Trickery from Weiner's First Race: Early Signs of Bad Judgment?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) admits to sending a lewd Twitter photo of himself to a woman and then lying about it during a press conference at the Sheraton Hotel in New York City on June 6, 2011. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), at a press conference in New York on Monday, admits to sending a lewd photo of himself to a woman over Twitter and then lying about it. (Andrew Burton/Getty)

How could it be? How could savvy, ambitious Anthony Weiner, the Congressman many thought would be New York City's next mayor, show such a lapse in judgment? His sexually tinged online exchanges with women, and repeated lies about them, did not mesh any which way with his reputation as a bright and brash politician with a big future.


Or so it seemed. But Weiner has shown poor judgment before, judgment that, as in this incident, goes to a question of character.

In 1991, in his first run for office, for City Council, anonymous flyers that played the race card circulated in Weiner's district near the end of the primary campaign. They accused one of his opponents, Adele Cohen, of being the captive of an allegedly sinister David Dinkins-Jesse Jackson agenda. Those flyers appeared in largely Jewish sections of the Brooklyn district, of course. (And weeks after the explosive Crown Heights riot strained tensions between the Jewish and Black communities).

Just like this time, Weiner only admitted he was behind the anonymous dirty trick once it was no longer possible to deny it. And, also like this time, he apologized profusely.

I remember the incident well because I was a member of The New York Timess editorial board then, responsible for local endorsements. We had already endorsed Weiner and were furious about what he had done. My editors and colleagues contemplated withdrawing the endorsement, but in the end gave him the benefit of the doubt because of his youth - he was 27 - and because he was a fledgling candidate. So we ran a sharp editorial deploring his tactics, but did not change the endorsement.

I well recall speaking to him at the time about getting his side of the story. There was no other side. It was wrong, he told me, he should not have done it, he was so sorry. You'll win, I told him. But you know, Mr. Weiner, you will not have won the right way. And I, for one, won't forget this. I never did.

If you cover politics, you learn that character counts more than any other factor - and character never really changes, not even in a span of 20 years.


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Comments [7]

RJ from Prospect Hts

I find this way more outrageous and troubling than the recent Twitter nonsense. This is a distortion of the electoral process and a vile racism that cruelly plays on the fears of his constituents.

However, this is history. Not to be forgotten, and perhaps this recent episode should be better used to prick (unintended pun) his ego. The Twitter controversy is ridiculous. Instead of jumping on the populism of puritanism, the federal Dems should hire an outside investigator to see if *public and/or official* ethics or legal rules have been violated. If not, AW should go door-to-door in his district, and hold as many public meetings as possible, and let his constituents yell at him. He may also ask how many have not had a sexual fantasy that they've played out online, or whether they've ever fantasized about another while with their partner. Not to justify illegal conduct, but to challenge the public puritanism that races around during these episodes (I'd *love* to hear Beveridge fess up!) These are not criminal acts; they are human. I don't agree with a significant number of Weiner's political positions--though I think his health care work of late has been great--but this is *not* the way I would express my disagreement, as Beveridge and his ilk, going back to Clinton, seem to prefer. (They "lying" rubric is bogus as well--how many of us have not jumped to an embarrassed rationalization when confronted in this way?)

Jun. 09 2011 10:51 AM
Nick from Jersey

I have to say it. I am sooooooooo angry that Weiner did this. Furious!! I really enjoyed watching him attack simple Fox News folks and defend the ideas that I shared with him. He was (or at least acted like..which I'll take) a passionate believer in this country and the people within its borders...all of the people! I wanted him to move to NJ! Now Fox News is reveling over this with Breitbart as the Pied Piper of Absurdity, handing out pictures like he works for Larry Flynt. Also, it is embarassing as a country that this is what dominates the news. There is so much going on right now, and the country is obsessed with a guy that tweeted pictures of HIMself.
Also, I don't really understand the point of this article, because I don't know who Dinkins is or what Jesse Jackson had to do with the Crown Heights Riots (not explained at all in this piece). He sent out mailers that told lies? Christ, turn on the damn TV during election time, every single commercial is FULL of lies. In fact, there is no validity to them whatsoever.
Honestly, I feel like if his name was Stevens, this would be a nonfactor. America is just showing their love for terrible humor and slight irony, in that a guy named Weiner sent pictures of his weiner. Tee-hee...giggle giggle...

Jun. 08 2011 10:37 PM
Richard K. White

Although memory is very short, I wish that people would remember what happened to a brilliant judge, politician, and community leader Sol Wachtler, Chief Judge of 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. That was more than 25 years ago, but his harassment charges lead to 11 years in prison. He received a severe sentence for his behavior and after leaving prison wrote a book on his experience in prison. Wish some of those politicians (international as well as domestic) would read this book. It might make them realize that crossing the line may have severe consequences.

Jun. 08 2011 12:39 PM
Barbara Lifton from New York City

The issue is not 'consensual sexual relations'. The issue is judgment and character. Rep. Weiner is lacking in both. He acts like an habitual criminal who never believes he will be caught as long as he continues to deny it- this is delusional egomania.

Jun. 08 2011 11:07 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

The idea floated by your previous guest, that men in their 40's CAN'T relate to women in their 20's in any way that isn't predatory is plainly absurd. Personal experience and common sense have taught me otherwise (further, would the same objection be raised if the genders were reversed?).
If anyone accuses Weiner of assault, I'll be the first one to demand his resignation. But stigmatizing consensual sexual behavior by projecting one's own personal biases onto a relationship between two people you've never met? Well, I guess that's what separates the sexting experts from the rest of us.

Jun. 08 2011 10:59 AM
Steve Marchetti from Bloomfieldd, NJ

A piece missing so far from the power conversation is not so much the woman's response, but the expectation that men have of the less powerful woman in these circumstances.

Jun. 08 2011 10:56 AM

If Weiner needs to resign...maybe we need to look at all ofWashington and perhaps we would have an abundance of resignations!! I am not condoning thi s activity. But here is a greater picture!!

Jun. 07 2011 05:12 PM

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