I was going to title this “In Defense of Weiner,” but the New York Post-style headline was all too tempting.
It’s been a year since I’ve written about Anthony Weiner, but then it’s been a year since Weiner’s been in the news. But he’s back with aplomb, and more than a little public consternation.
Anthony Weiner announced his candidacy for mayor of New York, to which the New York Times made one of those concerned faces and started interviewing people on the streets and online about what they thought about such a move. The results more more than a little negative, with most comments calling him in some form or another an arrogant narcissist who makes poor decisions and lies when caught because he is starved for personal attention.
Why, they almost make him sound like a politician.
I honestly fail to see the issue: His personal life is his personal life – as Michael Bloomberg has famously attested – tumultuous as it may be, and of all people who should have been incensed at his internet dalliances, his own wife is heading his campaign. Of course, this is returned with cries that they’re a cynical political couple like the Clintons and that this is all a sham in the face of media attention. Oh, there are worse things in the world than to be compared to the Clintons. But what I see as the problem here is twofold:
First, we have a double standard among politicians, and it is ultimately hurting New York Democrats. As I’ve grown up in New York City, I’ve watched old guards laugh at all possible attempts to unseat them despite all manner of scandals, and I’ve watched the best and the brightest of the new guard get right up until they catch the eye of major opponents, then die from by the book political machinations.
My congressman, Charles Rangel, who was a congressman of my neighborhood for longer than I’ve been alive, was caught with major ethics violations – of the sort that actually matter, being that they affected actual people’s lives – while heading the house ethics committee and managed to win re-election in 2010 handily. My senator, Chuck Schumer, has been in DC since before I was born and has effectively resisted Democratic and popular demands to raise taxes on the rich with impunity as he’s more or less turned his job into an iron ricebowl.
I don’t think I even need to mention the sorts of shit Republicans have gotten away with.
Meanwhile, the top three up-and-comers in homegrown New York politics – Andrew Cuomo, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer – were all destroyed the moment by minor scandals more established politicians (or simply Republican politicians) balk at. Cuomo had to go soul-searching for eight years, Spitzer’s still writing opinion pieces for Slate.com, and Weiner just came back last week.
This matters because I’m not looking for an honest politician, and anybody who is had better start explaining where they’ve been since taking civics class in middle school. I’m looking for an effective politician, and Cuomo, Weiner and Spitzer have proven themselves to be the attack dogs the Democratic party needs and has always been starving for. We need tigers, not paper tigers, and that they fold to the first mainstream political attack says a lot about the unrealistic expectation of our more liberal Democratic constituents.
Simply put, clean politicians are untested politicians. They’re clean until a sniffer from the opposing party finds something. It’s not as if independent inquiries that deposed these men. As such, my stance is equally simple: You’re not marrying these guys, but you are going to have to live under a system where people who they’re opposed to get to dictate public policy when they can’t win elections.
This brings me to the second point: There really isn’t anybody else. A common lament, one I’ve said myself, is how we manage to get these charlatans to choose from in the first place. “There should be so many decent leaders out there and we always seem to get the bozos.” Well, thing is, no, there really aren’t. Let’s get to the current picks for the Democratic candidate for mayor. We have:
- Christine Quinn, who seems to think that Manhattan Borough President and Mayor of New York are the same job just with different pay scale.
- Bill de Blasio, who fails to understand that while you can win an election while ignoring every borough but Manhattan, you can’t win an election while ignoring Manhattan.
- John Liu, who is currently discovering that if you’re going to buy an election, it’s best to be independently wealthy like Michael Bloomberg.
de Blasio recently got an major union endorsement, as he’s one of those solid liberal civil servants who’s never been tested on the big stage and therefore has no major scandals under his belt, but we’ve seen those kinds of guys before: They were the ones who ran against heavy hitters like Giuliani and Bloomberg and lost with narry a whimper because they’re not assholes. We need an asshole, except apparently some Democrats are allergic to assholes. Well, fuck them: I want my liberal agenda actually fought for, and I want somebody to play dirty when that’s what’s needed to get things done.
I’m sick and tired of a limp middle-of-the-roader whose only claim to fame is that he’s squeaky clean. I don’t want a family man. I don’t care if it “embarrasses New York.” (Haven’t you guys ever heard of a man named Donald Trump?) I want a cynical hardball pol who dances with the devil because somebody has to. I want a mean summabitch with the right politics. In fact: Somebody go clone Rahm Emanuel!