Last month, some crazy whim compelled me to text the former New York congressman who knows better than anybody that cyber messaging can elicit surprising impulses.
“Why don’t you just run for mayor and remind everybody how much you have to offer and how tough you are?” I wrote. “The worst than can happen is you lose.”
The response from Anthony Weiner was: “Not a crazy idea.”
On Wednesday, The New York Times posted an article some 8,000 words longer than a maximum tweet that knowingly serves as Weiner’s first step toward staging a comeback and yes, running for mayor.
Personally, I think Weiner owed the scoop to the reporter he called a “jackass” back when he was still insisting that his Twitter account had been hacked.
Better yet, he should have just stepped before all the reporters he lied to before he could no longer deny that he had in fact tweeted a photo of himself in a state of arousal and texted suggestively with various women. He would have taken a bit of a beating, but shown not only remorse, but some actual moxie.
He instead chose a prolonged stroking with the Times and Jonathan Van Meter, who is a contributing editor at New York Magazine, which could not be happy to see him do the piece for the competition.
In the article, Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, comes across as a hugely sympathetic figure, as well she should. Weiner appears to have matured and become more self-aware as a downfall followed by fatherhood saw him go from being a liberal voice for change to changing diapers. His own brother, Jason, told the Times that Anthony has lost some of his “douchiness.”
In addressing the impetus behind what he terms the “fateful tweet,” Weiner said that in response to people who ask, “What was he thinking?” he can only say, “I wasn’t really thinking.” He added, “There just wasn’t much of me who was smart enough, sensitive enough, in touch with my own things, understanding enough about the disrespect and how dishonorable it was to be doing that. It didn’t seem to occupy a real space in my feelings.”
He allowed that he has been seeing a therapist and had come to see his behavior as driven by a need to be liked. He said, “By definition, when you are a politician, you want people to like you, you want people to respond to what you’re doing, you want to learn what they want to hear so you can say it to them.”
The therapist should give the money back if he or she failed to note the picture that Weiner chose for his Twitter account. It came from his high school yearbook and suggests why he became a politician in the first place.
Even as he walked the halls of the United States Congress, some part of Weiner seemed to be still walking the halls of Brooklyn Tech High School. He was another guy who went into politics having never gotten over the slights of being one of the uncool kids who did not get all the girls. You can imagine the jokes his last name inspired back then.
And, what does even a grown-up congressman know the cool kids are doing now?
So sext he did, or not quite, as he kept on his underwear as he tweeted the photo of Weiner’s wiener.
He thereby triggered the first sex scandal that involved no actual sex, not even real nudity.
But it was close enough to sex that he lied, as almost everybody does about it.
And, in the aftermath, he now can muster some of the improbable appeal of a man who has been caught fibbing about what everybody fibs about and is thereby forced to be honest in ways that few guys are.
The post-Lewinsky Bill Clinton shares this quality. It is accompanied by the sense that these are two guys who have actually left high school, or at least know they should.
But, both also retain just a touch of the eternal teenager, and with it comes an energy that is so much more inspiring than the platitudinous pedantics of those who are outwardly so somberly adult.
Just before sending my impulsive text to Weiner, I had been talking with Ronnie Eldridge, former member of the New York City Council and continuing champion of human rights, those of women in particular. Eldridge said there was one thing she always remembered about Weiner. I mentioned it in a follow-up text to him.
“BTW, somebody was telling me how good you were to your grandmother.”
Weiner’s immediate reply was, “Dude, who isn’t good to their grandma?”
His response reminded me that texts can bring out the genuine in people beyond vestiges of adolescent sexuality. This not-at-all-fateful text gave a flash of the spirit that is at Weiner’s core, that would be all the more pronounced if he did not give in to a tendency to overthink and scheme a comeback via the New York Times like he is some kind of Manhattan mush.
Weiner may have finally left Brooklyn Tech, but he remains at heart a true Brooklyn guy. And, as such, he seems sure to make the mayoral race better, whether or not he is necessarily the candidate.
“Spoken like a true mayor,” I texted back.