’s sorry he got caught and for the humiliation he caused his wife. But there’s no pretense that he has undergone any real introspection about the character traits and problems that sent him off the rails. Indeed, as he tells Haberman in an interview, he seems to think New Yorkers want him to be the exactly same obnoxious guy whose aberrant behavior made him one of the most notorious figures in our recent political history.

Weiner is within his rights to act in this way, and if a majority of New Yorkers agrees that he is still the best man to lead their city government, he’s going to wind up the next mayor. But both he and his backers are taking a huge gamble. Without any sense that he understands what drove him to bad behavior or any real commitment to change, what guarantee does anyone have that he won’t slip back to it or do something else that is just as weird, or even worse, in the future?

Weiner resists being “put on the couch” by reporters who want to know what’s going on inside his head and insists that the election should be about the issues, not his personality traits. Fair enough. He claimed in his roll-out video that he “made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down. But I’ve also learned some tough lessons.” But if so, what possible lessons could he have learned if he’s convinced that it’s OK to be the exactly same person who made the mistakes?

One needn’t be an advocate for the culture of therapy that pervades so much of contemporary American life to understand that when you break down, you’ve got to come to terms with what brought you to that point and caused the behavior that caused the problem. Weiner appears completely without interest in doing so and not just because he’s said that—contrary to what his aides promised when he resigned from Congress—he didn’t undergo therapy or rehab. Redemption is, as Haberman notes, always a popular theme with voters. But if Weiner’s mea culpas are this perfunctory and he thinks people want him to be the same person he was, that sounds like a formula for future trouble.

As much as Weiner wants the race to be about issues, any election to an executive post eventually comes down to personalities and trust. Despite New Yorkers liking politicians with combative styles—Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch being just two of the most recent outstanding examples—it’s an open question as to whether they are willing to buy into the idea that Weiner’s hyper-aggressive personality is so attractive as to overwhelm concerns about what brought him down in the first place. As Politico makes clear today, Weiner thinks the answer to that question is yes.

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Could Weiner Win on Education? Maybe if He Tried.

With the introduction of Anthony Weiner into the New York City mayoral race, things in the Big Apple have definitely become more interesting (and that’s not just in the form of suggestive New York Post headlines). As Jonathan mentioned last week, the race for Gracie Mansion, as far as Weiner is concerned, is dependent upon the middle class. With that in mind, Weiner came out swinging (albeit wildly) at his debate debut on an issue on the minds of many middle-class voters in New York: education.

The New York Daily News reported on Weiner’s controversy-sparking comments on education, which were directly addressed to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Weiner and Cuomo had a public spat last week when it was widely reported that Cuomo told the editorial board of the the Post-Standard and Syracuse Media Group “Shame on us” if Weiner is elected mayor. By couching his comments on education within the spat with Cuomo, Weiner guaranteed that his comments would make the papers. 

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With the introduction of Anthony Weiner into the New York City mayoral race, things in the Big Apple have definitely become more interesting (and that’s not just in the form of suggestive New York Post headlines). As Jonathan mentioned last week, the race for Gracie Mansion, as far as Weiner is concerned, is dependent upon the middle class. With that in mind, Weiner came out swinging (albeit wildly) at his debate debut on an issue on the minds of many middle-class voters in New York: education.

The New York Daily News reported on Weiner’s controversy-sparking comments on education, which were directly addressed to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Weiner and Cuomo had a public spat last week when it was widely reported that Cuomo told the editorial board of the the Post-Standard and Syracuse Media Group “Shame on us” if Weiner is elected mayor. By couching his comments on education within the spat with Cuomo, Weiner guaranteed that his comments would make the papers. 

During the debate Weiner took what would be considered a somewhat conservative approach to education by promising to take on local teachers’ unions in order to reward top performing teachers. Weiner blasted high-stakes testing originating in Albany but did not join his fellow Democratic candidates in criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s focus on the expansion of charter schools. Many of these education stances have support from middle-class parents who are increasingly overwhelmed by struggling schools and admissions processes that rival that of most Ivy League universities. Recently, the city’s parents have become obsessed by two scandals involving testing for students wishing to enter the coveted gifted and talented program. Access to quality and affordable education is an important issue to parents and students across the country, but for those in New York City, it is one fraught with an incredible amount of confusion, anxiety and cost.

