Sunday, April 14, 2013

Like Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz will Anthony Weiner also be toast if he decides to run?

"Sam the Man" October, 2014? 

Good Day Readers:

In a poll commissioned by CBC the results clearly showed a significant majority of Winnipegers believe Sam Katz has been in multiple conflict of interests. It was released during December of last year before his hearing earlier this month in which Manitoba Queen's Bench Justice Brenda Keyser was not prepared to remove him from office even though chastising him for bad ethics and bad political decision making.

But look on the bright side. Unless restaurateur Joe Chan wins an appeal he said publicly he'd launch we're stuck with the ethically challenged Mr. Katz until at least the next election in October of 2014. But do not despair it could be worse. Take the case of Anthony Weiner the sexter and former Congressman from New York who is giving off signals he may join the race for Mayor of that city.

If politicians would only learn when they've transgressed (Polite code for Royally screwed up!) it's best to immediately come clean, rush to the head of the line and voters will think your're leading a parade. It's the deny, deny, deny and attempts at cover up that will invariably p..s off people and ultimately do them in - just ask Richard Nixon if you could.

What about Manitoba Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas? Will she survive the Inquiry? What if she'd   come clean (Sorry for the bad pun!) from the get go, apologized for "the pictures" and showed remorse for very bad judgment rather than forcing taxpayers through a very expensive process that seems like it has been going on ad nauseaum with no end in sight?

In the case of Congressman Weiner, his denials and attempts at a cover up gave rise to a raft of political cartoons.
The Anthony Weiner Halloween costume, "Just hanging out!" only $39.95 + tax includes mask.

One can only wonder what the political cartoons will look like if Sam Katz runs again in 2014.

The New York Times Magazine article is interesting because it be begs the question, "Will the jerk's thirst for political power dominate in the end?

Clare L. Pieuk

Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin's Post-Scandal Playbook
By Jonathan Van Meter
Monday, April 10, 2013
Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner in the office they share in their Manhattan apartment
Abedin said, "I have now gotten used to people asking over and over again, how is Anthony?"
The couple at home with their son Jordan 

One day in early February, I met Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin for breakfast at the Gramercy Park Hotel, one of their regular joints, just a few blocks from their apartment on Park Avenue South. The first thing Weiner said when I sat down was that their 13-month-old son, Jordan, had just moments ago taken his first step. They were both giddy, kvelling with baby-pride, especially Weiner, who, with all his free time, has become his son’s primary caretaker. This is what life is like now for the man whose name is invariably followed in print by some version of “the disgraced former congressman who sent out a lewd picture of himself via Twitter.” He seems to spend much of his time within a five-block radius of his apartment: going to the park with Jordan; picking up his wife’s dry cleaning and doing the grocery shopping; eating at his brother Jason’s two restaurants in the neighborhood. This is what happens after a scandal: Ranks are closed and the world shrinks to a tiny dot. It is a life in retreat. And for a man who was known, pre-scandal, for his overweening ambition, his constant presence on cable news, his hard-charging schedule that verged on lunacy, well, it has been quite a change.

  Because of their careers, Weiner and Abedin are pros when it comes to small talk, chatting about the baby, their two cats and the pleasures of domestic life. But as the conversation shifted into why we were there, Weiner got serious and went into problem-solving mode; Abedin, while still cheerful and talkative, started to look a little nervous. As Abedin pointed out to me later, she has a tendency toward pessimism. “Anthony,” she said, “is a glass-half-full person. He doesn’t dwell. He’s not negative.”

They present as two people who have painstakingly pieced their private life back together: they cook dinner and watch TV and have friends and family over to their spacious prewar apartment for special occasions.

They seem to be functioning again as a couple, even unselfconsciously bickering in front of the waiter. But what they do not yet have a handle on is their public life. Before he resigned from Congress, Weiner was leading in early polls as a candidate for mayor of New York, and almost immediately after the scandal, there was speculation about whether he could make a comeback. Could anyone survive such an ignominious end to a Congressional career? Much less someone whose attack-dog tendencies made him so many enemies?

The two of them had seemed to be a power couple on the cusp of a Clintonian rise. Now what?

When they appeared in People magazine last summer, it looked like a toe-dipping of sorts. (The couple say that it was entirely for the purpose of getting a picture of Jordan published so it would no longer have value and the paparazzi would stop camping out on their corner.) But there were other reports that suggested they were testing the waters for a return to politics: Last July, The New York Post reported that Weiner was weighing a run in 2013, because after that his public matching funds would expire. In January, The New York Daily News reported that Weiner’s name was among the candidates voters were asked about in a poll of a five-way mayoral primary. And The New York Post reported that pollsters had asked voters about a run for comptroller, pitting Weiner against the Manhattan Borough president, Scott Stringer.

