We probably shouldn’t be surprised that the whole rotten business of how New York’s current mayor will have gotten to serve for 12 years seemed neatly tucked away for most of the third term that shouldn’t have been, but has re-surfaced as a hot item again in the highly charged race now on to succeed the incumbent. We’ll see in short order whether City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will pay a big price for conspiring with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to bring about the Council vote that made his third term possible. Quinn’s fellow contenders to be the Democratic candidate come November seem to be sparing no effort to remind voters of her role in the mayor’s blindsiding maneuver that ran roughshod over the city’s term limits provision.
Regurgitation of that manhandling of the democratic process in the city reminds us, too, of how close the mayor came, back in 2009, to feeling the full weight of city folks’ wrath at the ballot box. The mayor’s marginal win over Bill Thompson clearly evidenced that, with a bit of an assist from the then freshly minted White House occupant, Thompson might well have made a shambles of Bloomberg’s third term tactic…notwithstanding hizzoner’s wall-to-wall mega-bucks spree to earn himself that jerry-rigged extension. It remains the oddest of political curiosities (and strongly hinting of behind-the-scenes deal making) that candidate Thompson could elicit from the first black president no more than a half-stepping acknowledgment that Thompson was “in the house” at a big Manhattan dinner.
This time around in the mayoral stakes, the dominant story by far has been the attempt by former Congressman Anthony Weiner to re-assert himself as a political presence after shamefully exiting, stage left, a couple of years ago. But, as we’ve been seeing in polls for a while now, a recent one by Quinnipiac University puts Weiner in “also ran” territory, with just 10 percent of “likely voters” in the Democratic primary supporting his candidacy. In truth, his being a candidate for office having long since become incidental to the theatrical absurdity he has come to represent, Weiner confounds all known schools of logic and then some with an impish insistence that he wants to be New York’s next mayor. Bob Schieffer of CBS News labeled Weiner “a very sick man” after news broke that he had lied in proclaiming himself “cured” of his obsession with exhibitionism. Schieffer’s is the charitable view of what’s being telegraphed by Weiner’s behavior that one might want to take. The takeaway, alternatively, is that this is one mean-spirited, narcissistic creep who has no business venturing into the public square, daring to be given a leadership nod.
Were we to accept Weiner’s read of himself, that he’s operating at normal capacity, with all systems fully functional, where do we begin to measure the man’s hubris in seeking public office at this point? The fact that he either rejects or is indifferent to hurt he is inflicting in a number of areas lends credence to Schieffer’s take on what has driven Weiner to the inscrutably awkward posture he seems determined to maintain. One is intrigued, first of all, by the outward appearance here of a conclusion other than a situation having been created that likely asks too huge a sacrifice of affected kin. In the matter of Weiner’s wife having been a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, he is obviously being dismissive of any distractions this senseless pursuit of his might cause to whatever political game plan is being hatched on the Clinton drawing board.
But mostly it’s Weiner’s utter disrespect for the people of New York that engenders concern about how much of a genuine head game could be in process with the guy. When he reappeared, after his forced exile, to offer himself as a contender for mayor, we wondered here whether the relatively short two- year hiatus might not have smacked too much of barefaced arrogance. Apparently, there was a fairly solid slice of the electorate willing to look past any such misgivings. With his deception subsequently coming to light and with it, a stubborn refusal to acknowledge this as a game changer in his relationship with the citizenry, Weiner mystifyingly chose to stand where saner heads absolutely would not. If his campaign manager’s resignation didn’t speak with a certain clarity to the dead end to which Weiner thought to remain committed, a later development should have given him pause. Eliot Spitzer, himself sullied and seeking the New York electorate’s grace, wouldn’t take the bait, during an appearance on MSNBC, to name a personal favorite among the mayoral combatants. But he did allow that yes, Weiner’s situation was such that he should withdraw from the race.
Weiner is clearly not about to be chosen the Democratic candidate for mayor. Why, then, this dumb farce? Simply because the law affords the opportunity to act the part hardly justifies its prolongation. We don’t know at this point if we’re witnessing the closing chapter of a political career. But if there’s to be another round of redemption down the road, it seems only logical and smart that Weiner and the act of deception that was his deadly misstep would be pulled ASAP from the glare of public scrutiny. So far, we’ve been given no reason to believe that the candidate may have a magic-bullet resolution to his terrible, self-made dilemma.