Some people do not learn from their mistakes. Anthony Weiner is one. The husband of Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin resigned from Congress in 2011 when he was caught sending shots of his tumescent privates to a number of women not his wife. His first instinct was to lie about the messages and claim someone had hacked his Twitter account. Over the three weeks between the story’s breaking and the seven-term Democrat’s resignation from his House seat, Weiner tried but failed to make light of his colossally bad judgment. Yet his pronouncements only made him look worse, as when, for example, Weiner said of his female correspondents, “To the best of my knowledge, they were all adults.”
Observers figured that Weiner must have cleaned up his act when he ran for mayor of New York in 2013 — because, well, surely he would not risk putting his wife and young son through a second-time-around sexting scandal. Also, surely Abedin would not participate in the campaign unless she were convinced Weiner would not self-destruct. Weiner noodled to the press about “the arc of the hero” as he prepared for his big comeback.
Then reality struck — illustrated with pixelated Weiner parts. Weiner continued to sext under the alias Carlos Danger while running for mayor. When the tabloids got the story, Abedin stood by her husband’s side and told the press she loved and forgave her husband. Months later, Weiner received less than 5 percent of the primary vote.
Now there’s no need to wonder what, if anything, Weiner could do to prompt his wife to leave him. Weiner crossed the line over the weekend when he sent a photo of his underweared self to a woman he had never met. The New York Post put the photo on its front page. Lying next to Weiner is his toddler son — who appears to be napping and, I would like to think, unaware of what his father was up to.
Abedin issued a statement: “After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband.” News reports informed that the couple had been separated for close to a year. Already she had stopped wearing her wedding ring.
What had Weiner learned? He learned all the wrong things — for example, that he could play upon voters’ belief in political second acts. He learned to divert attention by invoking Donald Trump. He recently told The New York Times, “There’s no doubt that the Trump phenomenon has led a lot of people to say to me, ‘Boy, compared to inviting the Russians to come hack someone’s email, your thing seems almost quaint.’” Finally, on Monday, the selfie king showed that he had learned something useful when he shuttered his Twitter account.
My first reaction was to note the incongruity of the cheating husbands of America’s (very likely) first female president and her trusted aide. I expect something different from feminists. But as I consider, I take it back. Throughout history, powerful men have gotten away with bad behavior. Think Trump. The progress can be found in the fact that straying men now pay a price. Alas, the price probably won’t be so painful as what Abedin and the couple’s son will pay.