At breakfast, Weiner quickly put all the speculation to rest: he is eyeing the mayor’s race. He told me that his political committee spent more than $100,000 on polling and research by Obama’s longtime pollster, David Binder (a detail that would be made public — and prompt a flurry of news reports — in mid-March when a spending report was filed with the city’s Campaign Finance Board). The focus of the poll, Binder says, was the question “Are voters willing to give him a second chance or not, regardless of what race or what contest?” And the answer? “There was this sense of ‘Yeah, he made a mistake. Let’s give him a second chance. But there are conditions on that, and there are a couple of things we’re going to want to know: What have you been doing since this incident occurred? Did you learn anything from this mistake? How did you deal with it?’ They want to know that they’ve put it behind them.”

By agreeing to be interviewed, Weiner and Abedin would seem to be trying to give voters what they want — and gauge public reaction. But it’s clear that the idea of talking about the scandal and its aftermath appeals to them on a personal level too. “We have been in a defensive crouch for so long,” Weiner said. “We are ready to clear the decks on this thing.” Their lives have become too small, too circumscribed, too claustrophobic for a couple accustomed to public life. They haven’t been to a major event together — no White House Correspondents Dinner, no red-carpet events — in nearly two years. “We didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable,” Abedin said, “but also, we just didn’t want to deal with it. I have now gotten used to people asking, over and over again, ‘How is Anthony?’ Oh, he’s good! ‘But how is he doing?’ He’s doing fine.”

Weiner and Abedin have realized, it seems, that the only way out is through. So they have agreed to talk — and talk and talk — for the first time about what happened and why and what it looks like from the inside when your world comes crashing down because of, as Weiner puts it, “one fateful Tweet.”

The story of how Weiner and Abedin became a couple is more interesting than most “how did you guys meet?” conversation starters, partly because nearly a decade passed between their first date, if you can call it that, and their wedding, and partly because of the high-profile supporting cast. Weiner was elected to Congress in 1998, but it wasn’t until Hillary Rodham Clinton became a senator from New York in 2001 that he began bumping into Abedin, who was working as Clinton’s senior adviser. “I started seeing her around,” Weiner says, “and I was like, ‘Wow, who is that?’ And I was not the only one. It’s not like she’s this lightweight beautiful person in fancy outfits. She’s like this intriguing, fascinating creature.”

Abedin was born in Kalamazoo, Mich., raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, went to a British girls’ school and had traveled more before she was a teenager than most people will in a lifetime. She was sophisticated and glamorous and had worked with Hillary Clinton since she was 21, when she started as a White House intern while attending George Washington University. As Weiner himself puts it: “She is the most competent, graceful person I’ve met in all my years in politics. . . . And she’s the hatchet woman! The person at the side of the principal is usually the bad guy.”

At a Democratic National Committee retreat on Martha’s Vineyard in August 2001, Weiner asked Abedin if she wanted to go out for a drink. She told him she had to work. Weiner turned to Clinton and said: “I asked Huma out for a drink, and she says she has to work. Can you give her the night off?” With Abedin now behind Weiner, waving her arms and shaking her head “no” to try to get her boss’s attention, Clinton, forever the Midwesterner, said, “Of course all you young people should go out!” Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the D.N.C., who was watching the scene unfold, said: “Huma Weiner! Oh, my gosh! That’s so funny.” Abedin was mortified.

“So, we went out for a drink,” Weiner says, “which is when I found out she doesn’t drink, and she orders tea and excuses herself to go to the ladies’ room, and when she gets up, this cabal of four or five of her friends come over to the table and say: ‘Stay away. She wants no part of you.’ And this part of the story Huma disputes, but it’s true. She never came back. She ditched me.” (She claims that it took her awhile to get back to the table because she kept bumping into people she knew, and by the time she did, he was gone.)

Over the next six years, they ran into each other regularly. “We’d show up at some pancake breakfast on a Sunday,” Abedin says, “and Hillary would be going up to the podium, and Anthony would be walking offstage.” Here, she imitates him in shtick mode: “ ‘I warmed ’em up for you, Hillary. They’re all set, teed up to go!’ Hillary would always laugh, and I would think, My God, he’s such a jerk.”

But the ice began to thaw after George W. Bush’s State of the Union address in 2007, when Weiner found himself sitting next to Clinton and serving as a buffer between her and her new political rival, Barack Obama. Abedin texted Weiner: “I appreciate you looking out for my boss.” They went out for coffee after that and realized they were very much the same. “We both lived these very intense professional lives, both married to our jobs,” Abedin says. “And he got it.” The relationship turned romantic in 2008, during Clinton’s presidential campaign. “By the time Iowa came around,” Abedin says, “we were more than just friends.” At a stop in Puerto Rico, an A.P. reporter asked Weiner why he was spending so much time campaigning for Hillary. “It’s largely because I’m dating Huma,” he said, and the news was out.