If Weiner had come off during the debate as well-informed and passionate about the issue, it could have been a game changing debate for his young and highly mocked campaign. However, according to the New York Times roundup of the debate, Weiner came off incredibly flippant and ill-informed on a crucial issue to a constituency his campaign has hinged its success on. Late in the debate, the candidates were all asked about an influential founder of a charter-school network in the city and whether she received special treatment from city hall, as her detractors allege, and Weiner didn’t seem to have any idea who she was. There are few issues more important to middle-class voters in New York City right now than education. Weiner’s disregard for voters and their concerns doesn’t bode well for his chances. 

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Weiner’s Wife Is the One to Watch

It’s been more than 48 hours since the Anthony Weiner reboot began, but so far the indications are that the plight of the middle class in New York City is about the last thing anybody is talking about. Instead, the main topic of discussion about Weiner’s candidacy is what everyone who hasn’t been in a coma for the last two years always knew it would be: the bizarre sexting scandal that forced his resignation from Congress in 2011.

It should be no surprise that we’re still talking about the fact that Weiner’s career was buried under a deluge of national derision about his habit of sending lewd pictures of his body parts to women and the disgust over his weeks of lies and false accusations that his political opponents had concocted the story in order to discredit him. After all, it’s not just the tabloids like the New York Post and the New York Daily News that are engaging in an orgy of front page headlines with puns at Weiner’s expense. Even the ultra-liberal public radio station WNYC was quizzing him about his problems. Fellow New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo summed it up for most members of his party as well as the citizens of Gotham when he replied to a reporter’s suggestion that Weiner might win by simply saying that if so, “Shame on us.”

But what is just as interesting as the circus freak atmosphere of Weiner’s campaign is another angle of it that was explored this morning by the New York Times. Rather than just being the suffering yet faithful spouse in this drama, the Times claims Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin is the driving force behind his attempted comeback. Indeed the paper claims the main reason why some Democratic consultants have even considered joining his campaign is because they feel doing so will give them access to Abedin and a leg up toward a job with the next presidential campaign of her personal patron and surrogate mother, Hillary Clinton. That means that rather than merely being a prop in her husband’s soap opera whose presence is intended to deflect outrage about his personality defects, it is Abedin who is actually the more interesting subject for scrutiny.

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It’s been more than 48 hours since the Anthony Weiner reboot began, but so far the indications are that the plight of the middle class in New York City is about the last thing anybody is talking about. Instead, the main topic of discussion about Weiner’s candidacy is what everyone who hasn’t been in a coma for the last two years always knew it would be: the bizarre sexting scandal that forced his resignation from Congress in 2011.

It should be no surprise that we’re still talking about the fact that Weiner’s career was buried under a deluge of national derision about his habit of sending lewd pictures of his body parts to women and the disgust over his weeks of lies and false accusations that his political opponents had concocted the story in order to discredit him. After all, it’s not just the tabloids like the New York Post and the New York Daily News that are engaging in an orgy of front page headlines with puns at Weiner’s expense. Even the ultra-liberal public radio station WNYC was quizzing him about his problems. Fellow New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo summed it up for most members of his party as well as the citizens of Gotham when he replied to a reporter’s suggestion that Weiner might win by simply saying that if so, “Shame on us.”

But what is just as interesting as the circus freak atmosphere of Weiner’s campaign is another angle of it that was explored this morning by the New York Times. Rather than just being the suffering yet faithful spouse in this drama, the Times claims Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin is the driving force behind his attempted comeback. Indeed the paper claims the main reason why some Democratic consultants have even considered joining his campaign is because they feel doing so will give them access to Abedin and a leg up toward a job with the next presidential campaign of her personal patron and surrogate mother, Hillary Clinton. That means that rather than merely being a prop in her husband’s soap opera whose presence is intended to deflect outrage about his personality defects, it is Abedin who is actually the more interesting subject for scrutiny.

