"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.
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!”