It’s been incredibly sad and frustrating to watch the Weiner tale unfold over the past couple weeks. Not only did Weiner commit embarrassing and foolish actions, he doubled back and attempted to cover his trail, contacting some of his online mistresses and offering PR help if they kept their mouths shut. Everyone knew something was fishy ever since the “I can’t say with certitude” bit. Those of us sympathetic to him and his championing of progressive causes tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, searching for plausible explanations (see his close friend Jon Stewart’s monologue from The Daily Show). But the truth came out and Weiner had no choice but to fess up. Though his embarrassment and regret are genuine, the cynic in us suspects he doesn’t regret the online trysts as much as he regrets getting caught.
In a similar case of incriminating photos and online philandering, Rep. Chris Lee’s case stands in contrast; Lee immediately apologized, resigned, and went home to his wife and family, realizing immediately what was most important in his life. Weiner had more to lose – a lifelong career in politics and a promising future, perhaps as a New York City mayor. So he stonewalled and attempted to escape with both his reputation and his marriage. Chris Lee barely finished his first term.
Weiner has come clean and apologized to Huma, his friends, and his associates. And though his actions and lies were egregious, his position is not without precedent. President Clinton had an actual physical affair, lied about it for sometime, endured public impeachment proceedings and ultimately left office with the highest approval ratings of any end-of-term president.
Ironically, Huma is Secretary Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff. She will find Hillary’s example instructive in the weeks to come. Hillary knew she could leave Bill and exit the public eye, or she could endure and possibly continue a life of public service. Which is closely tied to President Clinton’s remarkable rehabilitation; the Lewinsky affair has become an afterthought in light of his work with the Clinton Global Initiative and worldwide humanitarian endeavors. The Clinton brand has regained its luster and Bill is practically a saint in Democratic circles.
Weiner is a multi-term congressman from solidly Democratic Brooklyn. The GOP has zero chance of winning the district. The NY pols that Weiner has worked with throughout the years will circle the wagons and fend off a meaningful primary challenge. Weiner will survive, but will face years of hard work rebuilding his reputation and his marriage.
All but the most hard-hearted of us believe in the possibility of redemption, the belief that people can change and deserve a second chance. Weiner’s going to stay and he will get his second chance. The firestorm will fade, as it inevitably does, and a newly humble Anthony Weiner (gasp!) will have his work cut out for him.