As the Times article and other reports make clear, Bill and Hillary Clinton are appalled at the idea of being dragged into the Weiner free-for-all. They have said they won’t endorse any candidate in the Democratic primary and the consensus is that both the former and the would-be future president both think of Weiner with the same contempt that many parents view the spouses of their children. But their affection for Huma is apparently so great (Weiner’s wife is also a close friend of Chelsea Clinton) that she will continue working for Hillary even while her husband dives head first into tabloid hell with Abedin’s encouragement.

That makes Abedin a clear asset to Weiner, especially as he attempts to raise more money from the Clinton campaign base (the Times lets drop that the Mr. and Mrs. Weiner are currently living in a fabulous Park Avenue condo that is owned by a donor to the Clinton campaigns). But while her political smarts that are so valued by her boss Hillary are also being put to good use by Weiner, the extra attention won’t necessarily be helpful in terms of attracting votes.

Abedin came under fire last year when Rep. Michele Bachmann and some other Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the secretary of state that, among other things, noted the ties that some members of the Clinton staffer’s family had close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. That accusation, which was part of a paper that actually raised serious questions about State Department policy that deserved a discussion, was drowned in a backlash against Bachmann that was driven by the affection many in Washington have for Abedin, including prominent Republicans like Senator John McCain.

But while Abedin’s possible connections to extremists should have raised some eyebrows, it should also be conceded that talk about her as an Islamist Manchurian candidate seems far-fetched. Her marriage to a Jew and support for mainstream Democrats may make perfect sense to conspiracy theorists, but for the rest of us those things make it difficult to portray her as the thin edge of the wedge that would theoretically be seeking to impose sharia law on one of the most secular as well as Jewish cities in the world.

That said, if the press ever does tire of asking Weiner why he sent strangers pictures of his genitals or ferreting out the as-yet-unpublished photos that he has told us are still out there, somebody is bound to start asking him about his wife’s views about Israel, the Palestinians or the current Egyptian government. Whether that forces Abedin to come out of the closet as a Muslim Zionist in order to persuade more New Yorkers to trust Weiner again or merely gives her another opportunity to play a victim, as was the case with Bachmann’s accusations, its hard to see how that discussion helps Weiner or Clinton.

In the meantime, most members of the press continue to focus on Weiner’s gaffes (the picture of Pittsburgh instead of New York on his website that was eventually corrected) and the disgust he generates among many Democrats, rather than his preferred talking point about the middle class. The disgraced former congressman may still be the only candidate in the race who can even pretend to care about the outer boroughs of the city or how those who are neither part of the city’s elites nor the poor are being priced out of Gotham. Unfortunately for him, and the cause of helping the middle class, the hypocrisy of Weiner’s pretense is only accentuated by the attention given to his wife since it reminds voters that he is about as solidly planted among the Manhattan elites as any Park Avenue socialite.

But instead of obsessing about the slim chance that Weiner may become mayor, perhaps the only really interesting thing about his campaign is that it will give us a chance to learn more about the woman who might become the White House chief of staff in 2017. As such, let’s hope Weiner hangs around in the race and that his wife continues to emerge from the shadows long enough for us to get a better handle on her views, whatever they might be.

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Will the Middle Class Save Weiner’s Career?

As expected, disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner declared his candidacy for mayor of New York City today. The announcement came in a video that acknowledges his “mistakes” along with a testimonial from his wife Huma Abedin who has chosen to play the loyal spouse who stands by her man. But Weiner isn’t relying on the willingness of New Yorkers to buy a redemption tour a la South Carolina’s Mark Sanford. Instead, he’s posing as the defender of the middle class. The question this raises is not whether Weiner will continue to be a punch line for late-night comedians and pundits. That is a given. It’s whether the man who was assumed to be the frontrunner for the 2013 mayor’s race prior to his 2011 Twitter meltdown can recapture his political mojo. And the jury is out on that one.

Let’s understand a few facts about the Weiner candidacy.

