The Democratic primary in New York City—to be held September 10—is less than a month away and the outrageously arrogant pair of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer continue to punch away. Weiner continuing his over-the-top behavior while Spitzer has been inundating the New York Metropolitan Area with television commercials.
Even in New York City, a town used to aggressive people, Weiner’s performance in recent times has been something else as he has tried desperately to deflect disclosures about his sending women naked photos of himself--particularly of his penis--and raunchy online messages using the name “Carlos Danger.” And this for more than a year after he resigned from Congress with a vow to deal with his serial sexting habit.
“I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out and today they have,” declared Weiner at an initial press conference somehow believing this would quell the new uproar over his behavior.
After a stay out of politics following his quitting Congress in 2011 because of disclosures then of his sexting, Weiner came back in full force this May announcing he was running for New York mayor. As he campaigned determinedly, he rose in the polls and became the front-runner--until the new sexting disclosures.
Meanwhile, Spitzer, who resigned suddenly as New York State’s governor in 2008 for what he termed “personal failings” after disclosures of his being a regular client of a high-priced prostitution ring, announced last month he was running for the Number 3 job in New York City government, comptroller.
Spending lavishly from his family’s fortune made in New York City real estate, Spitzer has gone to what has been his main campaign device through the decades—the slick and constantly repeated political TV commercial. And he has risen in the polls to being ahead of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
The kick-off TV commercial in the Spitzer media blitz had him declaring, “Look, I failed. Big time.” But, the spot went on, having been “sheriff of Wall Street” when he was New attorney general between 1999 and 2006 should entitle him with “a fair shot” to return to governmental office. Saturating New York airwaves currently is the Spitzer commercial that says “the people of this city are about to welcome back an old friend.” The headline about this in the New York Daily News: “Eliot Spitzer TV Ad Spins Disgraced Politician as an ‘Old Friend’ to New Yorkers.”
Weiner and Spitzer have become gags in New York City politics--indeed, punch lines on the national level.
Andy Borowitz’s humor blog on The New Yorker website about the initial press conference last month was titled “Weiner Continues Sexting During Apology.” It claimed--in jest, of course--that “Weiner stirred controversy today by continuing to send dirty texts throughout a press conference devoted to apologizing for his behavior. Mr. Weiner was halfway through his apology when reporters noticed him remove a phone from his pocket and aim its camera lens unmistakably in the direction of his pants. After seeing the candidate snap a photo of the pants region and then send a text, reporters bombarded Mr. Weiner with questions, asking him if he had in fact just sexted. ‘Yes, I did, but I swear this was the last time,’ he said. ‘This behavior is now behind me.’ Mr. Weiner then concluded his press conference by removing his shirt and snapping a quick shot of his naked torso.”
Serious issues about stability are, of course, being raised. Representative Jerry Nadler of Manhattan, a colleague of Weiner in Congress, said: “I think he should pull out of the race. I think he needs serious psychiatric help.”
Dan Janison in his Newsday column commented: “Politics is just one business, of course, where ruthlessness can be a character reference and hypocrisies are inevitable. But a prospective public servant’s ability to act sensibly also is worth considering.”
Gail Collins in her New York Times column wrote: “Nobody knows what drove Spitzer to jump in. Did Weiner’s entry trigger a case of disgraced-politician competiveness?”
And Frank Bruni in his New York Times column opined that Weiner was “angling for a gigantic promotion. In the narrative he’s constructed, his mortification has made him a new man, so we’re supposed to give him an extra measure of our trust and hand him the reigns of the most important and most complicated city in the country. I know we like our mayors brash, but we needn’t accept delusional in the bargain.”
As for Spitzer, Bruni skewered his record as governor charging—accurately--that he “was shaping up to be a self-righteous, self-defeating disaster of a governor.”
As governor for little over a year, starting in 2007, Spitzer proclaimed himself a “steamroller”--and in his dysfunction exhibited the sensitivity of such a machine.
