“Maybe the scandal thing does give me an opportunity to get stuff heard. [It is] always good when people are listening,” he said, “but it’s not worth the pain I put people through.”
On the contrary, the ex-congressman remarked, if he was getting traction in the race, it was due to the fact that he was “running an independent campaign and talking about ideas,” policy initiatives like No. 29 of his 64 “Keys to the City,” i.e., “Create Single Payer Laboratory in New York City.” Building on his crowd-pleasing holdout support of the “public option” during the debate over Obamacare, Weiner has been giving PowerPoint presentations around the municipality, noting that even as city medical costs exceed $12 billion—17 percent of the budget—1.2 million New Yorkers remain without basic coverage. Single-payer would save billions. People who said it wouldn’t work were victims of what Weiner called “learned inertia … Everyone said you can never get crime down, but it turned out that you can. They said you couldn’t run the city, but you can.” Single-payer would be the same thing, Weiner said. All it took was “creativity, hard work, and electing the right mayor.”
Right then, Weiner’s SUV splashed through a two-foot-deep puddle on the wide boulevard named for John F. Hylan, the 96th mayor of the City of New York (1918–1925). During Hurricane Sandy, this area took heavy damage. People were without power for weeks. Even though Weiner claims to have “never, not for a single day,” missed being in Congress since his resignation, Sandy was an exception. “The storm pretty much fell right on my district” in Brooklyn and Queens, he said mournfully. If he had been in Congress, then he might have been able to help. It was a regret Weiner said he’d “live with” for a long time.
“I know a lot of people think me running is some form of therapy,” Weiner finally said, watching a great plume of water fly by his passenger-seat window. “There might be some truth to that. But I’d like to know what part of this is supposed to be therapeutic.”
At a mayoral forum held at the Gil Hodges Public School in Flatbush, where government meddling into ritual circumcision was a hot issue, the moderator asked the candidates which New York mayor they most admired. Thompson, Quinn, and De Blasio played it safe, invoking the hallowed if distant memory of Fiorello La Guardia. Weiner was alone in choosing Ed Koch. As a model for a prospective Weiner mayoralty, that sounded about right, with slightly better jokes, reggae music, and maybe a smidgen of Giuliani heavy-handedness thrown in. For sure, the velvet-fist serenity of Bloombergian noblesse oblige/nanny state would be a thing of the past, as Weinerworld would almost be guaranteed to be a noisy junkyard dog of a place. “I’m looking for miserable City Council people, unions threatening to strike, and lots of Sunday press conferences,” said one City Hall reporter. Another said, “It won’t be boring, which is good for us, but maybe not so good for the rest of the city.”
Even excluding the moral-turpitude angle, there were still plenty of good reasons not to vote for Anthony Weiner. How was a famously non-delegating micromanager, someone who has never presided over anything larger than the office of a junior congressman, to ride herd on 400,000 city workers, many of whom were looking to even the score after the Bloomberg cold shoulder? Could the impulsive Weiner keep a poker face sitting across the table from the JPMorgan Chases and MetLifes of the world?
Short of pledging not to retain Ray Kelly, the hot-button police commissioner, the candidate has provided little insight into the inner workings of his prospective administration. Reasoning that his “life particulars are not likely to be referenced in political textbooks,” Weiner has eschewed the usual consultant route, choosing instead to essentially run his own campaign. This may change by the runoff, which Weiner sees as “me and Quinn,” but right now he’s enthralled by what he calls “my independence,” his ability to call his own shots, be wholly his own best counsel.
Weiner and I were discussing why in the world I would vote for a guy like him just because he was fun to hang around with in a Queens kind of way. His retreat from the 2009 post-term-limits election simply because Bloomberg had $20 million trained on his skinny body wasn’t exactly a profile in courage. The candidate was defending himself when his phone rang.
After a brief conversation, Weiner said, “You want to meet Huma?”
In the Times Magazine article, Weiner describes the first time he noticed Huma Abedin, then working as the “body person” for First Lady Hillary Clinton. “I was like ‘Wow, who is that?’ … She’s like this intriguing, fascinating creature.” At the time, the comment seemed on the creepy side. But now, as Huma entered the coffee shop, it was blazingly obvious what Weiner meant.