Commentary

How Do You Solve A Problem Like A. Weiner?

"I'm Anthony Weiner and I'll always be frank with you."

Above, one of the few printable responses I received after asking my Facebook friends to come up with appropriate taglines for the disgraced former congressman who has announced his run for mayor of New York City.

Let’s face it: at this point, the guy is a walking “aptonym” -- a name that uniquely suits its owner, like an anesthesiologist named Dr. Knapp.

What’s in a name? The German designer Stefan Sagmeister gave a wonderful speech at TED recently in which he posited that one’s moniker is often one’s destiny. Believe it or not, an amazing number of Dennises become dentists, for example, or an Edie typically marries an Eddie.

Perhaps Weiner’s pent-up rage about being the lifelong butt of Oscar Mayer jokes (and much worse!) created an irresistible urge to show the world his namesake offender.

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Meanwhile, for the press, with its own pent-up urges to make puns and double entendres, the sexting of Weiner’s wiener is the gift that keeps on giving.

Of course, politicians have been enmeshed in sex scandals since before there was an Appalachian Trail to lie about.  But because he used Twitter, the digital nature of his indiscretions makes him a trailblazer of sorts.

Indeed, Mark Sanford just won his old pre-gubernatorial seat back in Congress despite the fact that he had a real, live affair with a woman who wasn’t his wife, but whose curves and skin he extolled to the world like a lovesick teen at a press conference.  

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani also announced his divorce at a press conference, followed by another press conference hastily set up outside Gracie Mansion by his stunned and crying wife. 

Is having virtual sex, with numerous women whom Mr. Weiner has never met a worse offense than a plain-old affair? 

In an interview on WNYC with Brian Lehrer, he hinted, in a Clintonian way, that there still might be other photos that will surface or women who will come forward. At the time of his resignation, he announced that he was going to seek “professional treatment to become a healthier person,” although he later mentioned that he went to Houston for three days.   

On Lehrer’s show, he said his wife has put the incident in her “rear view mirror” but “not a distant rear view mirror.” His need to split hairs about the how close the rear view is reminded me of Clinton’s famous pre-impeachment statement: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.”

Of course, what politicians should have learned from Watergate is that it’s not the crime -- it‘s the cover-up. And Weiner admitted on WNYC that he lied to the public about it, (claiming his account was hacked) only so that he could keep the truth from his wife.  

The added irony is that this wife, the beautiful and powerful Huma Abedin, who was pregnant at the time, was Hilary Clinton’s right-hand woman, and is architecting his comeback.

At some point, we’ll all have to quell our inner 13-year-olds and measure the virtual sexter on substance.

So far, his campaign is off to a bumpy start. He set up a very rudimentary Web site with unimpressive stock photo illustrations that, among other recognizable New York sights, featured a bridge in Pittsburgh. The Web company apologized for the error.

The site mainly delivers a slick two-minute, 15-second rollout video by Jim Margolis, who worked on Weiner’s 2005 mayoral campaign, and afterwards was a key producer of Obama ads.

It starts out great, with a breakfast scene in the couple’s kitchen with their adorable baby son Jordan. The kid, while eating watermelon with his car spork, seems to be looking around like, um, who are you guys with the lights and the cameras? Weiner shows that he knows his way around Daddying, and he and Huma look like the perfect family.

Then, like the train on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” that acted as a transition to a new fictional world, we follow a subway back to Brooklyn, and Weiner extolls his middle-class upbringing. We see a picture of a bunch of kids on the sidewalk that could be the “Our Gang” of the ’70s, as he waxes romantic about “playing stick ball into the night,” and going to a Mets game. (His logo is orange and blue, the coloring for the Mets and Howard Johnson’s.) He talks about his mother the teacher, and we see a lady who seems to be Weiner himself in a gray wig and necklace. Then we also see the shingle of “Morton J. Weiner,” his father the lawyer, and the whole thing starts getting a bit “SNL”-ish.

The New York Times has some quibbles with a few of the claims he makes. But he keeps hammering home the point about New York City becoming “the middle-class capital of the world.” It’s not until three-quarters of the way through that he admits he made some “big mistakes.” He adds that he learned “tough lessons.” Then he directs viewers to his Web site, and “64 keys to the city” about how to make that happen.