By the spring of 2011, Abedin was newly married, pregnant (a secret only her family knew) and traveling frequently as deputy chief of staff for Clinton, who had become secretary of state. “Deputy chief of staff to the secretary of state — especially when that secretary is Hillary Clinton — is a big deal,” Abedin’s colleague, Philippe Reines, says. “It’s a huge portfolio. This ‘body woman’ crap is so 10 years ago.” Reines says Abedin played an important role in developing a good relationship between Clinton’s State Department and Obama’s White House — no small thing given the fierce competition between the two teams during the campaign. “That didn’t just happen,” he says. “It required everyone giving everyone else the benefit of the doubt.”

The job was all-consuming. Abedin told me a story about how her nieces and nephews made a video for her for Mother’s Day last year, portraying her as always half-engaged or absent because of work. Abedin was in tears. “Anthony was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ And I said, ‘All they think I do is work!’ The entire movie was: ‘Aunt Huma, Aunt Huma, Jordan’s walking!’ ‘Oh, I’m on a conference call. I have to go on this trip.’

. . . I didn’t even process how much what I did dictated my personal life.”

At the end of May in 2011, Clinton joined President Obama for an official trip to London, ending with a state dinner at Buckingham Palace. “And for some unbelievable reason,” Abedin says, “the White House included me not only in staying at the palace but also in the dinner with the queen. . . . I remember sitting in this spectacular room in the palace at my little desk, writing a note to Anthony saying, ‘I cannot believe what an amazingly blessed life that we live, these incredible experiences we’ve both had.’ ” She went on to Pakistan and then Washington, where they landed very late. “The next morning he had left me a message: ‘My Twitter was hacked. When are you going to be here?’ ”

On Friday night, May 27, a photograph of a man’s torso wearing gray boxer briefs and an obvious erection appeared on Weiner’s official Twitter account. It was a smartphone shot that Weiner meant to send privately to a 21-year-old college student in Seattle, but instead accidentally Tweeted to all 45,000 of his followers. “I knew it was bad,” Weiner says. “Huma was coming back from overseas, and I called her and left her a message. . . . I lied to her. The lies to everyone else were primarily because I wanted to keep it from her.”

Over the next few days, Weiner was besieged by reporters demanding to know if the picture was of him — and if not, if his Facebook and Twitter accounts had really been hacked, why he hadn’t called for an investigation. At a news conference, he came across as defensive, calling one of the reporters a “jackass.”

“I’ve never been on Twitter,” Abedin says. “I couldn’t tell you the first thing about how it works. And Anthony had told me in the past that there were these sort of trolls on the Internet who were trying to damage him, take him down. And so, that’s the mind-set I came with to this conversation.” It wasn’t such an implausible theory; after all, it was the not entirely reputable right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart who broke the story. “Anthony was Anthony,” Abedin says. “Confident! Determined! Defensive! I was right there with him: ‘Let’s fight! Defend! I don’t understand. Why don’t you just say this is not your picture?’ I was with him. One hundred percent.”

But every day, more questions were being raised, more reporters were calling. Weiner’s dissembling began to take on an air of desperation as reports surfaced that there were transcripts of sexually explicit exchanges with another woman. “And all the while we have this secret that I’m pregnant,” Abedin says. “Going to doctors’ appointments, finding out if the baby is O.K. I was also sleeping a lot. I was falling asleep at 6 o’clock at night on the sofa.”

By June 1, when Weiner said, “I can’t say with certitude” if the picture was of him, it was clear, at least to most of the world, that he was guilty of something. That weekend, Weiner and Abedin escaped to a friend’s house in the Hamptons to get away from all the “hoopla,” as Weiner calls it, “and that’s when people starting coming out of the woodwork. I got a call from Chris Cuomo saying that they had someone who was going to say that I texted with her. It reached this point where I just sat down with Huma and said, ‘Listen, I can’t. . . . I don’t want to lie.’ . . . I just didn’t want to lie anymore to her.” Here, his voice cracks and tears well up in his eyes. “I have a choppy memory of it, but she was devastated. She immediately said, ‘Well you’ve got to stop lying to everyone else too.’ And basically we drove back to the city, and she said: ‘You’ve just got to tell everyone the truth. Telling me doesn’t help any.’ It was brutal. It was completely out of control. There was the crime, there was the cover-up, there was harm I had done to her. And there’s no one who deserved this less than Huma. That’s really the bottom line. No one deserved to have a dope like me do that less than she did.”

Abedin’s memory of this moment is a little sharper. “The weekend was over, we’re about to leave, the car is packed, and Anthony said: ‘I have something to tell you. I can’t lie to you anymore. It’s true. It’s me. The picture is me. I sent it. Yes, these stories about the other women are true.’ And it was every emotion that one would imagine: rage and anger and shock. But more than anything else, in the immediate, it was disbelief. The thing that I consciously remember saying over and over and over again is: ‘I don’t understand. What is going on? What’s happening to our lives?’ ”

At a hastily arranged news conference in New York on Monday, Weiner tearfully admitted that he “engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and occasionally on the phone” and exchanged “messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years,” essentially the entire length of his relationship with Abedin, but that he had never met any of the women in person. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” Abedin says. “I felt like I was in an airplane really high in the air, and all of a sudden, the plane is coming apart at the seams, and I am just doing all I can to hang on for dear life. That is what it felt like.”

