He’s a Native New Yorker
I am not from New York City but I have spent a lot of time with a people from the City and I understand a little bit about the place. New York doesn’t just host the United Nations. New York is the United Nations. I know this is a slight exaggeration but if you spend any time at all in New York you immediately come to believe that nearly everybody in the City has just arrived there from some other country, that they have now settled in with huge throngs of their fellow countrymen in some particular corner of the City and that there is a fair chance you have never even heard of the Country they came from. I don’t know whether this is what makes New York great or what tears it apart but that is what the City seems to be like to an outsider.
I make this observation because I just watched the documentary film “Weiner.” The movie is about the political/personal saga of former Congressman and former Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and the film caused my ideas about him to be turned upside down. He was and probably still is an immensely talented politician. He was the one man on the scene who could dance with the Colombians, the Jamaicans, the Israelis, the Gay Pride community and any and all other groups who call New York their home. He was at home with all of them. They all understood that he understood that they were important Americans who deserved to be heard and seen. Nobody needed to come to Anthony Weiner, he met them all on their own turf and he shared their love of the City out loud.
These sentences are written in the past tense because Anthony Weiner got crushed. In the course of his Mayoral Campaign in 2013, Anthony Weiner was outed two or three times in sexting scandals. He had been assuming fake identities and having sexually explicit electronic conversations over the internet with females who were not his wife. The New York Post headlines were legendary. He was suddenly notorious from coast to coast. Every single late night talk show was bearing down on him for his outrageous “sexting” juxtaposed against his humorous last name. These sex stories were the first time nearly everybody had ever heard of Anthony Weiner. He attracted little or no attrition when he was screaming at his fellow congressmen to shut up and sit down while he excoriated them for denying health care benefits to 9/11 first responders. In Washington he was known for being passionate about fighting for his people. His people were New Yorkers. His fellow Jewish New Yorkers were surely included in his constituency group but Weiner fought hard for all New Yorkers.
For some reason he happened to marry Hillary Clinton’s top assistant who was a Middle Eastern woman known to everybody as “Huma.” Huma is not Jewish. Bill Clinton who apparently must be the captain of a ship somewhere or something, actually presided over the marriage ceremony! I can’t help getting paranoid when Bill and Hillary enter into a story. How many of us, by the way, have done what Anthony Weiner did? Yes it’s deceitful, distasteful, unsavory and embarrassing but how many of us have engaged in that behavior a little or a lot?
Anthony was too smart to deny that it was him and he was not dumb enough to try to justify it or defend it by exposing the demons in his brain or in his marriage that made him act out like that. He tried to “put it behind him.” That didn’t work. Everywhere he went in his mayoral campaign he drew hordes of journalists who cared not one whit about the election. They cared only that his fantasy sex life was out there to be played with. Weiner was in a quandary. He could see how synthetic the issue was. How the press could be so enthralled with such a salacious and stupid subject while not otherwise caring at all who was going to win the primary election. He could see how dishonest the press was being but he steadfastly refused to run from them. He would answer every question every time it was asked. A typical appearance was Weiner standing on the street in the economically devastated Bronx surrounded by a ring of reporters and cluster of microphones being asked in shouted questions about “what his wife knew and when she knew it” while the actual citizens of the Bronx stood back and watched. A few actual voters would shout encouragement over the backs of the heads of the media lynch mob but they were outnumbered and marginalized. When the sexting issue would finally seem to run out of gas on its own, network programming would be interrupted with New Revelations. I wonder exactly who was uncovering this stuff. The Coup de grace apparently came from a report in The Daily Mail. Two things come to mind. First of all it could have been just a good old fashioned money grab by his adult “victim” and her new found advisers. It’s a free country and is she wants to embarrass him that is too bad for him. He shouldn’t have done it. What concerns me more deeply is that some resources of the FBI or something were engaged in a character assassination plot by somebody who was alarmed at his talent and who also did not want him to advance in the party. I have no way of knowing anything about that but like I said, the proximity of Bill and Hillary raises my eyebrow. If that is what happened it doesn’t matter how he handled it. They were out to destroy him and at least they did it without blood being spilled.
Let’s forget that subversive scenario and just assume he was busted by a scorned internet gold-digger who was claiming her fifteen minutes of fame. OK, if that is true why did it have to destroy him? Why wouldn’t people go ahead and vote for the best candidate (even if he has a secret internet sex life)? The movie offers one clue. While campaigning in a Jewish deli, Weiner is accosted by gentleman wearing a yarmulke and speaking with a discernible accent. The man makes it clear that he despises Weiner and considers him to be an embarrassment either to the New York or to the Jewish community in particular. There we have it.
As much as Anthony Weiner and other politicians try to exhort voters that; “it is not about me, it’s about our children’s future,” voters are not really trying to hear that. It is about you, Anthony. We will even elect a boring old Tammany Hall hack and endure eight more years of corrupt bad government before we will honor you with a leadership position. You, Anthony, are unable to bring dignity to the office. If we make you our leader then other people on the outside are laughing, not at you but at us. Try and climb that mountain.
I guess Bill Clinton overcame that Mt. Everest when he and his young wife Hillary went on 60 Minutes and supposedly answered Paula Jones back in 1994 and that is why William Jefferson Clinton is considered one of the finest politicians who ever felt our pain. All of the others, who had some sexual irregularity come to light, including Gary Hart, John Edwards and Anthony Weiner just fell down to the bottom of the Hill. I don’t even remember what Clinton said in 1994 but he disposed of the issue that Sunday night without questions being shouted at him from fifteen feet away. Let’s not forget that the allegations against Bill were thematically way beyond a little bit of risque internet chat.
Given the two approaches to confronting the problem I find Weiner’s way to be more honest. You want to ask him about the sexting thing in a deli he will answer you in a deli. You want to ask him on a subway he will answer you on a subway train. He would answer anywhere, anytime and for as long as you will listen. Clinton, though said no. This will be it. One show, one hour, one reporter, one time. I am sure part of the deal with CBS was that the questions were given to the Royal Couple ahead of time. I am not saying that he edited them but I am sure he and Hillary read the questions and rehearsed their answers before the cameras rolled.
Finally there is a point in the Weiner movie where his spouse, Huma, checks out on him. You can almost hear the females in the audience murmuring “you go girl.’ The emotionally battered wife finally says to the morally weak Democrat, enough is enough! I got a different impression though. I saw Huma as a seasoned political operative, who finally and sadly gave up on a rebellious pupil, Anthony. She just seemed to know that he was finished in politics but that he could have survived and thrived if only he had been more calculating cunning like her big time bosses who matriculated at Yale and less like a native New Yorker who grew up pushing shoving and arguing politics on the streets of Brooklyn and who obtained his B.A. at SUNY Plattsburg.