The Washington Post

How Anthony Weiner went from spectacle to just plain sad

The Fix loves political spectacle.  The theater of politics is what draws us to it -- politicians acting on a grand stage with genuinely important consequences for the future of the country.

Sad Anthony Weiner. AP photo

So, when Anthony Weiner -- he of the junk shots that drove him from Congress in 2011 -- announced that he was running for mayor of New York City this fall, we were skeptical but intrigued.

After all, Americans LOVE comeback/redemption stories. Josh Hamilton's comeback from drug abuse to superstardom in Major League Baseball. Robert Downey's battle through substance abuse to massive box office success. "Red" in "Shawshank Redemption". (Best. Movie. Ever.)

Weiner, at least at first, fit that familiar narrative. An ambitious and brash pol brought low by his own personal failings who, in that dark time, learned a lesson of who he really is and how he could best serve the public.

That's certainly the story that Weiner and his wife, Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, sold to the voting public in both a People magazine photo shoot and a lengthy New York Times magazine profile.

And it was the story Weiner told when he announced his plans to run for mayor and on the campaign trail. In a video that accompanied his entry, Weiner painted himself as a dedicated family man looking for another chance.

"Look, I made a some big mistakes, and I know I let a lot of people down," Weiner says in the video. "But I've also learned some tough lessons.... I hope I get a second chance to work for you."

The problem with it all was that Weiner wasn't redeemed, making his story tragically comic rather than redemptive. In the last eight days, we've learned that Weiner sexted and engaged in other inappropriate online conduct with women as recently as last summer. His campaign manager quit. Weiner lashed out at, well, everyone for trying to push him out of the race. His communications director launched a verbal tirade of epic proportion against, wait for it, a former intern.

At some point in the last week, Weiner -- that is, his campaign -- went from a somewhat amazing spectacle to just plain sad. It's a circus that all of a sudden took a turn for the decidedly depressing.

Weiner, reiterated (again) today that he's in the race to stay. That's his right, of course, but the voters of New York City -- if recent polling is accurate -- are done with him. Sad never wins.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

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