Lucinda Williams, the singer-songwriter, has some lyrics that remind me of Anthony Weiner. Sing it, Lucinda: “Wish I could turn a sad blue day/ Into something good/ Wish I could somehow make it go away/ I wish you understood/ But if wishes were horses, I’d have a ranch/ Come on, and give me another chance.”
And here’s Weiner: “I want to ask people to give me a second chance.”
Of course we all remember Weiner’s sad blue day, when he got caught flashing his stimulus package on Twitter to women he’d never met. His high-profile congressional career imploded, and he has since spent two years in exile. But now he jonesing for the limelight again – like many political animals, it’s in his DNA – and he’s landed himself on a magazine cover, floating his own a trial balloon. He wants to turn his bad day into something good. He wants the voters to “have room for a second narative.” He wants to be mayor of New York City, and the race is this year.
To which I say: Hey, why not?
Seriously, folks. Sex-scandalized Mark Sanford seems poised to win a seat in Congress next month after betraying traditional family values, so why shouldn’t Weiner get a shot at the mayoralty? If voters in a red-state congressional district are willing to give Sanford a pass for having extramarital sex in Argentina (because southern Christians believe in forgiving the sinner), why shouldn’t blue-state voters in a cosmopolitan city give Weiner a pass for having non-sex online (because liberal northerners believe in tolerance)?
It’s always tricky to compare libido scandals and weigh the import of one against another, but let’s make a case for Weiner anyway. Granted, he lied at the outset – claiming that his Twitter account had been hacked – just as Sanford did with his fake claim of seeking solitude on the Appalachian Trail. But the rest of the balance sheet favors Weiner:
Sanford had sex with an actual mistress. Weiner just tickled his keyboard.
Sanford’s wife was so scandalized that she divorced Sanford. Weiner’s wife, though similarly scandalized, has stuck with Weiner.
Sanford vanished for days; his constituents had no idea where he was. Weiner stuck around, even when his cover story fell apart.
Sanford spent thousands of dollars in taxpayers’ money on his affair. Weiner, at worst, tweeted while on the government clock.
Even though Weiner isn’t publicly asking God to forgive his sins and love the sinner – that southern Christian motif would never play in New York – he’s working the contrition trail just like Sanford. As he told the Times Magazine, “I do want to have that conversation with people whom I let down and with people who put their faith in me and who wanted to support me. I think to some degree I do want to say to them: ‘Give me another chance.'”
So if Sanford can refute the F. Scott Fitzgerald dictum that there are no second acts in American lives, shouldn’t Weiner get the same opportunity? He has universal name ID, a big pot of campaign money ($4.3 million, left over from an earlier, aborted mayoral bid), and solid experience not just as a 12-year congressman, but as a six-year city councilman. He can hit the trail talking issues and dismissing scandal questions as “old news.”
But Sanford is far more fortunate in one key respect: He doesn’t have tabloid newspapers torturing him on a daily basis. Whereas a Weiner candidacy would be tantamount to enacting a Headline Writers Full Employment Act. His surname alone makes the job even juicier – as the New York Post has already demonstrated this week: “Weiner’s Second Coming” and “Erect me Mr. Mayor” and “Weiner’s Long Hard Road Back” and “Weiner Stiff Competition for Dem Foes.”
The Post is popular in the vote-rich boroughs. Weiner’s sins are arguably less serious than Sanford’s, but it’s tough to win a race if voters are too busy laughing. But Weiner is a seasoned fighter, and taking on the tabloids could be a major step forward on the comeback trail.
Speaking of scandal, the Mitch McConnell recording mystery down in Kentucky (which I referenced two days ago) seems to have been solved. And nobody comes out looking good.
A state Democratic official says that two guys from Progress Kentucky, a liberal super PAC, were responsible for recording a private McConnell campaign meeting and leaking it to Mother Jones magazine. Apparently, those guys were visiting McConnell headquarters on Feb. 2, and, while standing in a hallway, they heard McConnell aides talking trash about potential Democratic candidate Ashley Judd on the other side of the wall. So they took out a smart phone, pressed it to the wall, and recorded the meeting.
They could wind up in legal trouble (one of the guys is blaming the other). The state’s Democratic leaders don’t care, because they have long considered Progress Kentucky to be a joke. Which is why the Democratic strategist outed them in the first place, to distance the party from the jokesters. (How much of a joke is Progress Kentucky? In the last election cycle, it spent $18. That’s not a typographical error.)
So, to summarize: Two clowns did something idiotic. Mother Jones ran a dog-bites-man story which says that McConnell’s opposition researchers were plotting to defeat a potential Democratic opponent (wow, never heard of that happening before). And the McConnell people, led by McConnell, look like fools for insisting at the outset that they’d been victimized by a “Nixonian” “Watergate” “Gestapo” bugging-wiretapping conspiracy.
This week, by the way, McConnell joined 28 Senate Republicans in a failed bid to suppress all debate on expanding criminal background checks of gun buyers. On the idiocy scale, his attempt to defy the sentiment of 90 percent of the American people outweighs the entire recording scandal.
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