Anthony Weiner: The Beat Goes On

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I think I'll stick around. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

This morning Anthony Weiner was the target of the editorial-page equivalent of a stoning. Rarely have the Post, the Daily News, and the Times found themselves in such vehement agreement: Weiner must leave the race for mayor, now. Well, he's appearing at another mayoral forum tonight. Tomorrow at noon the results of a poll asking "Should Anthony Weiner Drop Out?" will be released. Maybe 100 percent of the respondents will say yes. That won't matter either. After being forced to resign from Congress, after yesterday's humiliating Carlos Danger press conference, with his traumatized wife at his side, Weiner, at long last, has no sense of decency. He will almost certainly brazen this out and be there on the ballot in September.

There are, however, two things that could still end this foolishness, and Weiner's shrinking chances of becoming mayor. The first is the most likely: that something so vile, so offensive, or even criminal emerges from the Weiner Internet vault. This is one of the (many) things that he doesn't seem to understand: that the facts of what he's done, and when he did it, matter. Weiner would like to dismiss the emergence of yesterday's lewd texts and photos as simply more of the same, for which he's already apologized, but the fantasies published Monday night were more lurid than what spilled out two years ago. That's part of the reason the current uproar is louder. Compounding the political damage is the timing, in two respects: Weiner admitted to being so addicted to his destructive behavior that it continued until as recently as last summer, and it's being revealed as city voters finally start to focus on deciding who they want in City Hall next. Sure, voters say they're willing to forgive, and that they're underwhelmed by the other candidates, but with seven weeks to go before the Democratic primary, Weiner is moving from entertaining sideshow to freak show. "What's sad and amazing is that in some ways he had already won," says a top strategist who has talked with Weiner recently. "Anthony had become a credible candidate. People were taking him seriously again." 

Maybe the next dirty bomb will be the one that nudges the Clintons off the sidelines. Bill and Hillary's affection for Huma Abedin is genuine, and they are surely deeply grieved by the pain Weiner is inflicting on her. Hillary, with an eye on 2016, doesn't want to get any closer to this tawdry mess. And Bill, with his own icky history of sexual adventures, isn't in the strongest position to give morality lectures. They've already distanced themselves from Weiner's comeback. But they are among the very few people with the political and personal standing to end it. Perhaps Abedin is still clinging to the hope that her disgraced husband is going to redeem himself in this campaign, or maybe she's as politically ambitious as Weiner. The Clintons taught Abedin to fight back and never give in, particularly in the face of a media onslaught. But they would be doing their surrogate daughter a favor by delivering some adult supervision.