It isn’t so much that I care about Anthony Weiner’s hobbies, or in any way wish to limit his enjoyment of what New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently called the “Kama Sutra of electronic intercourse.” Nor do I have an opinion on whether he and Huma Abedin should stay married; whether she thinks she deserves better is indeed her own affair. I do care about New York, though, and think it merits a mayor who is less compulsively focused on his own genitals.
Bad husbands are back with a vengeance, as we know. First Mark Sanford, of Appalachian Trail fame, crept back into his Congress even after his ex-wife accused him of tiptoeing back into her home whenever he pleased. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned the New York governorship over a prostitution scandal, is running for the humble office of New York City comptroller — and laughed his head off when Stephen Colbert recently asked him if “a comptroller shouldn’t have a modicum of self-comptrol.”
Now Weiner is spinning the news that his sexting with strangers didn’t stop when he left Congress, or even when he became a father, as proof that he’s prescient. Sure, because he said there’d be more scandal to come: “Perhaps I’m surprised that more things didn’t come out sooner,” he said at Tuesday’s news conference. Somewhere, John Edwards is asking himself, why not me?
Weiner reminded me of Edwards at his press conference, actually, saying, “I’m responsible for this behavior that led us to be in this place,” as if we might be confused on that point.
We aren’t, though he seemed to be. In the same press conference, the mayoral candidate said, “I know this was a very public thing that we had happen to us.” From out of nowhere, darn.
(Actually, the latest woman to accuse Weiner is from my hometown, Mount Carmel, Ill., where everybody knows everybody and her reputation until this week was as smart, idealistic, and leftier than average. Yes, that Mount Carmel has spawned another sexter is far less surprising than that even one “Democratic activist” came out of one of the handful of southern counties so red that it went for Alan Keyes over Barack Obama in the Senate race of 2004. And here’s a truly humble brag: With a population of 7,284, we apparently over-perform when it comes to growing corn, soybeans, and future participants in sex scandals; the prostitute who outed evangelical hypocrite Jimmy Swaggart decades ago was also my homegirl. But then, Weiner’s former friend Sydney Leathers — yes, her real name — is not the story here.)
Weiner is, and he assures us that nothing has changed about “my feelings” in running for office. Of that I have no doubt, even if I’m less sure that “a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy” can really have been accomplished so soon, and while race-walking back toward the life-giving spotlight. Addictions can’t be tamed on any schedule, much less on such a tight one.
So New Yorkers, what about your feelings? Some, I know, don’t think there’s anything to forgive: A male friend who lives on the Upper East Side thinks Weiner is “hot” and that his critics should cool it. My She the People colleague Sheila Weller likes Huma so much that she’d be willing to stick with Ms. Abedin’s husband “in a weak field.”
But I don’t know why we seem to think we have to choose between officials who let us down through personal bad behavior and those whose foibles are in the policy arena. And Weiner and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn aren’t the only options. Is it too much to hope that the latest revelations cause voters to give the apparently, and perhaps blessedly, unexciting public advocate Bill de Blasio another look? There are worse things than being boring, after all, even in New York.
Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors She the People. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.