On Long Island, where I live and have done investigative reporting for many years, a major issue when Spitzer was governor was what was seen as his support of a scheme to place in the Long Island Sound a floating facility the size of an ocean liner holding up to eight billion cubic feet of highly explosive liquefied gas. The governor of Connecticut, other officials and people there--and people and most officials on Long Island--strongly opposed this “Broadwater Energy” project of Shell Oil and Trans Canada Pipelines.
Under the federal regulatory process, the government of New York State, because the mammoth gas barge would be closest to it, could veto the scheme. As the state’s attorney general, Spitzer might have insisted Wall Street play straight, but as governor when it came to Broadwater he, according to my sources, was aggressively trying to undermine the negative positions of state agencies and give the state’s OK to Broadwater. The scandal which forced him out of office deprived Spitzer of that opportunity. His successor, David Paterson, who had been lieutenant governor, as a first action announced the state’s firm no to Broadwater, ending the scheme.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, commented about this demonstrating that “a unified public can take on big business and big money and win. It’s exhilarating to know that democracy is alive and well in America.” If Spitzer had remained governor, the outcome would have likely been different.
As for Weiner’s record in office, a spotlight in recent weeks has been on how in his 12 years in the House of Representatives he got only one bill passed.
The Weiner and Spitzer cases have somewhat combined, and Dr. Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College, states that “the two of them, in two different races, may have the effect of pulling each other down” by giving Republicans a chance to present Democrats as morally challenged.
Weiner’s travails and the outspoken support for him by his wife, Huma Abedin, long a top aide to Hillary Clinton, are also spilling over on Clinton running for president in 2016.
Further, Weiner in one campaign stop defended public officials doing sexting. It began with Peg Brunda, amid a throng of reporters and with cameras rolling on Staten Island, confronting Weiner and telling him that as a teacher and assistant principal in the New York City school system for 30 years, “if I conducted myself in the manner you conducted yours, my job would’ve been gone.” Weiner responded: “In the privacy of your home?” She replied: “In the privacy of my home.” And she declared: “I don’t quite understand how you would feel you would have the moral authority as the head administrator in the city to oversee employees when your standard of conduct is so much lower than the standard of conduct that’s expected of me.” Later, at a press conference, asked whether as mayor he would hire a schools chancellor or a police commissioner with his sort of sexting problem, Weiner said: “People have their personal lives. It is unconnected to their professional duties, of course. I’m not going to judge someone’s personal life.”
Also, Weiner extended his crude conduct to age at an AARP-Univision mayoral forum August 6 when, after Doe Fund founder George McDonald, 69, seeking the Republican nomination for mayor, said “I would appreciate if you would never touch me,” Weiner, 48, responded with: "What are you going to do about it, grandpa?"
There has been a history in the United States in recent years of scandal-scarred politicians being forgiven by the voters. President Bill Clinton managed to survive his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, beat impeachment and has now become an elder statesman of the Democratic Party. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford abruptly resigned in 2009 after he disappeared for a week and it was disclosed that he was in Argentina pursing an affair with a woman therebut he was elected to a seat in Congress earlier this year. In an article last month on this, The New York Times related that “all across the country” politicians “tainted by scandal, some of them seemingly mudded beyond saving,” have gone on to survive politically.
Still, can Weiner and Spitzer make it when their behavior, perhaps forgivable to some, is so combined with a lack of stability and an absence of sensibility--and crazy arrogance?
Amidst the Weiner mess, his campaign manager resigned, and Andy Borowitz, on The New Yorker website, followed this with: “One day after his campaign manager quit, the mayoral candidate Anthony D. Weiner named his penis to the post, telling reporters, ‘He was already making most of the major decisions, anyway.’ In announcing the new appointment, Mr. Weiner lavished praise upon his penis, calling him ‘a tough hombre’ who ‘cares about the struggles of ordinary, middle-class New Yorkers.’ After one reporter questioned the wisdom of naming his penis to such an important role in the campaign, Mr. Weiner dismissed that concern, saying, ‘Look, he’s gotten me this far.’ While Mr. Weiner’s decision to give the top job to his controversial appendage raised eyebrows among political observers, insiders said the move merely reflected his headline-grabbing member’s already prominent role in the campaign.”