Two days later, Abedin boarded Clinton’s plane for a weeklong trip to Africa, with a stop in the United Arab Emirates. “My compass was my job,” she says. “It was where I could go and life was normal — nothing horrible had happened there.” As she was sitting on the plane, across from her colleagues, Reines and Jake Sullivan, two of Clinton’s aides, her phone rang. It was someone from the White House saying, “We are here for you, and we love you.” Abedin, who had been worried about embarrassing her friends in the administration, finally broke down and sobbed. With tears streaming down her face, she turned to Reines and Sullivan and began talking about some issue that was on the Africa agenda. “They just totally went with it and got down to work. There was no attention paid to my tears. And I was like, ‘Thank you for just responding like that.’ ”

When they arrived at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, told Abedin to go directly to her room. Mills had helped arrange to fly in Abedin’s mother and older brother, who live in Jeddah, and they were waiting upstairs. “One of the things that I remember about that night is that there was a lot of very, very painful silence. But just being in the room together, just knowing that they trusted I would make the right decisions, the right choice for myself and my baby. . . . And ultimately they wanted to make sure that I was going to have a husband who was going to be good to me, a man who would be good to my mom’s grandchild. ‘We’re just here, we love you, how do we make you better?’ And I will never forget that.”

During a previous trip that Clinton and Abedin made to Saudi Arabia, Abedin’s mother, Saleha Mahmood Abedin, vice president of Dar Al-Hekma University, said to Clinton: “Hillary, you have spent more time with my daughter than I have in the past 15 years. I’m jealous of you!” Clinton is a mother figure to Huma, and there is little doubt that the two of them had a heart-to-heart on one of those many long flights during the trip.

Weiner himself pointed out the similarities between their experiences of betrayal. “If you read Hillary’s biography of the time,” he says, “she speaks pretty frankly about believing that there were people out to get her husband — ‘I believe him, I’m going to stand in there, I’m going to tell friends that it’s bull’ — and the way she felt when she found out the truth.”

When I ask Abedin if Clinton guided her through those first terrible days, she says: “We’ve had a lot of personal conversations, none of which I feel comfortable talking about. But what I will say about her, and for that matter her entire family, the unconditional love and support they have given me has been a real gift. And I think she would be O.K. with me saying this, because I know she has said this before: at the end of the day, at the very least, every woman should have the ability and the confidence and the choice to make whatever decisions she wants to make that are right for her and not be judged by it.”

Meanwhile, back in New York City, Weiner was determined to put his head down and get back to work, but that was made more difficult by the fact that Congress was not in session. “So there wasn’t any real place for me to go,” he says. “I had, and this is not exaggeration, 20 television cameras outside my little co-op in Forest Hills.”

He tried not to read the headlines, which were full of puns on his name. Everyone, it seemed, loved a Weiner joke. Even Jon Stewart, a friend of Weiner’s since the late ’80s, did not hold back. “I may have been impeached by some sort of comedy board if I hadn’t made all those Weiner jokes,” he says. When I ask Stewart if, knowing Weiner for so long, the scandal surprised him, he said: “It did, in that you never expect the person you know to be the guy on TV in the middle of the quagmire, but it didn’t surprise me in that we’re all human. So it’s not like, ‘My God, I can’t believe the depravity!’ First of all, in terms of these types of scandals, the depravity was on a very low scale.”

It was a sex scandal without any actual sex — more creepy than anything else. But it was hard for people to get their heads around: an affair is one thing, but sending crotch pictures to a virtual stranger? Mike Capuano, a congressman from Massachusetts and Weiner’s roommate in Washington for many years, spoke for a lot of people when he told me, “He obviously did something incredibly stupid that, honestly, I still don’t understand.”

Then there was the fact that Weiner didn’t own up to the behavior even after he was caught. Barney Frank, a former congressman who survived a sex scandal of his own 25 years ago by immediately telling the truth, says that was Weiner’s biggest mistake. “The instinct is: don’t tell anybody anything other than what they already know for sure,” Frank says. “Well, the problem with that is, if you are caught not being open and honest, you make the press into enemies. They have a vested interest — a legitimate one — in almost destroying you.”

Weiner fielded a lot of calls from friends and colleagues, many of them offering advice. One prominent state politician called to confess that he was a sex addict and urged Weiner to join his support group. Another call was from Stewart. “We create a two-dimensional effigy of an individual and just kind of burn it in the town square and then walk away,” Stewart says. “As someone who is part of the process that does that to people, when I talked to him, it was more from that perspective than anything else, to say: ‘As low as you are, please understand that what’s happening to you right now isn’t really happening to you, it’s happening to whatever caricature we’ve all created of you. You have your own responsibility in this, but it’s not to us. I know it’s hard to separate yourself from that, but I hope you can at some level.’ ”

At the time, Weiner couldn’t believe the size of the media maelstrom, but now he sees all the factors that contributed to it: “My last name; the fact that I was this combative congressman; the fact that there were pictures involved; the fact that it was a slow news period; the fact that I was an idiot about it; the fact that, while I was still lying about it, I dug myself in deeper by getting beefy with every reporter. But it was also this notion of how much attention our relationship had gotten, this kind of Camelot feel to it. It turned out to make it harder on both of us, and it made the explosion that much bigger.”