Of course, he and Huma live far from a middle-class life now, renting a loft on Park Avenue South from a Clinton supporter.

And this campaign comes courtesy of the $4 million that is left over from a previous run.

The video ends with hubby and wife on the steps of his parents’ brownstone. She speaks for the first time, saying, “We love this city, and no one will fight harder to make it better than Anthony.”

The subtext?” If he doesn’t fight hard to get rid of his perverse sexual urges, I’m outta here.”

Or maybe I’m just projecting that, since the whole forced togetherness seems so odd.

But back to possible campaign slogans.

He could consider calling himself just “Anthony” although that sounds a bit “Sopranos”-ish.  Or there is always Nixon’s “Reelect the President” route. At the time, his advisers thought his name, with the “nix” in it, was too negative for bumper stickers. And calling him the president added gravitas to the name. (Nixon also shared a Weiner problem in that he was a Richard who called himself Dick.) 

But at this point, for redemption seeking, perhaps "Anthony Weiner: Better than Eliot Spitzer!”

9 comments about "How Do You Solve A Problem Like A. Weiner?".
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  1. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 25, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.

    Two corrections: it's MISTER Rogers, and it was a trolley that made the transition, not a train.
    And I've been told by sources that mayor Guiliani's soon to be ex did not cry. But she sure looked and sounded distraught. It was an awful thing to watch at the time.
    Also, I was going to make a joke about the fact that at least Weiner pronounces his name the real way-- not like that Mad Men guy who insists on WHINER.

  2. Suzanne Sease from Suzanne Sease Productions, Inc, May 25, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.

    Great article Barbara! I think it is crazy how politicians and celebrity want us to "forget" so they can continue to seek power. Maybe this time we won't!!

  3. William Hoelzel from JWB Associates, May 27, 2013 at 8:11 p.m.

    I think Weiner's wife has given us the basis for a great campaign slogan:

    "No one will fight harder to make New York City better than Anthony -- and we must make sure that our city IS better than Anthony."

  4. Jeff Robinson from JRC Limited, May 28, 2013 at 12:08 a.m.

    Thanks Barbara, a great insight. This whole situation is so bizarre that if you wrote it as fiction everyone would just laugh at you. Weiner did not just sexually harass women he did something incredibly stupid. He does not just require forgiveness for his harassment, he needs everyone to forget his unbelievably dumb decision making. How could you possibly trust him to use good judgement in public office.

  5. Joshua Chasin from comScore, May 28, 2013 at 12:54 a.m.

    I'm gonna vote for him. He's the whole package!

  6. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, May 28, 2013 at 7:54 a.m.

    The advantage of his wife putting the whole thing in the rear view mirror is that everything appears bigger, the disadvantage is that everything also appears closer

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 28, 2013 at 9:32 a.m.

    The problem is that AW's mirror isn't big enough for him and never will be. His wife - I don't get it. There is got to be something we don't know about for her to stay because there is nothing she needs from him. She has income, support, smarts, beauty, and desirable to find another man to take care of her as in being married. The longer she stays, the more pain she is feeling even when she masks it to herself. Mr. Weiner is an embarrassment. But he also holds enough secrets and left over money he needs to spend that the powers that be want him to piss it away by himself and let the support numbers speak for themselves so he can go away on his terms like it's his idea. His problem is is that he won't admit no one wants him and he is hurting. He does need help to become a decent person and then find another profession. Go quietly into that good night, Mr. Weiner.Barbara, you may even be helping by writing this column. You never know what makes a light go off in a person. That big if he ever reads this directly or via his peeps, he will start to get it. He hurt everyone including the people he was trying to help when he was in congress. Running for mayor of New York won't do it as a starting over, especially the way he is tripping over himself.

  8. Doug Darling from JOHN SANDY PROUDCTIONS, May 28, 2013 at 2:22 p.m.

    This article is spot-on! Beware, Mr. Whiner is still "loose"... As long as the press plays along, more dumbing down of America!

  9. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, May 28, 2013 at 5:52 p.m.

    Thanks, everybody! I agree Paula. But apparently, the field is so weak that he could be a contender.

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