Anthony Weiner’s Attempt At A Post-Scandal Comeback
Over the past two weeks, disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has re-emerged from a year of self-imposed isolation to deliver interviews to The New York Times, New York Observer and WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show” about health care, his signature issue.
Can he mount a successful comeback?
The newspaper Politico asked me to comment on whether Weiner had a political second act. Here’s an excerpt of my response (I bolded the final paragraph, which is an important point):
“I suspect most people will say that there’s no way Anthony Weiner can mount a political comeback. They may be right. But I’d remind them that he’s only 47-years-old, and that many other politicians who have endured scandal have made remarkable comebacks.
Sure, there’s still a fair amount of public revulsion toward Mr. Weiner. But that revulsion is a lot closer to the Eliot Spitzer level (from which he can recover) than the John Edwards one (from which he could not). Mr. Weiner did exactly what I would have advised him to do by staying out of the spotlight for a full year.
After a scandal, there are three audiences: People who still like you, people who never will, and people who are open to changing their minds about you. He should nurture the first group, ignore the second, and focus on the third.”
That final paragraph doesn’t apply to all scandals. But it applies in this case – and I’d suggest the undecided people who are open to changing their minds about him hold the key to his chances at an eventual comeback. Unfortunately for Weiner, he used the exact wrong tone to reach those “undecideds” by telling the New York Observer:
“That was the surest sign that we had fucked up this debate somehow…It’s a ninety dollar fucking mandate in the first year….It would have been like, ‘You are so happy about [the law being overturned ?] Fine. You don’t have to have fucking health insurance. All right, fine. Happy?’”
By re-emerging as the same profane and sarcastic man he was prior to the scandal, Mr. Weiner isn’t displaying the mature growth one would have hoped might occur after the tweeting incident. Whereas his brash New York attitude once served him well, it will now only serve to reinforce the worst ideas about him.
If he wants to reassure the public that after a year away he finally “gets it,” he’s going about it in the exact wrong way.
What do you think? Can Weiner ever make a political comeback? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.