Headline from a New York Daily News article a few weeks ago:
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Nathan's Fourth of July champ backs hot dog Anthony Weiner for mayor
Rim-shot! The event was the pre-Independence Day weigh-in for the annual Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest, and improbably contending New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner was there to secure the "endorsement" of perennial dog-pounding champ Joey "Jaws" Chestnut. "Joey Chestnut obviously has an affinity for Weiners," cracked the candidate, in a Twitter-ready sound bite.
Chestnut's actual endorsement must have been made off-camera – I can't find him quoted in any of the campaign stories – but we can take Weiner's word for it, right? It's not like the guy's ever lied before. "I can no longer say I don't have the support of any famous people," Weiner gushed, after scoring the endorsement.
Now, weeks later, the inevitable has happened: yet another sexting scandal has popped up involving Weiner and, surprise surprise, this one was still live a good year after he resigned from Congress promising never to flap his hose across the face of the Internet ever again. Predictably, a series of really gross, genuinely Favre-ean dong shots showed up on some Scottsdale, Arizona-based website called TheDirty.com.
It turns out that Weiner was pursuing his usual creepy Internet rubfest with some poor sap of a woman from Princeton, Indiana (which the Daily News noted is "one mouse click and 850 miles away from Weiner") using the nom-de-wank of "Carlos Danger," a preposterous title destined to be adopted by a whole generation of hackers and trolls justifiably tired of the whole "Emmanuel Goldstein" meme.
I don't mean to sound like a prude, but what the hell do you have to do to be disqualified from high-level politics in this country? When someone told me a while back that Weiner was running for Mayor, I thought it was a joke. This married politician sent unsolicited pictures of his penis to female strangers on the Internet! It's not a crime, I guess because indecent exposure laws haven't been updated for the cyber age, but basically, he's a 21st-century flasher who used the U.S. Congress as a raincoat. Then he got caught, had to resign from Congress in what normally would be shame and disgrace, only to turn around and start doing it all over again pretty much immediately.
I'm not saying the guy can't have a career after what happened, but his options should be pretty limited – a rodeo clown, maybe, or one of those guys who hands out fliers for strip clubs in Times Square. In an absolute best-case scenario, a guest panelist on some gross-out/embarrassing-video-footage compilation show on cable like Manswers or America's Dumbest Criminals.
But Mayor of New York City? I know the bar was set pretty low when Mike Bloomberg bought the office outright in 2001, but we can't have sunk this far. And it's not just that he's some poor guy who got caught jacking off on the Internet. He's also increasingly tone-deaf and belligerently nuts in an inappropriate-Thanksgiving-guest sort of way. Lawrence Downes of the Times passed on this tidbit just a few weeks back:
Anthony Weiner strides onstage at Simon Baruch Middle School and grabs the mic to talk to the good people of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association. He takes his position beside, not behind, the lectern. He has nothing to hide.
He wears a white dress shirt, sleeves rolled up, and pants that brightly violate the boundary between orange and red. "I don't usually dress like this," he says. He explains that he was just at a rally in Greenwich Village, celebrating the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage. Is he really saying he hasn't had time to change out of his gay pants?
Weiner simply isn't a well man. His campaign strategy has been to act like his scandal and downfall never happened, but you only need to catch his act a few times to realize that the strategy is working precisely because Weiner isn't acting. He genuinely doesn't think he did anything wrong and spends a lot of time, as an unwell person would, slamming some nebulous "they" who he is convinced are the real guilty parties in his personal melodrama. He talks a lot about how his campaign is making those haters crazy, which – well, you've all read Freud, or at least seen The Seven Percent Solution, you be the judge, tell me this isn't a classic case of projection:
I'm running a campaign in a different way . . . and it makes them nuts . . . . You know, someone once yelled out to Harry Truman at a campaign stop, he yelled out, 'Give 'em hell, Harry.' And you now what he said? He said, 'I'm just telling them the truth and it sounds like hell to them.' The very evidence that I'm doing it right is how crazy I'm making them, and I'm not gonna stop doing it.
As a pundit I know I'm supposed to enjoy political car-wreck spectacles like this, but this Weiner candidacy is a very dark story. He's surging in the polls mainly because the other candidates in the New York mayoral race are so awful (Downes humorously called them talented but "collectively uninspiring," like the Eagles) and because of the I'll-do-absolutely-anything-to-get-in-the-newspapers factor that New Yorkers always love and respect (just ask Joey Chestnut). But the endgame here is that millions of New Yorkers might put a guy who needs a nice quiet decade or two away from cameras and the Internet, maybe manning an ice station or diving for abalone somewhere, into the least therapeutic job in America.
It's crazy. I bet there are thousands of New Yorkers out there right now who wouldn't hire Anthony Weiner to condo-sit (and who wouldn't go near the areas around their desktop computers afterward without a Haz-Mat suit), but would gladly send him to live in Gracie Mansion. Believe me, I'm all for funny, but this really isn't as funny as it sounds. This is one of those ideas that sounds hilarious when you're high, but the next morning – not so much. Can we not go there this time?