07/16/2013

Huma? Hey, Honey?

Others at the forum expressed similar views. Bloomberg was a disaster, people of color couldnt even get home from their poverty-wage jobs without being stopped-and-frisked. Someone with political chops and plenty of moxie was needed to stand up. Yeah, why not Anthony Weiner? said one transit worker. Weiners a fighter. You see him go up against those Republican assholes back in 2009, 2010? Everyone else sitting there just taking itObama tooand Weiners the only one screaming back. Thats a hell of a lot more important to me than whether he showed off his cock. 

That was it, the Weiner hope. Call it just one more symptom of a broken system, but seemingly devastating reports decrying Weiners high-handedness and failure to pass meaningful legislation while in Congress tended to miss the point. To many New Yorkers, it didnt matter if Weiner threw a salad against a wall and was a raving a-hole to work for. Congress wasnt the political battleground that mattered. What did matter was all those page views that Weiner generated during the famous House-floor flip-out over -supposed Republican foot-dragging in delivering federal subsidies to injured 9/11 workers. Weiners made-for-TV neo-lefty bombast and welcome big-city snideness might have been grandstandingbut it was grandstanding you could believe in. 

In the mid-spring New York Times Magazine article that all but announced his entry into the race, a newly Zen Weiner mused about how, if he ever returned to electoral politics, I might not be so good at it. 

After Weiner officially jumped in with a YouTube video in late May, the above comment would prove prophetic. Across the great metropolis, from banquet rooms in Inwood to stifling old union halls in Corona to offices in Harlem, through -Gravesend, Maspeth, and on the Grand Concourse, Weiner traveled to mayoral forums and campaign events, a thrilling cooks tour of New Yorks ever--transforming array of peoples and passion. Only the candidates remained the same, parroting near-identical answers in the South Bronx and Borough Park. One hoped Weiner, cut from classic New York wiseass cloth, noted incisive molder of message, might spice up the mix. But, perhaps rusty from all that time on the DL, Weiner, often bolting to his feet to deliver head-stratchingly rambling commentary, was certainly not blowing anyone away. 

He often seemed to be winging it. At a forum held in the temple-of-capital offices of the Kirkland & Ellis law firm on the 50th floor of the Citigroup Center, Weiner suddenly went all Bolshevik, declaring that big Manhattan firms were mistaken if they thought they could sustain themselves dealing with rich people, because youre going to run out of them sooner or later. There are only so many oligarchs who are going to buy apartments, only so many millionaires who can sue each other. You could appreciate the outer-borough class antagonism, but a few days later, in -Harlem at Al Sharptons National Action Network on 145th Street, Weiner, likely the last man on Earth rocking a BlackBerry holster, turned inexplicably wonky, droning on about his 60-20-20 affordable-housing plan (60 percent market, 20 percent affordable, 20 percent low-income). The audience, many of them elderly nycha residents living with the not-unreasonable fear that their public-housing homes will soon be torn down to put up exactly the sort of urban renewal Weiner was touting, sat on their hands. Sharpton, who had warmed up the crowd declaring everyone is entitled to a second chance, was miffed about Weiners wet-blanket performance. I set it up for him. Then he puts everyone to sleep, the Rev groused. Dont want to say it, but Weiner blew it. 

As I watched him make the rounds, it was easy to wonder why he was even bothering, if he wanted to be mayor at all. As the other candidates sat like good little students, eyes forward, hands clasped, Weiner was a Ritalin prescription waiting to be written, fidgeting, covering his face with his hands, off in his own private Idaho. At the Kirkland & Ellis forum, in an incident that would come to be called Slouchgate, journalists tweeted how the former congressman looked bored. Weiner, monitoring the real-time feed from his spot on the dais, later complained, Hey, stop breaking my chops, will ya? 

