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The Anthony Weiner Comeback Profile Makes Waves

What folks are saying about the big story

Adam Chandler
April 10, 2013

Usually, if you subscribe to the New York Times Magazine, you have the freedom to wait till the paper copy actually arrives at your doorstep on the weekend to tear through its pages, absently absorb its Meh lists and Ethicist entries, get a swell recipe, and read a feature or two.

But sometimes, today in fact, there is an 8,300-word story about Anthony Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin. In it, Weiner and Abedin talk candidly about the scandal that sunk the congressman and made him the idée fixe of a cruel and snarky media, versed in piety and pop-psychology (myself included). Jon Stewart, Hillary Clinton, Weiner’s family, and a surprising amount of trayf all make appearances.

Needless to say, the internet is slightly a’frenzy about the return of Weiner to the conversation. Here’s some of what’s being said about the article:

Despite its confessional parts, the takeaway headline seems to be that Anthony Weiner is heavily (re)considering whether to run for a stay in Gracie Mansion or not. A lot of places are leading with that.

On the Twitter machine, there was some piling on, like this from Michelle Malkin:

Anthony Weiner’s oh-so-perceptive brother: ‘There was definitely a douchiness about him’

Jeffrey Goldberg added:

Re: Weiner: A lot of men have father issues; very few, as a consequence, photograph their penises and send these photos to young women.

Charles Pierce rejected the story’s newsworthiness, denying that anyone was actually really wondering or asking what Anthony Weiner was doing or thinking now:

Nobody in the country is asking this question. Nobody trying to get by on two incomes and no benefits, no elderly people living unaware that a progressive president is about to make their lives worse, nobody out there in the places from which Loretta Lynn used to draw her lyrics, and, hell, nobody I’ve ever encountered anywhere in my entire life is asking this question. Here in Topeka, the rain is a’fallin, the faucet is a’dripping and the kids are a’bawlin’, and nobody cares that Huma and Tony get the stink-eye every time they go into D’Agostino’s. Meter’s a little off there.

Over at Slate, Dave Weigel thought that the profile had side-stepped the big issue entirely, namely that Weiner had seemingly initiated numerous inappropriate correspondences with young women, some of which included semi-lurid pictures:

As readable as it is, the New York Times magazine profile of the Weiner family sort of blows right past this. A novice in the scandal (and why would you want to know more?) would think that Weiner sent one picture to one fan in Seattle and was brought down by the jokes and shame, eventually admitting that he’d “sent messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.” He was a pervert, he admitted it, and he’s a better person now.

Over at Gawker, Max Read saw Huma Abedin as the biggest winner in the profile:

Weiner comes across, unsurprisingly, as a neurotic mess whose vaunted attempts at self-examination are, given that he still harbors fantasies of putting himself in the exact unhealthy position that led to all the crotch shots, clear failures. The real star of the profile is Abedin, whose on-message focus and forward-moving intensity show her, if nothing else, to have been well-prepared for this.

Otherwise, partisans are taking up Weiner as their cause. Some are saying he shouldn’t have resigned in the first place (an idea mentioned within the piece), others say the story is distorting the truth, and others yet are asking whether a political comeback is possible, given that Mark Sanford of South Carolina (whose crimes were much worse) is giving it another go.

For what it’s worth (and this may encapsulate how I feel about the whole saga in general), I think Jon Stewart–an old friend of Weiner’s who reached out to him in the midst of the scandal while simultaneously lampooning him–had the best insights:

“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. You have your own responsibility in this, but it’s not to us. I know it’s hard to separate yourself from that, but I hope you can at some level.’”

It’s a nice sentiment.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.