Back in April, I headlined a post, “Anthony Weiner, come on back.” You know what? Cancel that.
It seemed, at the time, that the ex-Democratic congressman had put his sexting scandal in the distant rearview mirror. Voters tend to forgive wayward politicians for their past transgressions—witness Mark Sanford and David Vitter—and there was a good argument for giving Weiner a similar shot at redemption. If the guy had the creds to be mayor of New York City, and the wisdom to learn from his personal mistakes, why not indulge him?
But rule number one, in the political survival bible, is: Thou shall not make a fool anew of thyself.
To surmount a sex scandal, the politician must demonstrate that it’s old news. If the politician is stupid enough to put the scandal back in the news—due to arrogance, hubris, narcissistic compulsion or whatever—then he or she (it’s typically a he) deserves to be driven back into exile. That’s the story with Weiner, who will be forever known by his online nom de plume, Carlos Danger (not to be confused with Danger Mouse). He deserves to be in therapy, not in power.
Somebody with smart political instincts, perhaps his suffering spouse, should take him aside and tell him that when the world is laughing at you (“Carlos the Jerkel”), you are no longer a viable candidate for public office.
Weiner became a national joke in May 2011, when we learned that he’d flashed his crotch on Twitter to various women he’d never met. He quit Congress in the midst of his sixth term, and, according to his spin, he was putting his woes in the past, moving forward with his life and wife. Earlier this year he spun the same line, while floating his mayoral aspirations in a New York Times Magazine puff piece. It was his bid to be taken seriously.
But it’s hard to get serious about a guy who, as reported yesterday on a gossip site called The Dirty, sent sex texts and penis pix to yet another woman, this time during the summer and autumn of 2012. Among the more printable messages: “What are you wearing? Much for me to take off? Like what you see?”
The core issue is not the (virtual) sex, it’s the guy’s judgment and character. Weiner blew up his high-profile congressional career in the spring of 2011—yet he was sexting again one year later. Weiner and his family posed for People magazine, which ran a warm and cuddly human-interest item in July 2012—at a time when he was sexting again. At a time when his wife was insisting that “Anthony has spent every day since [the ’11 scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be.”
Translation: Weiner never learned his lesson. Even after his precipitous ’11 downfall, he was still incapable of making the connection between action and consequence. The nature of his pathology is best left to the shrinks; it doesn’t belong in a political campaign.
A bad candidate is someone who talks too much about himself, at the expense of the voters. Weiner’s verbose press conference yesterday (on National Hot Dog Day, no less) was a classic example: “I’m not gonna get into a back-and-forth with people who are releasing things whether they be true or not” and, “It was something that frankly had happened before, but it doesn’t represent all that much that is new” and much more. My favorite part was when he tried to minimize the fact that he’d sexted a woman one year after his House resignation—by referring to what he called “the timeline of the continuum of resignation.”
Weiner never talked about the voters, except to say that he’s been asking them for “a second chance.” (After this latest revelation, it’s really a third chance.) His self-involvement is a serious no-no. A candidate caught in a sex scandal can survive if voters believe he’s focused on their needs—which is one reason why President Clinton surmounted a string of scandals and finished his stint with a high job-approval rating. Whenever Bill was under fire, he’d say that the buzz and heat weren’t creating a single job or putting more food on a citizen’s table.
Weiner says he’s staying in the mayoral race—flirting with disaster again, as befits a guy who calls himself Carlos Danger—even as the editor of The Dirty vows to release another round of embarrassing info about his ’12 online dalliance. And in light of Weiner’s flexible “continuum of resignation,” why should we assume he has stayed clean in ’13? If his wife were smart, she’d confiscate his cell and buy him a rotary phone.
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