Our purportedly liberal polity here in New York has a nasty little thuggish underbelly, nowhere better displayed than in the person of Queens/Brooklyn Congressman Anthony Weiner. Weiner has burnished a popular image nationally among some leftish types who don’t know him very well (and think being an ex-roommate of Jon Stewart is more than enough).
Weiner does safely high-profile but arguably pointless things like fighting for a doomed vote on single-payer health insurance. And he has a liberal voting record. But what he really, passionately believes in is himself and his career.
The latest example is the annoying doublespeak he generated to take all available positions on the Islamic cultural center (‘Ground Zero mosque’) controversy simultaneously. The ten-line letter is a marvel. It demostrates how media-savvy career politicians can shape their language to satisfy and stroke all potential listeners: it trumpets the ‘constitutional protection of religion’ and in the next graf welcomes ‘fair questions’ that should be raised in the spirit of ‘transparency and tolerance of all viewpoints’.
This way, Weiner can look like an opponent of religious bias with the liberals and still scream angrily about unanswered ‘questions’ over the Islamic edifice when addressing the Satmar Hasidim and other religious fanatics. This expert style of pandering is Wiener’s hallmark, no doubt learned at the knee of Senator Charles Schumer for whom he once worked.
I first heard of Weiner when Matt Taibbi (author of the Rolling Stone take-down of Goldman Sachs) tried to mock the obsessive news coverage of Pope John Paul II’s funeral in a New York Press spoof that misfired badly. People thought Taibbi was making fun of the dead (and a pope, no less) and went ape. Weiner dutifully piled on.
Then Weiner ran for the Democratic nomination for mayor against Bloomberg in 2005 and came in a surprisingly respectable second. He was widely expected to go for the nomination again last year, but Bloomberg bought his way through the two-term limit and scared Weiner off with his billions. Weiner left the field to a Democratic machine pol who then stunned everyone by coming within five points of winning despite Bloomberg’s $100 million campaign.
Weiner could have made the run himself and conceivably even won by turning the race into a populist complaint about Mayor Mike’s buying his own set of rules. Instead he opportunistically criticized the Obama White House for not supporting the Democratic sacrifical lamb.
But when Weiner and the rest of the New York Democrats really raise their faux-liberal skirts is on the subject of Israel. You should have seem them all—Schumer, Gillibrand, Rangel—clamor for microphones to cheer the IDF after its deadly raid on the Gaza aid ship.
Weiner is a clever grandstander and is tiresomely on camera every Sunday evening, having learned from Schumer the old trick that since Sunday is a slow news day, the local TV news reporters are suckers for a visual op of any sort. Here’s Anthony making a splash with his push for more lifeguards at Rockaway Beach, a good way to get himself on air along with some easy cheesecake.
He’s also good at stunts like denouncing Saudi Arabia outside their consulate in Washington since he knows that will go down well with his huge Zionist base. Weiner and other New York pols drummed up a silly ‘Joint Resolution of Disapproval’ of some Saudi arms deal for a few headlines.
But Weiner would never really challenge the strategic consensus that includes the Saudi alliance. He voted for the 2002 authorization to go conquer Iraq when that was the popular position (especially among his base). Later, when it wasn’t popular any more, he told Bill O’Reilly that he regretted it.
Weiner looks scrappy and progressive on the national stage, but he’s no liberal when it comes to New York issues that will win him no points with his comfy constituents. He battled Bloomberg over congestion pricing, which would have alleviated Manhattan’s automobile traffic, because his suburban-ish electoral district is full of car owners.
In short, Anthony Weiner all image and no substance. He stands for nothing but is remarkably quick to sniff the prevailing winds when they offer the opportunity for personal advancement. He is notoriously brutal to his staff, works all the time and wants to be somebody. Maybe someday he will.