First, the reason for his decision to run is based in part on personal compulsion. He’s never really held an honest job in his life. Without politics, he has nothing. But it’s also because Weiner knows the race was his to lose prior to his career meltdown. There’s no one in the current roster of Democratic candidates who even remotely can be said to represent the views or the interests of the outer boroughs. That’s why Weiner—who had an impressive second place showing by running as the candidate of the middle class in the 2005 Democratic primary—was widely believed to be the frontrunner for 2013 before his career crashed and burned. With a formidable campaign war chest and the knowledge that this could be the last time the mayor’s chair is open for at least eight years, Weiner may have thought it was now or never, and that now gives him the best chance to win.

However, the polling that exists on this race should not engender much optimism in the Weiner camp.

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As expected, disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner declared his candidacy for mayor of New York City today. The announcement came in a video that acknowledges his “mistakes” along with a testimonial from his wife Huma Abedin who has chosen to play the loyal spouse who stands by her man. But Weiner isn’t relying on the willingness of New Yorkers to buy a redemption tour a la South Carolina’s Mark Sanford. Instead, he’s posing as the defender of the middle class. The question this raises is not whether Weiner will continue to be a punch line for late-night comedians and pundits. That is a given. It’s whether the man who was assumed to be the frontrunner for the 2013 mayor’s race prior to his 2011 Twitter meltdown can recapture his political mojo. And the jury is out on that one.

Let’s understand a few facts about the Weiner candidacy.

First, the reason for his decision to run is based in part on personal compulsion. He’s never really held an honest job in his life. Without politics, he has nothing. But it’s also because Weiner knows the race was his to lose prior to his career meltdown. There’s no one in the current roster of Democratic candidates who even remotely can be said to represent the views or the interests of the outer boroughs. That’s why Weiner—who had an impressive second place showing by running as the candidate of the middle class in the 2005 Democratic primary—was widely believed to be the frontrunner for 2013 before his career crashed and burned. With a formidable campaign war chest and the knowledge that this could be the last time the mayor’s chair is open for at least eight years, Weiner may have thought it was now or never, and that now gives him the best chance to win.

However, the polling that exists on this race should not engender much optimism in the Weiner camp.

The latest Quinnipiac poll does show him not all that far behind the frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The poll shows Quinn in first with 25 percent and Weiner in second at 15 percent, with 27 percent saying they don’t know and the rest scattered among a crowded field. Theoretically, that means that there is plenty of room for Weiner’s share of support to grow and give him a chance to win.

But the poll also specifically asked New Yorkers whether they thought Weiner should run. Nearly half said no. Only 38 percent thought he ought to be in the race. When you consider that he already has what must be almost 100-percent name recognition, that means about half the voters won’t even consider voting for him. That will make it nearly impossible for him to win a runoff, which is mandatory if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote.

The bottom line is that Quinn is vulnerable, but the consensus is that while Weiner may qualify for a runoff that seems inevitable in a crowded race, he’s probably fated to lose it to any of his likely opponents.

These dismal poll results force us to ask the inevitable question about whether New York’s voters are prepared to accept Weiner’s plea for a second chance or hold his past behavior against him.

There may be some who think the scandal is not as much of factor as the national press thinks, but I think those who think Weiner can rise above his past don’t understand the city as well as they think. Anyone who thinks we’ve heard the last of his bizarre scandal is dreaming. Weiner has already said that there may be more embarrassing photos out there that he sent to women he didn’t know. That means such photos exist, and that it’s a given that sooner or later the press—especially the tabloids that consider the Weiner candidacy a gift from God—will find them.

Many people around the country may think the less religious nature of the average New York voter—especially in comparison to South Carolina—will mean they are more likely to be forgiving of his personal foibles. That assumption may be wrong. There’s good reason to think cynical New Yorkers will find Weiner’s plea for forgiveness to be baloney and actually be less vulnerable to a faith-based appeal for redemption that worked to some extent for Sanford. Weiner and his wife may want to move on from scandal, but it’s far from clear that New York will let him.

Nor can he count on his wife’s patrons—Bill and Hillary Clinton—to help overcome the public’s queasiness about him since they think his behavior only reminds people of their own problems. 

