Anthony Weiner on ropes: more questions and Clintons want him out
Anthony Weiner had a bad Sunday. His campaign manager quit this weekend, and on Sunday, a confidante of the Clintons said they want him to drop out of the New York mayor's race. There are also new questions about $43,100 of campaign money he spent in 2011.
[Updated 6:30 p.m. EDT] Whatever one may think about Anthony Weiner, he has no small amount of pluck.
That was true when he was a member of Congress, where he sometimes spoke from the House floor in a verbal conflagration on the order of Sherman blazing through Atlanta. It was true when he entered the race for New York mayor two years after resigning from Congress in disgrace – the titters of disbelief still audible in the press gallery. And it remains true today, when he has pointedly not listened to his former leader in the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who captured the feeling of many Americans in telling Mr. Weiner to "get a clue" and drop out of the mayoral race.
But at this point, is sheer force of will enough to get him to Election Day on Nov. 5?
On one hand, Weiner's refusal to drop out of the race speaks to underlying political realities, some of which don't look all that bad.
True, what we learned Tuesday is undeniably awful. It turns out that a year after the married congressman was forced to resign from his post in Washington because he was trading raunchy and racy online posts with single women (and then lying about it), he was still doing it.
But in a way, that makes his run for mayor this year all the more important. While it's possible he could have a third act at some distant future, the new revelations – heaped on the previous revelations – mean he either wins this race or he's taking a long siesta from politics. That's something he clearly doesn't want to contemplate.
Moreover, he and his wife, Huma Abedin, seemed prepared for all this. Never mind that he called himself "Carlos Danger" and carried on explicitly sexual conversations with a 20-something named Sydney Leathers last year, to them it's old news, and regardless of this baggage, they apparently think he is a politician who can help New York. They seem happy to let the voters decide one way or the other.
And while future polls could get worse, he's hardly out of the picture – still in second place with 19 percent of the vote compared with 25 percent for front-runner Christine Quinn. He's also go plenty of money for the time being. In fact, Weiner has $4.8 million, second only to Ms. Quinn's $6 million, according to a report by the New York Daily News published a week before the new scandal surfaced.
So it's possible that, for Weiner, things are playing out largely as he expected in a worst-case scenario. For someone who had the pluck to run for mayor of America's biggest apple two years after being paraded in public in the Internet age's answer to tar and feathers, a week of bad press might not seem a game-changer.
And yet, as bad as Tuesday was, things continue to get worse. The first rule of any scandal is that it needs oxygen – it needs new developments to keep it in the public eye and to build public anger. Without new news, people begin to move on (as Weiner surely hopes they will).
On this score, Sunday was not a good day for Weiner.
First, news leaked that Weiner's campaign manager, Danny Kedem, resigned this weekend. It's not a huge blow. As Joseph Mercurio, a political scientist at Fordham University, told Bloomberg news: "Weiner has the money, and he's a savvy pol, so I would think he can find someone else."
But it's a measure of how toxic Weiner has become politically. Added Professor Mercurio: "I suspect there's been a tremendous pressure on Kedem from labor campaigns and others who oppose Weiner, and I'm sure Kedem's interested in remaining in this business, and he can't take the pressure and he's leaving."
Then came comments by Dee Dee Myers, President Clinton's former press secretary, who said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday: "If [the Clintons] could choose, they would certainly have Weiner get out of the race and have Huma get on with her life."
It could be argued that no one is more important to Weiner right now than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Weiner might not be beholden to anyone, but Weiner's wife is a confidante of Ms. Clinton's and a former adviser. Ms. Abedin was even seen as taking a page from Clinton's playbook in standing by a dallying husband. If Clinton were to persuade Abedin that this has gone too far, Weiner's campaign would have no leg to stand on.
Then came a report by the New York Daily News that, before he resigned from Congress, Weiner in 2011 paid a private investigator nearly $45,000 in campaign money to investigate his claim that his Twitter account was hacked. When the lewd photos first surfaced in 2011, that was Weiner's defense – that his Twitter account had been hacked. He later abandoned that defense and admitted to sending the photos.
That means "Weiner ultimately paid a private investigations firm, T&M Protection services, $43,100 from his campaign fund – knowing nobody hacked anything and that he'd sent the image himself," the Daily News concludes.
Politicos have pronounced Weiner's campaign dead, and it very likely could be. But the three months until the election is a lifetime in politics. Anything could happen.
The one thing that seems certain, though, is that Weiner won't be able to survive too many more days like Sunday.