Weiner’s repellent personality: Not his worst quality!

Another humiliating press conference, another reason to detest Anthony Weiner

Topics: Opening Shott, Anthony Weiner, New York City, Editor's Picks,

Weiner's repellent personality: Not his worst quality!Anthony Weiner (Credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com)

My opinion of Anthony Weiner couldn’t have gotten much lower even before his dick pic — the first one — surfaced. Because I had already known him as an ambitious but entirely empty pol who wasn’t afraid to get a little bit racist to win elections, and who then did nothing but talk in front of cameras once elected, my take on Weiner since the scandal has been “the sexting isn’t the reason you shouldn’t vote for Anthony Weiner.” That is still essentially what I think. But, also, now the sexting is officially on the list of reasons.

Because after he got caught, and resigned, for sending women photos of his business, after he was publicly humiliated, after he told the world he was all better now, he was still doing it, apparently. And doing it dumbly. And when more pictures and chats surfaced, as he had to know they would, his response was a strange press conference in which he essentially said “I told you this would happen now here is my wife to say she loves me.”

So let’s add “absolutely awful judgment” to the list of reasons why no one should ever vote for Anthony Weiner. To continue not just flirting with women he doesn’t know but also sending them nudez is just appallingly poor decision-making, and this happened last summer. A normal person (and normal people screw up and inappropriately sext people with some regularity) would have just stopped. This is clearly a deeply damaged person.

Not that deeply damaged people don’t sometimes make fine politicians. Bill Clinton started up an extramarital affair while he was president, and it’s certainly possible that he’s had more affairs since leaving office, but Clinton’s vain need to be loved by all has at least led him to attempt to accomplish things that would win him love. When Clinton ran for president, or when he campaigned for Hillary Clinton, he could articulate reasons to support him. Eliot Spitzer’s comeback is predicated on his history of battling Wall Street, not on nostalgia for the long-ago period when everyone loved him. But Weiner has never run on anything besides his own personality, and his personality is repellent.

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In the weepy New York Times Magazine profile that prefaced Weiner’s return to politics, we learned a lot about how Weiner personally dealt with his fall from grace and attempted to redeem himself, but he never once explained why he wanted to run for office again. He didn’t say what he wanted to do as mayor, just that he knew he’d be super good at being mayor. (He also missed an opportunity to preempt yesterday’s media circus by admitting that he had continued to engage in this sort of thing a year after leaving office.)

Weiner remains in the race, because his phenomenally high self-regard has convinced him that he would be a great mayor (I’m guessing his internal Mayor Weiner fantasies involve a lot of parades and press conferences and high-fives from constituents but not much “governing”), and because he still believes he has ethnic and class advantages over his opponents.

Weiner’s original theory of the race, before he was unexpectedly sidetracked by Andrew Breitbart, was that the post-Bloomberg slate of Democratic candidates would be too left-wing (and possibly dark-skinned) for the “white ethnic” voters who were instrumental in the election of Koch, Giuliani and Bloomberg. Those voters are still basically the ones he is hoping come through for him, though he has melded his longtime local political persona with his very different national one. It was not until fairly late in his political career that Weiner decided to also reach for the (rich white) progressive vote — that is why he was on MSNBC and Fox shouting about single-payer healthcare in the months before his downfall.

Now Weiner is running to represent “middle-class” New Yorkers — that means reasonably well-off and comparatively conservative New Yorkers — while still attempting to retain his progressive cred. Which is how Weiner finds himself promising to fire Ray Kelly but also hire him to do a different job, and promising to tear up bike lanes but not too many bike lanes. (Weiner’s reality-denying position on Israel’s presence in the West Bank is so excessively right-wing that it might be his sole sincere political principle.)

Unfortunately for Weiner, but fortunately for New York, those voters are the ones who read New York’s tabloids.

The primary reason Anthony Weiner shouldn’t be mayor, or anything else, is still that he’s an unaccomplished opportunist with few principles and malleable views on every public policy issue besides the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a subject on which he has indefensible and insane views. But if people decide to not vote for him because of the dick pics I’m fine with that too.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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