There will be those who watch Weiner’s campaign video which emphasizes public safety and reducing the burden of regulation on business and see him as a commonsense alternative to the big government visions of a hardcore liberal like Quinn, as well as the nanny state attitude of the departing Michael Bloomberg.

But no one should be deceived into thinking Weiner is morphing into a centrist. He wasn’t just one of the most openly obnoxious liberal partisans during his years in Congress. He was also one of the most liberal members on Capitol Hill. His campaign rhetoric is a cynical hodgepodge of all sorts of ideas geared to blur his former image, but anyone who wants to know what kind of a politician Weiner really is can only think back to the week in the spring of 2011 when he went off the rails. His lies and the desperate attempts to smear his critics (he still owes the late Andrew Breitbart for his slanderous claim that his Twitter photos of his private parts was a fabrication invented by the pundit) make Mark Sanford’s Appalachian Trail routine look good by comparison.

The next few months are going to be a lot more entertaining for journalists with Weiner in the mayor’s race. And given his combativeness and innate political talent, no one should write him off. But what is about to unfold may turn out to teach the country something about New York that most out-of-towners don’t suspect: New Yorkers tend to like straight shooters even if they don’t agree with them about everything and tend to despise liars and phonies no matter how loud they are. Weiner may get the lion’s share of the attention in this election, but the assumption that he will be as successful as Sanford is probably wrong.

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Damaged Candidates Can’t Be Redeemed

Mark Sanford is the gift that keeps giving to Democrats. The latest revelations about his messy personal life has not only further encouraged those hoping the Dems could steal a seemingly safe Republican seat in South Carolina. They’ve caused the National Republican Campaign Committee to bail on the special election to choose a successor to Senator Tim Scott. The NRCC officially waved the white flag on the former governor’s effort to win back his old seat when it announced it would cease sending money to aid Sanford’s campaign.

The only way to interpret that decision is that the NRCC believes the news that Sanford is being taken to court by his ex-wife over an alleged trespassing incident is a crippling blow to his hopes of defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch. If he is fated to lose a seat than any competent Republican should hold with ease, then they seem to be saying that he should do it on his own dime rather than with the funds they’ve raised from GOP donors.

This is good news for Democrats, but the lessons of the impending Sanford debacle should also make them think twice about the prospects that they’ll be stuck with Anthony Weiner, the other damaged ex-politician who is trying to wriggle his way back into office. Weiner, who appeared to be re-launching his career by submitting to an all-too-revealing personal profile that ran on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine this past week, got what some are seeing as encouraging news with the results of a new poll about the New York City mayoral race that showed him running second among Democrats.

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Mark Sanford is the gift that keeps giving to Democrats. The latest revelations about his messy personal life has not only further encouraged those hoping the Dems could steal a seemingly safe Republican seat in South Carolina. They’ve caused the National Republican Campaign Committee to bail on the special election to choose a successor to Senator Tim Scott. The NRCC officially waved the white flag on the former governor’s effort to win back his old seat when it announced it would cease sending money to aid Sanford’s campaign.

The only way to interpret that decision is that the NRCC believes the news that Sanford is being taken to court by his ex-wife over an alleged trespassing incident is a crippling blow to his hopes of defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch. If he is fated to lose a seat than any competent Republican should hold with ease, then they seem to be saying that he should do it on his own dime rather than with the funds they’ve raised from GOP donors.

This is good news for Democrats, but the lessons of the impending Sanford debacle should also make them think twice about the prospects that they’ll be stuck with Anthony Weiner, the other damaged ex-politician who is trying to wriggle his way back into office. Weiner, who appeared to be re-launching his career by submitting to an all-too-revealing personal profile that ran on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine this past week, got what some are seeing as encouraging news with the results of a new poll about the New York City mayoral race that showed him running second among Democrats.

Sanford is hoping that this latest divorce fallout won’t hurt him once people find out the details. To be fair, if he is telling the truth about the incident it sounds as if what is happening is a case of his ex-wife using an innocent misunderstanding to take revenge on him. But even if that is the case, it’s an untimely reminder of his past bad behavior that is bound to influence wavering voters. He may have convinced a plurality of GOP primary voters in his old district that he should be forgiven, but the odds that a majority of general election voters will agree just got even smaller.

