The Ballad of Anthony Weiner

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The Ballad of Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner is Anthony Weirder

It was hard to look at Anthony Weiner before yesterday and not think “what could have been . . .”

The slow unraveling of a formerly great politician was painful to watch. Painful in a very American way, painful in the way that long, epic novels are painful: you know what’s going to happen before the main character does. Anthony’s sexual escapades were as cliché as could be, almost as if it had come out of an R-rated Simpsons plot line. What made it even more painful, though, was his own view of himself during the events.

It’s easy to forget that before his 2011 sexual dalliances were exposed, Anthony Weiner was an incredibly successful congressman. He won seven terms, never receiving less than 59% of the vote in his district. He was an incredibly charismatic guy, like some Central Casting politician. After his massive defeat yesterday, only receiving 5% of the vote, it may be the last we see of what could have been — perhaps in some alternate reality — a real contender.

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The biggest disappointment — and believe me, “disappointment” is the apt word to use in the ballad of Anthony Weiner — is that instead of accepting his problems as problems and dealing with them, it seems that he never learned, or never wanted to learn, and lied not only to his voting public and his family, but even to himself. Even similarly disgraced politician Eliot Spitzer never (as far as we know) got defiant about the mistakes he made in his personal life: Weiner practically made his sexting scandal part of the voters’ problem, getting in voters’ faces when they questioned him about his scandal.

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Politico‘s Maggie Haberman wisely pointed out that Weiner was part of a dirty triumvirate of dudes who were involved in sex scandals in the last couple of years: Weiner, the previously mentioned Eliot Spitzer, and South Carolinian Mark Sanford, who left his wife to pursue an Argentinian beauty queen. But while both Spitzer and Weiner remained in the public eye (Spitzer via a TV show, Weiner via a publicity campaign before reelection), Sanford, by contrast, seemed genuinely sorry. Even people who didn’t believe him conceded he put on a good show. The so-called “dance of the honest man” is necessary — even if you have to fake it.

Sanford, by contrast, seemed genuinely sorry. Even people who didn’t believe him conceded he put on a good show. The so-called “dance of the honest man” is necessary — even if you have to fake it.

Weiner’s wife, Huma, didn’t even show up to be by her husband’s side after his giant loss yesterday.

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There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to take true, honest stock in himself and, ultimately, get past the ego and self image that he’s created in his mind. It helps the defiant boy inside every man grow up into something more, something wise, and something true.

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Somewhere along the line, Weiner mistook vulnerability for weakness, and therein lies his problem. Despite his major earlier political victories, it appears that all along Weiner was just a boy playing what he perceived to be a man, but he always kept one foot out the door leading back towards the masculine ideal that he’d set up for himself in his mind. Instead of being honest with himself and accepting his mistakes, he instead tried to combat them — in his case, by acquiring women, or women’s sexual approval of him, to feed his self-worth. It became his undoing.

Right now, a day after his defeat, it’s a car crash. But viewed from afar, Weiner’s story is still a remarkably human tale about living with one foot out the door.

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