Weiner began Saturday morning celebrating Flag Day with a group of elementary school students and their parents at a towering pole on a grassy island surrounded by Tudor homes. Weiner, wearing frayed jeans, suede wingtips and an American-flag tie, spoke into a microphone about how great it was to be back in the community. As he spoke, Curtis Sliwa, the beret-clad founder of the Guardian Angels and now a radio personality, whispered to reporters that Weiner was “an egomaniac” who participated in “new age-y, avatar sex” and that he might be “giving him the razz” later in the day. Weiner then joined the small crowd to listen to children read their essays, folded his arms and talked local politics with Sliwa’s wife, Queens Borough presidential candidate Melinda Katz, whom Weiner beat for a congressional seat back in 1998 by a few hundred votes. As Weiner opened his program and quietly sang along to “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” Rep. Grace Meng whispered, “Oh, people still love you.”
Weiner ran for mayor in 2005 and lost. He nearly ran in 2009, before Bloomberg won a change in the law to run for a third term, and his operatives scared Weiner off by leaking information about illegal contributions to his campaign from foreign models. (“Weiner’s Naughty Hottie$,” read the New York Post headline.) That, of course, seems quaint now. (The current New York Post puns include “Fall on Your Sword, Weiner.”) But he is in need of political rehabilitation. Whereas a run and loss for city comptroller would be fatal, the long-shot bid for mayor is an opportunity with little downside.
“Look, I don’t think anyone goes through this, as hard as it is, and as much as you subject yourself to, if you don’t want the job,” Weiner said. “It’s certainly not happening in this case.”
Weiner started his career as a protege of then-Rep. Chuck
Schumer and a champion of the middle class before winning national fame, and the astonished derision of progressives in his caucus, as a firebrand liberal advocating a single-payer health-care system. On Thursday, Weiner planned to resurrect that reputation by unveiling a “transformational plan” to reform health care in the city. But in the wake of the Twitter scandal, he has also again recast himself as a middle-class outer-borough boy, at first lying low in Queens with his wife, Huma Abedin, a Hillary Clinton confidante who is organizing a Women for Anthony cocktail session this month. (“Think about it for a second,” Weiner said about the incongruence of the elegant Abedin in Forest Hills. “She was 10 minutes away from the airport.”) During his brief hiatus from politics, he worked as a consultant (not an official lobbyist!) for corporations with business before Congress and moved to Park Avenue South with Abedin and their young son.