That’s a lesson that should inform Democrats as they contemplate the second coming of Anthony Weiner.

The fact that a new NBC/Marist poll showed Weiner getting 15 percent of the Democratic vote in a New York primary might lead some to conclude that the former congressman could do even better once he starts campaigning and spending the reported $4 million in contributions that have been sitting in his bank account since his 2011 meltdown after his sexting scandal and the lies that led to his resignation. Weiner’s entry into the race shakes things up since without him on the ballot, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn may win the nomination outright. With him, it looks as if she will be forced into a runoff.

But the sanguine interpretations of this poll should be placed in perspective. As Chuck Todd pointed out this morning on his MSNBC show “The Daily Rundown,” Weiner has 100 percent name recognition, something that can’t be said of his potential rivals this far away from a vote. They have room to grow, as they get better known. Weiner does not. If 15 percent is the best he could do now against them, the idea that he is some sort of potential juggernaut is probably a myth. As the New York Times’s Nate Silver also pointed out in his blog, Weiner’s negatives make him a long shot to win the nomination.

But what if Weiner’s financial advantage and the lack of another credible Democratic mayoral candidate from the outer boroughs—as opposed to the Manhattan-based Quinn—does enable him to come out of nowhere and win the nomination the way Sanford snagged the GOP nod for his congressional seat? Though there doesn’t appear to be a formidable Republican in sight to keep up the city’s streak of five straight cycles without electing a Democrat mayor, a backlash against Weiner could turn around the otherwise unpromising prospects of a contender like Joseph Lhota.

There are those that think New York is more sophisticated than South Carolina and that few there will hold Weiner’s bizarre behavior and lies against him. But cynical New Yorkers are also less likely to buy into a plea that Weiner has redeemed himself and should be forgiven the way many in the more religious south might be inclined to do.

As the Times profile showed, Weiner’s personal issues are far from resolved. The idea that the Democratic Party would gamble away their seemingly certain chance of winning back Gracie Mansion on the idea that Weiner deserves another chance would be a colossal mistake. Like the national Republican Party that is pulling the plug on Sanford, Democrats would be well advised to urge their members to pass on Weiner’s comeback.

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Note to Weiner: NYC Isn’t South Carolina

As Seth notes, Anthony Weiner’s hopes for a comeback got a major boost from a sympathetic profile in this coming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine that was made available online this morning. There is plenty of material in the piece that should make readers squirm as the hopelessly adrift Weiner tries to worm his way back into the good graces of the public by talking about how he has made amends with his wife Huma Abedin after his astonishing sexting scandal. Yet Weiner is calculating that the creation of what he calls a “second narrative” via his friends in the liberal press can not only begin his rehabilitation but actually him elect him mayor of New York City this year. With millions in his campaign war chest and a weak field, Seth’s optimistic evaluation of his chances seems reasonable. After all, if former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford can be on his way back to Congress after a scandal that involved actual, rather than virtual, infidelity, then why can’t Weiner do as well with the presumably far less moralistic electorate of the Big Apple?

It’s true that, as the Times feature shows, Weiner can count on the sympathy of the mainstream media, has a huge campaign war chest and the current frontrunner for mayor—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—is a relatively weak candidate who can’t count on much support outside of Manhattan. But Weiner may be miscalculating if he thinks he can pull off the same trick as Sanford. New Yorkers may not be as prudish as the rest of the country about sex, but I think they are far less likely to buy into a redemption campaign.

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As Seth notes, Anthony Weiner’s hopes for a comeback got a major boost from a sympathetic profile in this coming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine that was made available online this morning. There is plenty of material in the piece that should make readers squirm as the hopelessly adrift Weiner tries to worm his way back into the good graces of the public by talking about how he has made amends with his wife Huma Abedin after his astonishing sexting scandal. Yet Weiner is calculating that the creation of what he calls a “second narrative” via his friends in the liberal press can not only begin his rehabilitation but actually him elect him mayor of New York City this year. With millions in his campaign war chest and a weak field, Seth’s optimistic evaluation of his chances seems reasonable. After all, if former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford can be on his way back to Congress after a scandal that involved actual, rather than virtual, infidelity, then why can’t Weiner do as well with the presumably far less moralistic electorate of the Big Apple?

