Earlier today, TheDirty.com started publishing online conversations between Anthony Weiner and an unnamed woman—time stamps also scrubbed. According to the woman, in the summer of 2012, Weiner was talking about “a Chicago sex condo and having sexual conversations,” and two of them “would send naked images to each other and have phone sex.” His pseudonym was Carlos Danger; his mission, at one point, was to help his online friend get into a Politico Arena panel; the age difference between them was 26 years.
After the story breathed online for a few hours, Weiner put out a statement confirming the gist, but not the timing:
“I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out, and today they have. As I have said in the past, these things that I did were wrong and hurtful to my wife and caused us to go through challenges in our marriage that extended past my resignation from Congress.While some things that have been posted today are true and some are not, there is no question that what I did was wrong. This behavior is behind me. I’ve apologized to Huma and am grateful that she has worked through these issues with me and for her forgiveness. I want to again say that I am very sorry to anyone who was on the receiving end of these messages and the disruption that this has caused. As my wife and I have said, we are focused on moving forward.”
He did say that “other texts” would come out during the run-up to his campaign launch. The reasonable assumption was that other exchanges would be unearthed from his Lost Years, up to his 2011 resignation. You don’t have to endorse the finger-wagging theory of politics to ask whether continuing sexy conversations with blackmail-ready women Weiner didn’t know sort of complicates the guy’s redemption narrative. The pitch, basically, was that Weiner learned his lesson. Not that he resigned and then kept trawling the Internet for girls who’d find him impressive.
UPDATE: As luck would have it, when this story broke I was in a rules committee meeting in the North Carolina Senate, covering the far-less-imporant story of a coming voter ID law.* The Weiner story is so overwhelmingly pathetic that I had tried to avoid some of the guy’s explanations for himself. Those explanations look stranger today. In that New York Times Magazine cover story that launched his comeback attempt, again and again Weiner offers the impression of a changed and chastened man. “Weiner started seeing a therapist almost immediately after the scandal broke,” reported Jonathan Van Meter. And the therapy-talk flowed out of him.
There just wasn’t much of me who was smart enough, sensitive enough, in touch with my own things, understanding enough about the disrespect and how dishonorable it was to be doing that. It didn’t seem to occupy a real space in my feelings. I think it would be pretty surprising to a lot of people: What was he thinking? I wasn’t really thinking. What does this mean that I’m doing this? Is this risky behavior? Is this smart behavior? To me, it was just another way to feed this notion that I want to be liked and admired.
A close read of that sympathetic story suggests that Huma Abedin, too, thought that Weiner had changed. “Here was a man I respected, I loved, was the father of this child inside of me, and he was asking me for a second chance,” she said. “And I’m not going to say that was an easy or fast decision that I made. It’s been almost two years now.”
Almost two years—i.e., he didn’t keep this up in 2012. Speaking of which, the NYT story wasn’t actually Weiner’s first media since his scandal. On Aug. 18, People magazine published a cute photo of Weiner, Abedin, and their son. “Anthony has spent every day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be,” said Abedin.
According to the Dirty’s timeline, in August 2012 Weiner was hitting on a mysterious 22-year-old, the two of them having found each other on Formspring.** I mean, I suppose it’s possible Weiner was on Peapod, ordering diapers, and he clicked the wrong link.
Possible, but unlikely. That’s why this scandal scars Weiner in a way his 2011 scandal didn’t. Do people make mistakes, get drunk with power, and resign? Pretty frequently. We’re familar with the apology-and-redeem plotline. The current story makes Weiner look not only venal, but stupid, and unimaginably narcissitic. Maybe he believes, as a lot of people believe, that his original scandal was punished too severely. Why go ahead and re-enter the public sphere knowing that he’d humiliate himself and his family again?
UPDATE II: From the press conference:
REPORTER: When was the last time you did this?
WEINER: I can’t say exactly, sometime last summer I think.
Around the time he was sitting for the People story.
*This is a joke.
**Correction, July 23, 2013: David Weigel misidentified Formspring as Springform.