Skip to main content

Was there a strategy behind the Anthony Weiner trainwreck?

By S.E. Cupp, CNN
updated 2:20 PM EDT, Thu September 12, 2013
Anthony Weiner, once a front runner in the New York mayoral race, finished in fifth place with roughly 5% of the vote.
Anthony Weiner, once a front runner in the New York mayoral race, finished in fifth place with roughly 5% of the vote.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • S.E. Cupp: Some speculated that winning wasn't Anthony Weiner's goal
  • He could have wanted to help his wife's career or raise his visibility for future roles, she says
  • Cupp: Whatever the goal, Weiner's campaign was an embarrassment
  • He said he wanted a campaign of ideas; we got a campaign of idiotic outbursts

Editor's note: S.E. Cupp is co-host of the new "Crossfire," which airs weekdays at 6:30 p.m. ET on CNN. She is also the author of "Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity," co-author of "Why You're Wrong About the Right," a columnist at the New York Daily News and a political commentator for Glenn Beck's "The Blaze."

(CNN) -- In 1965, a 40-year-old William F. Buckley, Jr. ran for mayor of New York City -- a race he arguably never intended to win. In fact, when asked what he'd do if he won he replied, "Demand a recount."

But 10 years after founding the National Review and one year after establishing Barry Goldwater as the conservative nominee for president, Buckley saw that the often-times colorful mayoral election was a useful vehicle for him to elevate his brand and promote conservatism on a national platform.

Though he won only 13.4% of the vote, he still managed to accomplish his objective. And, many credit him with helping Rep. John V. Lindsay become the first Republican mayor of New York since Fiorello H. LaGuardia.

S.E. Cupp
S.E. Cupp

Some suggested early on that Anthony Weiner's bid for mayor was similarly designed -- not to actually win, but toward other ends. Elspeth Reeve in The Atlantic earlier this year suggested this was all an inoculation attempt. Not for Weiner, but for his wife Huma Abedin, who either had designs on her own political career or at least on helping to implement her boss Hillary Clinton's 2016 run.

"If Abedin, and not Weiner, were the first one to hit the campaign trail after his resignation," she wrote, "she would have been the one who was tarnished by his sexts. Or, imagine Clinton trying to focus on eating fried things at the Iowa state fair in 2015, while reporters ask her about new photos on Breitbart.com of her aide's infamous husband."

It's an intriguing idea, but very few could argue that Abedin emerged out of her husband's campaign untarnished. It wasn't just hosting awkward "Women for Weiner" events that call into question everything we think we know about feminism. Or advancing arguably false narratives in glossy magazines that her husband's exploits were dealt with and over, when it was clear Weiner continued his online activities well after resigning from Congress.

Did sexting derail Anthony Weiner?
Weiner campaign bites the dust

Putting his indiscretions aside, it's hard to reconcile such a smart and successful woman finding admiration in a man who ran such a terrible, pugnacious, ineffective and utterly ridiculous campaign.

The man who yelled at his own constituents, called his 69-year-old opponent "grandpa" at an AARP event, and poetically flipped off reporters on his final ride out of town is her political and personal inspiration? If helping Huma was the plan all along, I think it's safe to say it has not worked.

Huma Abedin, wife of Anthony Weiner, speaks during a press conference on July 23, 2013, in New York City.
Huma Abedin, wife of Anthony Weiner, speaks during a press conference on July 23, 2013, in New York City.

Others have suggested he might just want his own television show. Fair enough. Plenty of disgraced former politicians have found a forgiving sanctuary on cable television. And he certainly would make for a fascinating, er, something ... on TV.

But he didn't need to mount an embarrassing and ultimately ruinous mayoral campaign to get there. One turn of the dial and it's clear that there are countless sociopaths, buffoons, hucksters and charlatans with real political platforms who were never on a ballot. Other than "Dancing with the Stars" or "Celebrity Rehab," I doubt Weiner solidified his chances of a major television gig with this last performance.

Others still believe Weiner was merely out for revenge. Revenge against the Breitbarts and Drudges and even establishment Democrats who ruined his life, a final "take that" to punctuate the scandal. And he didn't need to win to do it.

A respectable finish in the primary would have telegraphed that he was run out by gotcha journalists, partisan extremists and spineless bureaucrats, and his real friends -- the voters -- still believed in him. I'm not sure he can make that case, though, after finishing virtually dead last and capturing a paltry 5% of the ultra-liberal Democrats who actually turned out for this thing.

Ultimately, unlike Buckley and conservatism, Weiner did nothing good for liberalism. He wanted a campaign of ideas, but instead waged a campaign of idiotic outbursts. He brought nothing but more embarrassment and shame for his wife and her famous boss. And he did nothing to make "Anthony Weiner the Brand" any more credible. In fact the only constituency he managed to please were New York Post headline writers.

Maybe he really did want to win. And maybe he really thought he could. Where there's power to be had, pathological miscalculations of this sort aren't uncommon. But if he cares about his party, his wife, her career, his brand, and his own future, he will make the courageous decision to go away from politics for a very long time.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of S.E. Cupp.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:15 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:28 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT