Anthony Weiner wants to run for mayor. That’s the headlining-grabbing takeaway from the cover of this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, released online this morning, about the fallen congressman and his wife Huma Abedin’s “Post-Scandal Playbook.” But while a return to office, and thus a shot at redemption, might be the end goal for Weiner, his path seems to be a complex and brave one, filled with winding self-analysis that somehow feels both unrehearsed and open. Whereas former governor Eliot Spitzer, in an interview after his prostitution scandal, ruled out a return to politics, could barely admit to seeing a therapist, and said “My obituary’s written,” Weiner sees not finality, but growth, both in his marriage and — he hopes — his public persona.
In multiple marathon sessions with writer Jonathan Van Meter, Weiner and Abedin, together and separately, recap their lives since the Twitter slip-up and subsequent deluge of sexts-made-public with raw clarity. Here are some highlights.
Weiner, on admitting to his wife that the gray boxer briefs and erection therein were his:
“It reached this point where I just sat down with Huma and said, ‘Listen, I can’t… . I don’t want to lie.’ … I just didn’t want to lie anymore to her.” Here, his voice cracks and tears well up in his eyes. “I have a choppy memory of it, but she was devastated. She immediately said, ‘Well you’ve got to stop lying to everyone else too.’ And basically we drove back to the city, and she said: ‘You’ve just got to tell everyone the truth. Telling me doesn’t help any.’ It was brutal. It was completely out of control. There was the crime, there was the cover-up, there was harm I had done to her. And there’s no one who deserved this less than Huma. That’s really the bottom line. No one deserved to have a dope like me do that less than she did.”
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” Abedin says. “I felt like I was in an airplane really high in the air, and all of a sudden, the plane is coming apart at the seams, and I am just doing all I can to hang on for dear life. That is what it felt like.”
Abedin on the guidance of Hillary Clinton, who knows her way around a public sex scandal:
“We’ve had a lot of personal conversations, none of which I feel comfortable talking about. But what I will say about her, and for that matter her entire family, the unconditional love and support they have given me has been a real gift. And I think she would be O.K. with me saying this, because I know she has said this before: at the end of the day, at the very least, every woman should have the ability and the confidence and the choice to make whatever decisions she wants to make that are right for her and not be judged by it.”
Weiner guessing why his plummet was so epic:
“My last name; the fact that I was this combative congressman; the fact that there were pictures involved; the fact that it was a slow news period; the fact that I was an idiot about it; the fact that, while I was still lying about it, I dug myself in deeper by getting beefy with every reporter. But it was also this notion of how much attention our relationship had gotten, this kind of Camelot feel to it. It turned out to make it harder on both of us, and it made the explosion that much bigger.”
Jon Stewart, Weiner’s old roommate, describing the media’s role and his advice:
“We create a two-dimensional effigy of an individual and just kind of burn it in the town square and then walk away,” Stewart says. “As someone who is part of the process that does that to people, when I talked to him, it was more from that perspective than anything else, to say: ‘As low as you are, please understand that what’s happening to you right now isn’t really happening to you, it’s happening to whatever caricature we’ve all created of you.”
Weiner on the thrill of the cybersex:
“So somewhere in there it got to a place where I was trying to engage people in nothing about being a politician. Or sometimes it would start out about politics and then, ‘You’re a great guy.’ ‘Oh, thanks, you’re great, too.’ ‘I think you’re handsome.’ ‘Oh, that’s great.’ And 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.”
Weiner on therapy:
“It’s none of the easy stuff. She didn’t tell me: ‘You have a sex addiction! You were abused as a child!’ None of that stuff, which in a lot of ways, I’d kind of prefer.” He laughed. “It’s an easy explanation that people intuitively get.” He talked a bit about how he didn’t like being alone, had a hard time being “still,” didn’t like “being in empty spaces.”
Anthony’s brother, Jason Weiner, describing why his brother is now less of a douchebag:
“I wouldn’t stand for other people saying this about him, but there was definitely a douchiness about him that I just don’t really see anymore.” […] “No one has been harder on him than he has been on himself,” Jason says. “I find that refreshing, because he was always — in his political career, and it was sort of overflowing into his personal life — this completely decisive, ‘this is the right thing because this is what I’m doing.’ It’s like this circular reasoning that was kind of hubristic. He doesn’t have that anymore. The irony is that it could make him a better politician.”
Weiner on being spotted in public:
“Like, you know, I don’t travel too far without someone turning around and looking or taking a picture of me or coming up to say hello or whispering to their buddy. When it gets into more than that, it’s one of the following: 1) ‘Oh, you should run.’ 2) ‘Man, you got screwed.’ 3) ‘Aw, I’m so sorry what happened to you.’ 4) ‘Spitzer! You’re Governor Spitzer!’”
And running for office again, at this moment:
“I don’t have this burning, overriding desire to go out and run for office,” he said. “It’s not the single animating force in my life as it was for quite some time. But I do recognize, to some degree, it’s now or maybe never for me, in terms of running for something. […] Also, I want to ask people to give me a second chance.”
All the rest is here.