Gloria Borger: When Weiner left Congress, we assumed he would deal with problems
Instead, he posed as Carlos Danger, risking further personal, political problems, she says
Borger says it's more than a private matter since he's running for New York mayor
She says Weiner is unable to tell the complete truth to those who deserve it
Let me just start by saying this: Redemption, political or otherwise, is a good thing. And by and large, voters are amenable to proffering forgiveness – especially when they believe the candidate is making a good-faith effort to reform, atone and emerge as a chastened and wiser person.
And so it was with Anthony Weiner, the erstwhile sexter who left Congress in disgrace two years ago to work on his problem, his life and his marriage.
At least that’s what we thought he was doing, until we learned this week that – one full year after he resigned from Congress – he was still sending explicit text messages to a young woman. Maybe there are more.
We don’t know the full story, and honestly, it’s hard to say whether we ever will, or how much we should care. But here is what we do know, and this does matter: That Weiner is running for mayor of New York, and that in preparing us for his candidacy in April, he cleverly alluded to the fact that there were more texts with other women. “I did it, with more than one person,” he said. “It was wrong. I was doing it for some time, and I’m glad it’s behind me.”
What we didn’t know was it wasn’t that far behind him. In Weiner’s efforts to inoculate himself against further women coming out, he left the timing of his inappropriate behavior vague. He knew that most of us would assume that, once he resigned from Congress in disgrace, he was fully involved in recovery, trying to regain his identity.
Instead, he was masquerading as Carlos Danger.
And he was trolling as this bon vivant at least a full year after he left office.
So while he has been making the case that his family’s love, support – and therapy – has gotten him to a good place, he kind of forgot to tell us one key fact: His sexual misconduct did not end with his resignation from office. Silly us for assuming that? Or silly us for allowing him to let us believe that? All of which begs the question: Why believe him now?
Enter Huma Abedin, his smart, savvy, politically connected (especially to the Clintons) wife. It was breathtaking to see her Tuesday next to Weiner. Not only standing beside him as The Good Wife but also speaking directly to voters. “I have forgiven him,” she told us. “I believe in him.” Indeed, she said, the decision to keep the marriage together “took a lot of work” and “a whole lot of therapy.”
I am sure it did, and we should respect her decision – both to stand by her man and to speak. But here’s one question: Is running for mayor a required part of couples therapy? This should be a private matter. But once Weiner threw his hat in the ring, asking for redemption, it became a lot less private. The couple participated in a very orchestrated PR rollout – with interviews in The New York Times Magazine and People magazine, discussing their personally difficult journey. And we seem to be on it with them, like it or not.
Weiner’s problem is not just about his personal compulsions. It’s also about his inability to tell the complete truth to the people he is asking to redeem and forgive him.
When he was first caught in the sexting scandal, it took him what seemed like forever to fess up – after lying, and saying he had been hacked. And now, while hinting last spring there were other women, he never actually said his sexting did not stop when he left Congress. He says it’s behind him now. Thanks for that.
Eliot Spitzer, who is trying to manage his own political redemption as he runs for New York City comptroller, was no doubt thrilled to be asked about Weiner. He deflected the question, as if to imply—as others have—that it’s a personal matter, between Weiner and his wife. Sad to say, it no longer is.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gloria Borger.