Abedin returned on June 15. “She sneaks to meet me in the trunk of her friend’s car,” Weiner says. “Then we go away to another friend’s house in the Hamptons, just the two of us, trying to figure out if we can save our marriage and what we’re going to do and everything else. First, there was the decision to resign. Huma didn’t really want me to, frankly. But I just had to cull that part of the conversation out of our lives and focus on my marriage, my family, her family. I just didn’t have any bandwidth. My career seemed the least important of all of those other things. That wasn’t easy for Huma. Her frame was: We’ve gotta get back to normal somehow.” But he had made up his mind. The next day, while Abedin stayed behind in their apartment in Queens, Weiner held a chaotic four-minute news conference at a senior center in his district, at which hecklers nearly shouted him out of the room, one yelling, “Goodbye, pervert!”

At the apartment on 20th and Park that Weiner and Abedin rented not long after the scandal, Jordan, sick with a cold, was asleep in his nursery. Weiner’s mother was also there, helping out with the baby. On this day in February, Abedin was in Washington, setting up the transition office for Clinton as she pivoted, at least temporarily, into private citizenship. But since leaving the State Department, Abedin often works from home alongside her husband, which is a great deal more togetherness than they are used to.

“Anthony and I had not spent more than 10 consecutive days together until I was pregnant and we went to Italy and France for two weeks,” she told me. “That was the longest period of time we’d ever spent together. Later, when we thought about it, we didn’t realize that so much of our lives were kind of these snippets of, we see each other for a few days and then are separated.”

Weiner said this period has been a respite for both of them. “Whatever Hillary does next, who knows how long it’s going to last, and whatever I do next. . . .” He trailed off. “We kind of have the feeling that we’re on this reprieve. It’s calm. Let’s enjoy it while we can.”

We headed down the hall to the office that he shares with his wife. He closed the door, and I asked if he was prepared to tell me how this all started. “The story of the scandal?” he said. The original behavior, I said. He paused for a long time and then started in.

“Part of the challenge of getting to the bottom of it for me,” he said, “is that I viewed it as so frivolous that it didn’t spark a lot of, like, ‘O.K., I started doing it on this day’ or ‘O.K., now I’m crossing a Rubicon.’ For a thoughtful person, it’s remarkable how little thought I really gave to it until it was too late. But I think a lot of it came down to: I was in a world and a profession that had me wanting people’s approval. 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. Twitter and Facebook allowed for me — not only could I go to a town-hall meeting or a senior center or in front of the TV camera, but now I could sit and hear what people were saying all around. Search your name on Google, begat read comments on your Facebook page, begat looking at what people are saying about you on Twitter, to then trying to engage them. ‘Oh, you should like me!’ ‘No, that’s wrong!’ or ‘Thank you very much!’ And it just started to blur into this desire to engage in it all the time. Someone stops me in the airport and says, ‘Wow, you’re amazing.’ Well, O.K., now, at 2 o’clock in the morning, I can come home from playing hockey and I can find someone saying, ‘Oh, that was great’ or ‘You’re an idiot.’ So somewhere in there it got to a place where I was trying to engage people in nothing about being a politician. Or sometimes it would start out about politics and then, ‘You’re a great guy.’ ‘Oh, thanks, you’re great, too.’ ‘I think you’re handsome.’

‘Oh, that’s great.’ And 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. I think it would be pretty surprising to a lot of people: What was he thinking?” He scrunched up his face and shoulders. “I wasn’t really thinking. What does this mean that I’m doing this? Is this risky behavior? Is this smart behavior? To me, it was just another way to feed this notion that I want to be liked and admired.”

I asked whether he ever worried that it was going to come out.

“Well, I would stop, or say I was going to stop, talking to someone. Or not be responsive because I’d gone on to other things or whatever. And someone would get upset. One of these people would say, ‘You’re not paying enough attention to me’ or ‘What’s going on with our relationship?’ And, I would then maybe play out, you know, if they told someone else that I was not paying attention to them anymore. . . . But I would also think, Well, they’re my friends. We got into this conversation with one another because they cared, they were my fans, they would never do anything.” He took a deep breath and sank into his chair and stared at the table. “It wasn’t until after the train had run me over that I really understood that playing on those tracks was going to be problematic. I just had this disconnect.” Here, he began to seem agitated — frustrated by his inability to adequately explain his behavior. “Is it that I had this exaggerated notion of ‘No one will believe it?’ Or, since I didn’t think I was doing anything that was all that serious in my mind, that the world wouldn’t see it as being all that serious?” Finally, he said: “I knew when I did it, almost from the moment I did it, there was no good way for it to end. When I sent that fateful tweet.”

I startled myself that day when, after two hours of listening while he unburdened himself, I heard these words come out of my mouth: “Maybe we should stop there for now.” Never has an interview felt so much like a therapy session. Perhaps this was because Weiner started seeing a therapist almost immediately after the scandal broke.

“Just because I had to do something to be able to deal with it,” he said. “But also, I went from not really thinking through very much to having everything just blow up in such a monumental way, that you’d have to be really blind to not realize there must be some things that I need to resolve here and understand a little better. Therapy wasn’t something that came naturally to me. I am this middle-class guy from Brooklyn, the men in our family don’t hug each other, we don’t talk about our feelings. It wasn’t a comfortable place to be.

And now I start sentences with, ‘My therapist says. . . .’ ”

What does your therapist say? I asked the next time we met.

“It’s none of the easy stuff. She didn’t tell me: ‘You have a sex addiction! You were abused as a child!’ None of that stuff, which in a lot of ways, I’d kind of prefer.” He laughed. “It’s an easy explanation that people intuitively get.” He talked a bit about how he didn’t like being alone, had a hard time being “still,” didn’t like “being in empty spaces.” And then he said: “It’s clear it wasn’t because I didn’t love Huma. It wasn’t because there’s anything about my relationship with Huma that was missing that I was looking for elsewhere. Even that would be pat, kind of understandable on some level.” Then he went back to the idea that Twitter and its ilk provided such easy access to the feedback loop. “You know, like spin the wheel!

Find someone to say something to you! And if it wasn’t 2011 and it didn’t exist, it’s not like I would have gone out cruising bars or something like that. It was just something that technology made possible and it became possible for me to do stupid things. I mean, the thing I did, and the damage that I did, not only hadn’t it been done before, but it wasn’t possible to do it before.”

Naturally, being in therapy has also forced him to do a lot of thinking about his family. Here are the salient facts about the Weiners: His mother, Fran, is a retired math teacher with a master’s in finance who grew up in East Flatbush; his father, Mort, grew up in Coney Island, went to law school on the G.I. Bill and opened a small practice in Manhattan. “Pretty intense guy,” Weiner says of his father. They had three boys: Seth, Anthony and Jason. Seth was brilliant and rebellious. He struggled with alcohol and drugs and died at 39 when he was hit by car while crossing the street.

Mort and Fran divorced not long after Anthony went to college. “Not a lot of gratuitous hugging in our family. My father’s expression of love was entirely through solving problems for us. Doesn’t take a genius to figure how I went into politics to be a problem solver and wasn’t particularly good with the emotional side of things,” Weiner said. “This fix of having an emotional back and forth on the Internet at 2 a.m. seemed, to me, like getting something that I didn’t really have a lot of, and it was easy and it never really got in. It bounced off.” And that was as far as he would go on the record about his father — the only subject on which he went off the record at all.

Sometimes it takes a participant-observer to explain a family’s unique dynamic. Jason’s wife, Almond Zigmund, has known the Weiners for more than 20 years. About the scandal, she says: “I felt like there was something there that spoke about an inability to talk out loud, and the way that his family functioned had fostered that to some degree. And I would specifically link it all to the death of their brother and how in the aftermath of that, it didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of collective grieving or recognition of what went on.

When you suppress something, it eventually starts to come out in weird ways. You look for outlets, and maybe it comes out distorted and sideways.”

How Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin stayed together through Weinergate is, like most negotiations between couples, deeply complicated and in some ways unknowable. “If there’s anyone who’s genetically predisposed to be able to sustain the onslaught that came from without, it’s these two,” Jason Weiner says. “Part of it is their background. They’re both political animals, let’s face it, and they can both move past the personal and be able to filter it. She was in the Clinton White House, and if there’s anyone who saw what it means to be the subject of an onslaught, be under fire, it’s her. And the two of them together have been able to survive, maybe even thrive.”

The day I finally sat down alone with Abedin, in a quiet, empty hotel bar near their apartment, she was nervous about discussing the “whole episode.” We talked for nearly an hour before I finally, awkwardly, brought it up. “Do you want me to start from when the story broke?” she said, “or when he told me?” She stared as I hesitated, and she said, “You’re like: ‘Whatever. I wasn’t there.’ ” She laughed and then shot me a look. “I wasn’t there, either.”

But despite the occasional flash of anger or lingering disbelief, she told me that she had forgiven him. When I asked how long it took for her to think she might be able to get over what her husband did, she said, “That’s a really good question,” and then took a minute. “At the time, we were very early in our marriage, but it was an old friendship. He was my best friend. In addition to that, I loved him. There was a deep love there, but it was coupled with a tremendous feeling of betrayal. It took a lot of work, both mentally and in the way we engage with each other, for me to get to a place where I said: ‘O.K., I’m in. I’m staying in this marriage.’