It’s true that, as the Times feature shows, Weiner can count on the sympathy of the mainstream media, has a huge campaign war chest and the current frontrunner for mayor—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—is a relatively weak candidate who can’t count on much support outside of Manhattan. But Weiner may be miscalculating if he thinks he can pull off the same trick as Sanford. New Yorkers may not be as prudish as the rest of the country about sex, but I think they are far less likely to buy into a redemption campaign.

Sanford may still wind up losing a safe congressional seat for the Republicans in the general election after his primary win. But even if we assume that he will be returned to Congress, it needs to be understood that his appeal is predicated on the existence of a large group of voters who are moralistic enough to be disgusted by his behavior but religious enough to be deeply affected by his talk of asking for God’s forgiveness.

While there are plenty of religious Christians in New York, as well as lots of observant Jews, the sort of redemption tactic Sanford is trying to employ in South Carolina won’t wash there. Instead, Weiner must convince voters that: a. his transgression was no big deal; b. he’s really sorry about it; and c. he’s still the best candidate for the job of mayor. His chances of selling them on “a” and “c” seem fair. But the sorry part may lead to an unfortunate discussion that Sanford’s religious psychodrama has avoided.

Absent the faith-driven grace that Sanford is extracting from his voters, all Weiner is left with is his own repellent personality. While New Yorkers may have not cared much about him being, in Seth’s admirable phrase, “a geyser of spite and malice” prior to the incident because he was competent, the “ick” factor that stems from his sending pictures of his private parts to strangers lingers. South Carolinians may forgive Sanford for being a sinner, but what Weiner needs is for a city full of cynical, tough-minded New Yorkers to forget that he made a laughingstock of himself. Being a fool for love, as Sanford proved to be, is one thing. Being a fool on the Internet is another. The notion that Christians must forgive the repentant won’t win any elections in the five boroughs.

Let’s also remember one crucial aspect of these two scandals. Sanford’s “Appalachian Trail” fibs were pathetic but once his affair was made public, he owned up to it. Weiner’s problems stemmed not only from his bizarre behavior (which is still harder for people to understand than falling for a South American beauty) but his aggressive lies about it in the weeks that led up to his resignation from Congress two years ago.

The Times’s puffy profile of Weiner had many flaws, but none was as bad as the fact that it failed to discuss just how “beefy” he got with reporters. The piece didn’t mention Weiner’s slandering of the late Andrew Breitbart when he falsely claimed that the conservative journalist “hacked” his Twitter account. While opponents will probably stay away from the sexting, his brazen lies and bullying of the press won’t be forgotten.

Contrary to his own evaluation in which he believes he must come back now or give up all hope, I think he might have done better to start another career and return only after showing some success in another field. But the Anthony Weiner portrayed in the Times is a desperate man. Having never held an honest job in his life, he is ill-equipped to face life after politics and clings to the hope of a comeback in no small measure because he can’t imagine doing anything else. Neither can his wife or anyone else. Indeed, it’s clear that right now his only options are a return to his former career as a guttersnipe politician or remaining home playing “Mr. Mom” while Abedin plots Hillary Clinton’s next political move. It’s hard to see that desperation playing well with a New York audience that prizes competence and toughness.

Weiner always liked to pose as the quintessential New Yorker, but his problem may be that he’s simply appealing to the wrong constituency. For all of the contempt that he often displayed for the hicks in the rest of the country, he’d probably be better off trying to win their love than attempting to do so in his hometown. Perhaps I’m prejudiced about the citizens of my native city, but my guess is that New Yorkers aren’t going to buy Weiner’s second act.

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Mayor Anthony Weiner?

When a popular Democratic politician leaves office under the cloud of scandal and disgrace, the foremost question on his mind is when–not if–the media will begin reconstructing his career for him. There was the lionized Bill Clinton, who was impeached. Then there was former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, whose rehabilitation included a CNN show and a regular spot in Slate, where he proved to be an utterly conventional polemicist and shallow political thinker.

