I can now predict with a reasonable degree of confidence that Anthony Weiner will never be mayor of New York. That is a blow to tabloid headline writers and late-night talk-show hosts everywhere, who will be deprived of excuses to make lame, adolescent Weiner jokes.
Mr. Weiner is now the laughingstock of politics – again. This week, he was forced to apologize after revelations that he had been sending dirty e-mails and pictures of his private parts – again – to a woman other than his wife. “ERECTION UPDATE,” said a Drudge Report headline. “Pressure mounts on Weiner to pull out.”
You can survive scandal, but you can’t survive ridicule. Two years ago, Mr. Weiner’s political career crashed and burned after he accidentally tweeted a crotch shot of himself to his 45,000 followers. It turned out he was an avid online sexter. He resigned from Congress in disgrace, then embarked on the usual road to redemption – repentance, therapy, healing and an extended stint of reputational rehab. His long-suffering wife, Huma Abedin, has stood bravely by his side. (Perhaps she took lessons from Hillary Clinton, for whom she’s worked for many years as a top aide and adviser.)
This time, Mr. Weiner tried to disguise his identity with an online nom de plume: Carlos Danger.
“Why are so many men stuck at the developmental level of 12-year-olds?” I asked my husband. He just shrugged.
Mr. Weiner’s pathology isn’t that peculiar. Just check out the dating site on Craigslist. You will find that lots of men mistakenly believe that women they have never met will be enchanted by pictures of their private parts.
Mr. Weiner, who has vowed to continue his mayoralty campaign, seems to think the public will forgive him yet again. Not a chance. They feel duped. The question is, will his wife? She says she’s still standing by him.
“I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him,” she told reporters. But her body language was excruciating. She looked as if she wanted to kick him in the giblets.
Still, I’m not feeling too much sympathy for her. Ms. Abedin took a front-and-centre role in her husband’s public rehabilitation. Last July, they posed for a touching family portrait in People magazine, along with their new baby. “I’m proud to be married to him,” she said. “… Anthony has spent every day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be.”
Mr. Weiner vowed that he was a changed man. “I’ve had enormous regrets about what I put Huma through, how I let my constituents down,” he told People. “But it’s not like I sit all day replaying it in my mind. With a baby, it is pretty easy to put things into perspective.” The month after that, he was sexting with a 22-year-old woman in Chicago who called herself Sydney Leather.
People wasn’t the only media outlet seduced by this redemptive tale. In April, The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story full of the same sappy twaddle. “The two of them had seemed to be a power couple on the cusp of a Clintonian rise,” the writer gushed. Mr. Weiner was described as a formerly obnoxious jerk whose travails had transformed him into a tender and devoted househusband.
“Anthony has always been a smart, caring and dedicated person,” Huma writes in the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar, “and while he’s the same public servant who wants what’s best for the people he represents, he is now something else – a better man.”
She believed in him the way Hillary believed in Bill. The trouble is, Bill kept swearing he’d never do it again, then did it again. Some men just can’t help themselves.
Not all political wives feel obliged to stand by their man. Elizabeth Edwards split from philandering John before she died. Silda Wall Spitzer, whose husband, Eliot, resigned as New York’s governor after being caught in a prostitution scandal, has declined to participate in his current comeback campaign. (He’s running for controller of New York.)
Huma Abedin may be learning that even a good wife can only bear so much.