Here was a man I respected, I loved, was the father of this child inside of me, and he was asking me for a second chance. And I’m not going to say that was an easy or fast decision that I made. It’s been almost two years now. I did spend a lot of time saying and thinking: ‘I. Don’t. Understand.’ And it took a long time to be able to sit on a couch next to Anthony and say, ‘O.K., I understand and I forgive.’ It was the right choice for me. I didn’t make it lightly.”

I met Weiner for dinner alone one night at one of his brother’s restaurants, L&W Oyster Co. After dinner was over and the plates were cleared, he wanted to keep talking, so he ordered an enormous root-beer float and slowly consumed the whole thing. “I love Huma a great deal,” he said. “I live with a lot of guilt about what I put her through. She’s this amazing woman who did nothing wrong, who, to some degree, has people staring at her now on the subway because of what an idiot her husband was. And I feel bad about that. A lot.

“But in the confines of our home and our relationship and our parenting this child and our love for each other — she said she wanted to get through it, she wanted not to conflate the giant international news story with the two people who were involved in it. And a lot of women couldn’t do that. And Jordan has given us a lot of perspective. We have to deal with this a lot. It’s not behind us. It kind of bubbles around and comes up in different ways. But she’s, um. . . .” Here, he paused and took a deep breath and started to cry. “She’s given.

. . .” He stopped again, could barely get the words out. “She’s given me another chance. And I am very grateful for that. And I’m trying to make sure I get it right.”

As he was composing himself, I looked around and could see people at nearby tables trying to look as if they were not staring. When I asked Weiner about how he is treated around New York City, he perked up. “Three or four people came up to me on the subway today and said nice things to me,” he said. “It’s an axiom of politics that people are nice to you to your face. So, even now, people are remarkably nice to me.”

What kind of things do people say to you? “It’s a bit of a trip,” he said, and laughed. “Put it this way: it’s hard to forget even for a moment that you have become a figure of fascination. Like, you know, I don’t travel too far without someone turning around and looking or taking a picture of me or coming up to say hello or whispering to their buddy. When it gets into more than that, it’s one of the following: 1) ‘Oh, you should run.’ 2) ‘Man, you got screwed.’ 3) ‘Aw, I’m so sorry what happened to you.’ 4) ‘Spitzer! You’re Governor Spitzer!’ ”

While there certainly was a lot of strategic thinking in deciding to tell their story six months before the mayoral primary, there didn’t seem to be a lot of strategy to how they told it. Weiner says he decided to wing it in our interviews. “I’ll probably get into trouble for stuff that I’ll say in this piece, but I’m just at kind of a different place with that way of looking at stuff. It just doesn’t feel comfortable anymore. And I think as a result, if I ever go back to doing politics again, I don’t think I’ll be as good at it. Either that or I’ll be” — he starts laughing — “this crazy new kind of politician. It’s somewhere between Chauncey Gardiner and Bulworth. ‘He said what? Oh, that must be some brilliant strategy!’ ‘No! It’s the other way around!’ ” He laughs. “I don’t remember some of the skill to, like, be that guy.”

That guy was a bit high-strung anyway. Weiner’s most famous pre-scandal moment was in July 2010, when he went berserk on the floor of the House because a Republican colleague, Peter King, was, he believed, trying to scuttle that day’s vote on the 9/11 health and compensation act. It was a minute and 40 seconds of such poisonous rage that it’s actually frightening to watch, even if the message itself was admirable. “You know what, he can act like a jerk,” Almond Zigmund, his sister-in-law, says. “But that’s one of the things that I respect him for.”

But nearly everyone who cares about Weiner says that pugilistic political persona long ago bled into his personal life and made him “hard to take,” as his brother Jason puts it. “I wouldn’t stand for other people saying this about him, but there was definitely a douchiness about him that I just don’t really see anymore.”

His family agrees that the post-scandal Weiner, the diaper-changing Weiner, is far more likable. “No one has been harder on him than he has been on himself,” Jason says. “I find that refreshing, because he was always — in his political career, and it was sort of overflowing into his personal life — this completely decisive, ‘this is the right thing because this is what I’m doing.’ It’s like this circular reasoning that was kind of hubristic. He doesn’t have that anymore. The irony is that it could make him a better politician.”

One afternoon in March, I met Weiner at Almond, another of his brother’s restaurants. He came bounding in, announced that he was starving and ordered escargot and a cheeseburger. He seemed to be in a particularly good mood, going on unbidden about how so many of his acquaintances couldn’t quite get their minds around the new Weiner. “Some people just don’t buy it,” he said. “Like they just don’t have room for a second narrative about me.” And then he said: “We have this notion of intimacy with politicians because they’re always looking for ways to tell you what they have figured out you want to hear. But you don’t know people, and you don’t know what’s going on in their lives. So you rarely ever get a really fulsome look at any politician.”

I asked about the political ambitions of the new Weiner.