And now we have the effort by the New York Times to resuscitate Anthony Weiner, whose congressional career was marked by erratic public temper tantrums and an inability to control himself or the volume of his voice. He left Congress after being caught in a sex scandal involving a college girl, and then falsely accused conservatives like Andrew Breitbart of making the story up. At every step in the scandal Weiner chose the least honorable path. Before the scandal ended his congressional term, Weiner was considered by some to be a favorite for the next New York City mayoral election. Now, two years after the scandal, he says he still wants to be mayor, and may in fact run for the Democratic nomination this year for the fall general election. Could he actually win?

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When a popular Democratic politician leaves office under the cloud of scandal and disgrace, the foremost question on his mind is when–not if–the media will begin reconstructing his career for him. There was the lionized Bill Clinton, who was impeached. Then there was former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, whose rehabilitation included a CNN show and a regular spot in Slate, where he proved to be an utterly conventional polemicist and shallow political thinker.

And now we have the effort by the New York Times to resuscitate Anthony Weiner, whose congressional career was marked by erratic public temper tantrums and an inability to control himself or the volume of his voice. He left Congress after being caught in a sex scandal involving a college girl, and then falsely accused conservatives like Andrew Breitbart of making the story up. At every step in the scandal Weiner chose the least honorable path. Before the scandal ended his congressional term, Weiner was considered by some to be a favorite for the next New York City mayoral election. Now, two years after the scandal, he says he still wants to be mayor, and may in fact run for the Democratic nomination this year for the fall general election. Could he actually win?

The forces working against Weiner are well known. He is a charmless boor, a bully and an egomaniac and a tactless geyser of spite and malice. But there are also forces working in his favor that seem to give him a chance.

As the Times article notes, Weiner has a campaign war chest of $4.3 million plus the $1.5 million in public matching funds he would get if he runs. But even more beneficial to Weiner’s chances is the weak field currently in the race, especially on the Democratic side. The presumptive favorite is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. But current Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been sending the clear message that he would prefer someone with more stature and perhaps a national profile, and has been undermining Quinn from the very beginning.

A bigger weakness for Quinn is geographical: Quinn represents the Manhattan neighborhoods of Chelsea, SoHo, and Greenwich Village. In the world of New York City identity politics, she might as well represent Guam. Ever since Weiner left the stage, there has been chatter about an opening for a candidate “from the boroughs”–New York-speak for an ethnic outer-borough candidate who can appeal to minorities. Weiner was presumed to be that candidate, being a Jewish congressman representing a district in Brooklyn and Queens. (Weiner’s old seat was won in a special election by a Republican after the intervention of Ed Koch on his behalf.)

A look back at the last half-century or so of New York mayors tells you that Quinn would be an outlier. Bloomberg came from the business world. He was preceded by the Brooklyn-born Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani was preceded by David Dinkins, a Manhattanite but one with deep ties to the city’s black community. Before Dinkins came the late Ed Koch, who was born in the Bronx and served four terms in Congress representing the Westchester suburbs. Koch was preceded by Abe Beame, a product of the Brooklyn political machine. Before Beame was the liberal Republican John Lindsay, the first truly post-Tammany city mayor who won a three-way race that included William F. Buckley.

It’s conceivable that even a badly flawed candidate from the boroughs could give Quinn a run for her money. But aside from whether he would win, a run for mayor would be a logical move. On this, Weiner benefits from what would seem to be a weakness: he doesn’t really know how to do anything else. From his perspective, he isn’t exactly flush with career options, so taking a shot at public redemption has quite the upside.

Additionally, as the article notes, if Weiner runs and loses, he could always run again having already used this election to repent his sins and excise the stench of scandal. Of course, there is always the possibility that an unlikable, obnoxious politician with a history of dishonesty and self-destruction like Weiner would just get right back in his own way, further embarrassing his family and cementing his reputation as a toxic has-been.

If Weiner decides the rewards far outweigh the risks of running, Quinn shouldn’t get too confident: often the most dangerous opponent is the one who thinks he has nothing to lose.

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