Anthony Weiner: Were his dreams of being mayor just Twittered away?
It's clear Anthony Weiner wants to be mayor of New York. Just as clear, say analysts, is that 'Weinergate' will arm his political rivals for years to come, and isn't likely to 'just go away.'
He has already run once (he lost in the primary in 2005), told the media of his interest in running again in 2013, and has raised cash for a possible run.
Heâ€™s described as brash, aggressive and fast talking â€“ all traits that appeal to many New Yorkers.
Congressman Weiner denies he sent the photo, but thatâ€™s as far as he goes. He suggests someone may have hacked into his account, but he does not want an official investigation â€“ instead heâ€™s hired a law firm and private investigator. He says he canâ€™t say if the photo is his â€¦ uh, underwear. And, after a round of talk shows on Wednesday, he now says he wonâ€™t talk about it anymore.
Weinerâ€™s problem illustrates how in politics itâ€™s not just the possible scandal that matters but â€“ even more importantly â€“ how it gets handled. Do the public and media feel like they are hearing the truth? Is it the kind of scandal that might reflect on a politicianâ€™s character?
In Weinerâ€™s case, political analysts say the congressman has muddied the waters.
â€śWhat he has provided has been very confusing,â€ť says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. â€śWeâ€™re back into a vocabulary of non-denial denial.â€ť
The non-denial denial is best remembered for Watergate when political figures would deny a journalistâ€™s story was accurate but left open the possibility it might be true. President Bill Clinton was credited with a non-denial denial during the Monica Lewinsky affair.
â€śIf in fact he did not send the image, and itâ€™s not his crotch, then the impact is short term,â€ť says Mr. Muzzio. â€śNegative but short term.â€ť
But, if it turns out he sent the image and it is of himself, Muzzio says the affect could be â€śworse than Chris Lee.â€ť
Chris Lee was a Republican congressman from upstate New York who posted a shirtless photo of himself on a dating service. He was married, and the embarrassment resulted in his resignation.
Mr. Miringoff does not think the issue will just go away if Weiner refuses to talk about it. â€śThis is a high visibility political figure, and itâ€™s not just going away if he takes a hike on the Appalachian Trail â€“ thatâ€™s been done already.â€ť
Miringoff is referring to former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who admitted in 2009 that he had been unfaithful to his wife. As the scandal started to break, his staff said he had gone for a hike on the trail when in fact he was in Argentina with his paramour.
Why do men do these sorts of things?
â€śThere is this feeling of invulnerability, and maybe they feel they canâ€™t get caught,â€ť he says.
Although Weiner is a Democrat, in a district that has a 3-to-1 Democratic advantage, in 2010 his win against Republican Robert Turner was by only a 60-40 margin.
â€śHe had to spend a considerable amount of money,â€ť says Mr. Turner, a retired media executive. â€śHe got a good scare.â€ť
One of those reasons is because of the changing nature of the district. Some 40 percent of the population is Jewish. But, within the Jewish community are conservative Russian and Orthodox Jews who voted for Turner.
Turner imagines that even if Weiner survives the brouhaha, it will provide ammunition for possible rivals in 2013 for the mayoral primary. â€śI think there are a number of candidates who would take him on and would get a little ammunition with this one,â€ť he says.
At the end of the day, Muzzio says the flare-up has certainly provided some political entertainment and an endless supply of puns, ranging from Weiner Roast to Weinerâ€™s Pickle.
Even Weiner laughed about them. â€śWhen youâ€™re named Weiner it kind of goes with the territory,â€ť he said.