“I don’t have this burning, overriding desire to go out and run for office,” he said. “It’s not the single animating force in my life as it was for quite some time. But I do recognize, to some degree, it’s now or maybe never for me, in terms of running for something. I’m trying to gauge not only what’s right and what feels comfortable right this second, but I’m also thinking, How will I feel in a year or two years or five years?

Is this the time that I should be doing it? And then there’s the other side of the coin, which is . . . am I still the same person who I thought would make a good mayor?”

He took a giant bite of his cheeseburger.

“Also, I want to ask people to give me a second chance. I do want to have that conversation with people whom I let down and with people who put their faith in me and who wanted to support me. I think to some degree I do want to say to them, ‘Give me another chance.’ ”

How would he ultimately decide whether to run?

He pondered the question for an uncomfortably long time. “I don’t know,” he said. “It won’t be something as pedestrian as ‘Do I think I’ll win?’ It will be something more like ‘Does it feel like I should be involved in this debate? Someone should be out there saying A, B or C.’ ”

About the current field, he said cautiously: “I know them all. I like them all.” Then he took a tiny jab at the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, for supporting Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to extend term limits. “The term-limits thing, as an issue, was a deal breaker for me. But, I think the polls are right: Chris Quinn is leading, and then someone will get into a runoff with her. I don’t like runoffs, and I don’t think we should have them so you don’t have these divisive primaries anymore.”

When I asked what he took away from the polling by David Binder (the full results of which he declined to share with The Times), he said: “People are generally prepared to get over it, but they don’t know if they’re prepared to vote for me. And there’s a healthy number of people who will never get over it. . . . It’s a little complicated because I always attracted a fairly substantial amount of people who didn’t like me anyway.” He laughed. “I am a bit of a polarizing case.”

As for his actual odds? “David said I’d be the underdog in any race I ran.”

And that’s pretty much the conventional wisdom among people who watch city politics. “Sure, voters can get past his scandal,” says one political adviser not connected to any of the candidates. “But why do they have to? There are four established candidates. Who are the voters who say, ‘I need Anthony Weiner back?’ ” Over the last several months, Weiner has talked informally to a number of people in the political world, many of whom have suggested to him that the mayor’s race is unwinnable and he should instead consider running for a lower-profile race like comptroller or public advocate. But Weiner has privately dismissed at least public advocate. (As the political adviser says: “You run for mayor and you lose, you can possibly run again. You run for public advocate and lose, you’re dead.”) When I asked him by e-mail if he would ever seriously consider running for another municipal office as a steppingstone to the mayor’s race, he answered: “Maybe. I’m definitely not making eight-year bank-shot plans.”

The question is why Weiner is so eager to enter a race that seems so tough for him to win. There is the matter of the $4.3 million in the Anthony Weiner for Mayor war chest (plus about $1.5 million in public matching funds if he runs in 2013), which would make him one of the better-financed candidates in the race.

But there may be reasons to run that have nothing to do with his chances. “Is this about winning?” asks the political adviser. “Or is this an attempt to get the scandal off the books? Then the next time he runs for something, he can say: ‘You know what? We talked about that last time. Aren’t we beyond that?’ If so, it’s not a crazy strategy. Because when you’re running in a race you know you’re going to lose, you get to say all the positive things you want about yourself and take the brunt of the jokes this round and then figure out your real move after that. But that takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to do.”

Another political operative echoes this way of thinking about the race: “I have no idea if he will run. But if he does, the reasoning might be: I don’t want that to be the last word of my public career; I don’t want that to be the thing that my son reads about me, as the end of my career. He’s looking for redemption.”

Weiner shoved the last bite of burger into his mouth. “I’m really trying hard to let things come to me a little bit more and be less about leaning in to every element of my life,” he said. “And I think I’m a better person for that reason. It allows thoughts to breathe a little bit more. But, you know, it will be December, and I’ll be like: ‘O.K., I’m going to run! What the hell!’ ”

What do his friends and family say?

“My brother’s like, ‘Dude, you’d be great if you ran, you’d be a great mayor or something, but don’t do it if it’s going to screw you up again.’ ”

A couple of weeks later, the news broke that Weiner spent $100,000 on polling. The reporting was surprisingly straightforward and dredged up nary a detail of the scandal. The next day I e-mailed Weiner to ask what he thought of the coverage.

“It’s getting less snarky,” he wrote. “Interesting that none of the B-roll was scandal footage.” Huma, he said, is starting to think he should run.

Jonathan Van Meter is a contributing editor at Vogue and New York magazine.

Editor: Lauren Kern

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 11, 2013
An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a fictional character to whom Anthony Weiner referred. It was Chauncey Gardiner, not Gardner. The article also described incorrectly Weiner’s reaction to a debate in the House of Representatives in July 2010 on the 9/11 health and compensation act. Weiner went berserk because he believed that Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, was trying to scuttle that day’s vote, not because King was trying to scuttle the act. King supported the act, which later passed.


Post a Comment

<< Home