Politics & Policy

Huma & Anthony Aren't Bill & Hillary


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

Photograph by John Moore/Getty Images

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

Summer scandals are supposed to be fun, but serial dong-shot sender and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s scandal has become excruciating. Not even the joyous anticipation of the day’s tabloid covers can balance out the icky feeling of having to see and read about Weiner’s you-know-what. As of this morning, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Daily News have all called on Weiner to drop out. Weiner vowed to remain in the race during his bizarre press conference the other day and has shown no sign of changing his mind since then.

What could he possibly be thinking? The media-pop-psychology diagnosis is that Weiner, who is married to Hillary Clinton confidante Huma Abedin, learned from the example of Bill Clinton’s infidelities that you can survive a scandal if you can maintain your wife’s support and simply refuse to drop out. Republicans were so sure that Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky would kill Democrats in the 1998 midterm elections that persecuting the president became their whole election strategy.

That strategy failed because most people basically liked Bill Clinton and believed he had accomplished a lot as president—they had just reelected him two years earlier, after all. And Clinton’s strategy for surviving the scandal was to make a big show about how he was still hard at work on his day job as president.

Here is Anthony Weiner’s problem in a nutshell: He doesn’t have a day job, and people don’t have the same fondness for him that they did for Bill Clinton. Clinton could forge ahead and actually do things. Weiner can’t. He’s also in the doubly bad position of having just revealed in his press conference that he continued sexting women even after he’d been caught and resigned from Congress. That’s tantamount to Clinton having let slip, midway through his own sex scandal, that he’d kept carrying on dalliances with White House interns even after being busted with Monica. I doubt even Clinton could have survived that one.

Weiner is obviously waiting to see how New Yorkers absorb the latest news. After all, they’d overlooked his little problem once already and anointed him the frontrunner in at least one mayoral poll. The Journal is reporting that he and Christine Quinn have just swapped places for the frontrunner slot, with a 14 percentage point swing.

But given the fact that he isn’t Bill Clinton and that he’s breaking new ground in the audacity of political sex scandals, it seems like the Clinton model maybe isn’t the best guide to his chances of survival. At this point, the role the Clintons should play in the Huma-Weiner sex scandal is the one that Republican consultant Mike Murphy suggested yesterday on Twitter: a one-sentence press release calling on Weiner to drop out.

Green_190
Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaGreen.

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