It was only when he was talking about himself that the candidate appeared fully engaged. For the most part, the sexting scandal has remained the hairy elephant in the room, invoked more often than not by Weiner himself. On a downtown street,Parkeasy Electronics are dedicated to provide granitecountertops. a woman wanted to take a picture with the congressman. She put her arm around him but quickly removed it. Oh, Weiner joked, in apparent reference to his assumed unsavoriness, you want to get close, but not that close. 

At a stop at the New Kings Democrats club, however, the issue came to the surface. Chris Owens, a well-known community organizer, asked, I have a three-word question for you: How dare you? Saying he was a parent with two sons, Owens told Weiner he was not only outraged and disgusted by what you did but also by the fact that you have the arrogance to run for mayor now. Weiner first attempted to slide past this, but then met it head on. Look. Im going to win this election, okay? Weiner said. Im going to govern this city really well. Im going to do it based on a foundation of Democratic ideals, and Im going to do it on a foundation of progressive values,You've probably seen cellphonecases at some point. and Im going to do it smart all right? And let me tell you something, if you dont like me, dont vote for me okay? Nothing Id heard Weiner say during the campaign carried the same conviction. 

Whatever his troubles in the forums, Weiners gift for nitty-gritty day-to-day retail politics remained manifest. Buttonholing subway riders, commanding his aides to look up whether Oscar or Felix said a particular line in The Odd Couple, wading into a jam-packed crowd of black hats at a rebbes wedding (he called it yidlock), is what Anthony Weiner was put on this Earth to do. The man is a natural. Never happier than with a bullhorn in his hand, Weiner walked through the Brooklyn LGBT Pride Parade in skinny orange-y chinos (How I roll!) offering shout-outs to dozens of people hanging out of windows just to get a glimpse of him. Near the end of the parade, a few drunken revelers started chanting, Everyone deserves a second chance. It mattered not at all that a middle-aged woman kept shouting, We need a grown-up! A skinny man with a very thick skin, Weiner took it all in stride, reveling in the grand tableau of American democracy at work. 

Still, even after a twenty-year career during which he was often characterized as a political Sammy Glick, you had to wonder whether the stated goalMayor Weiner, actually doing the jobwas really what mattered most to the candidate. Cynics suggested he was only in the race because his pre-scandal war chestmuch of it donated by the right-wing ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in favor of his superhawk pro-Israel positionwas burning a hole in his pocket. Then there was the hoary redemption theme, the conventional wisdom that Weiner had willed himself into the race for no other reason but to clear his name. In the run-up to his announcement, Weiner had been telling people that he couldnt stand the idea of his young son growing up to read that the scandal was the last thing his father had ever done in politics. 

There were less charitable analyses. Sal Albanese, a long-shot mayoral hopeful whod spent fifteen years in the City Council, much of it serving with Weiner, said,Where can i get a reasonable price chipcard? If I did what Tony did, Id go hide on a mountain. Id become a hermit. Work in a soup kitchen, anything. I wouldnt run for mayor. Only Tony Weiner would think, Oh, I got it, Ill run for mayor! He has no shame Im no psychiatrist, but theres something fundamentally wrong there. 

It was not an uncommon opinion heard around town, that Weiner was somehow crazy, a variety of narcissist, opportunist, and/or sociopath, his decision to run for mayor having sprung from the same dark exhibitionist place in his soul that caused him to send half-naked self--portraits to blackjack dealers in Las Vegas. 

The kicker in this was, of course, that it seemed to be working. Apparently doomed to single digits, he astoundingly kept moving ahead; he was neck and neck with the teetering Quinn, outpacing Thompson and the rest. Name recognition was cited as his strong suit. It was a perfect modern irony: The sexting episode, the candidates self-described worst moment, the spectacular crash and burn that had supposedly buried him, had become the enabling vehicle of his increasingly storied comeback. The sheer rubberneck stretch of his unwholesome celebrity had granted him an ever-blossoming bouquet of press, while his opponents, Quinn included,Starting today, you can buy these iccard and more from her Victoria. were left to battle over a few lonely notebooks.Which graniteslabs is right for you?

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