The profile of Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin in the New York Times magazine is reminiscent of an awful screenplay in which the movie would end if anyone behaved rationally, let alone intelligently. The bottom line is that, no surprise, Weiner is a deeply needy person with an addiction not to sex (necessarily) but to attention. Since his underlying neediness has not abated, he is scheming to run for mayor. And, of course, his heroically hardworking, popular wife is encouraging all that.
It is hard not to see the parallels with the Clintons, and not only because Abedin has been a Hillaryland aide and intimate (and goes to pains to make her boss look angelic in the telling of her own betrayal). In both cases the couples live their lives on and for the public stage and no amount of personal betrayal can shake the couple loose or cause them to cease inflicting their melodrama on us.
In retelling their story in agonizing detail, it is clear that Weiner not only wants but also needs public redemption. A few pages after explaining he sent obscene texts to women he didn’t know to derive the high of instant connection and feedback, he tells the reporter about the reaction to him in polling and among New Yorkers he encounters. Like the lab rat pounding the lever for another shot of heroin, Weiner cannot cease trolling the public for love. What is worse is his wife seems to be going along with it. The last sentence reads ominously: “Huma, he says, is starting to think he should run.”
The thought that he might do something else with his life, contribute to society in a semi-private fashion is apparently inconceivable to these folk — as inconceivable as Hillary Clinton declaring, ” Naw, I don’t need to be president.”
Abedin recalls her thinking during the scandal, “I. Don’t. Understand.” Readers may have the same reaction to their determination to live in the public eye. Their life, they complain, is too “constricted” — only time for each other, their baby and friends. Many Americans would say that is called “normal,” but these people are anything but.
Should we cease being shocked that narcissists like Weiner and Mark Sanford can’t get away from the public limelight? They’d metaphorically curl up and die if deprived of the attention that goes with “public service.” But what is the excuse for the public’s indulgence? Maybe it is ennobling to them to forgive these lowly figures. Perhaps they figure all pols are creeps and at least they know or think they know the extent of these guys’ creepiness. Or then again perhaps, like “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” the messed up pols make voters feel superior. In a world of disappointment and stress maybe it is a relief to watch the freak show inhabited by people way more screwed up than they are.
That said, there is no excuse to indulge with public office those who are quite simply amoral and unstable. We get the government we deserve — and are we ever.