Weiner and Spitzer: Will Voters Reward Bad Behavior At the Polls?

Disgraced New York politicians try to sell the public on forgiveness.

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Mike Segar / Reuters

Democratic candidate for New York City Mayor Anthony Weiner stops to speak to the media outside his New York City apartment July 24, 2013

This article is featured in this week’s magazine under the headline “Men Behaving Badly.” Not a subscriber? Click here to purchase a year’s worth of TIME for only $30.

It was hard to believe that New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner could fall any further. But then an anonymous tip to a gossip website revealed on July 22 that he continued his lewd online behavior more than a year after resigning from Congress in disgrace—even after the birth of his child, while he was boasting to the press about the recovery of his marriage. It turns out there were more selfies of his crotch, more unprintable fantasies and, now, the revelation that he had communicated online under the pseudonym Carlos Danger.

In another era, this would have ended his public life. But instead, he appeared the next day before the Big Apple’s ravenous press, looking confident and in command, his lovely wife beside him, defending his honor. “She has given me a second chance,” he said. “I want to bring my vision to the people of the city of New York. I hope they are willing to still continue to give me a second chance.”

Of course, Weiner is not the only one doing the redemption shuffle in New York City this summer. Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced governor who resigned in 2008 after admitting to an expensive prostitution habit, has also been trying to turn his public shame into ­a qualification for office. A day after announcing his campaign for comptroller, he teared up on MSNBC. “You go through that pain, you change,” he said. His latest television ad plays to the same theme. “I failed. Big time,” he says. “When you dig yourself a hole, you can either lie in it the rest of your life or do something positive. That’s why I’m running.”

(PHOTOS: The Anthony Weiner Scandal)

Spitzer acknowledges that there could be a silver lining to his failures. “There are some collateral consequences that aren’t purely negative,” he tells TIME. “I’d never say, ‘Gee, this is an affirmatively good thing,’ but if it tempers and changes public attitude because it softens someone who is now more empathetic and now more conscious of emotional dynamics with others, the public senses that.”

The question now facing New York voters is whether shame works as a selling point. The scandals have already helped both men dominate their rivals in notoriety and media coverage—the two most vital currencies in New York’s costly ad market. They have also each won some empathy points with Democratic primary voters, for whom personality tends to matter more than policy differences. Just before the latest revelations, Weiner seemed to be escaping his scandalous past at campaign events. “Oh, I don’t care. Which one of us is perfect?” said Frieda Natt after Weiner spoke at the Riverdale Senior Services center.

And in a city that loves a tough guy, the pure brazenness of these men’s transgressions could be a selling point. “You don’t send crotch shots of yourself to people you don’t know, you don’t hire prostitutes on a business trip without being aggressive,” says Kenneth Sherrill, a political-science professor at Hunter College. “It is as if they were running ads that say, ‘Vote for me. I’ve got balls.’”

(VIDEO: Wife at His Side, Weiner Admits to More Online Sex Chats)

Since entering what had been humdrum races, both men have used their dominance of the public discussion to promote their plans. Spitzer says he would expand the role of the traditionally boring comptroller into a corporate watchdog that uses the city’s pensions to put pressure on big business. Weiner has proposed using New York City as a “laboratory” for single-payer health insurance by ­creating a system like Medicare to cover the city’s workers, retirees and undocumented immigrants. “It is nobody’s fault that sex sells,” says Stu Loeser, former spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “More people know about Anthony Weiner’s platforms in part because the notoriety gives him a megaphone that allows him to make a sale.”

According to a New York Times/Siena College poll, 61% of registered voters in New York said understanding “the needs and problems” of people like them was the most important quality in a candidate. The Weiner family played on those sensibilities when his wife Huma Abedin, a longtime Hillary Clinton aide, spoke at the press conference. “It was not an easy choice in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage,” she said. “That was a decision I made for me, for our son and for our family.”

The damage done by the latest revelations is not yet known. Weiner has now admitted to two rounds of lying to voters about his personal life, spaced roughly a year apart. His current plan is to power through the controversy, dragging his city and its joyous tabloid press along with him. As for whether voters have seen enough change in Spitzer, the candidate admits, it’s an open question. “I’ll find out Sept. 10,” he said.

MORE: Weiner and Spitzer Both Rise to Top in New York City Poll

49 comments
sgtmaj05
sgtmaj05

Come on New Yorkers, you elected Hillary Clinton and she used you to propel herself in the political arena and now you would even consider these two cheats is appalling.  Say no!

reallife
reallife

pervert husband - ambitious wife - hmmmm

sounds familiar?



Clinton/Weiner 2016 !!!!!!

LOL


ALLITYPING
ALLITYPING

On the one hand, I want to thank our former governor, Eliot Spitzer, for inspiring my first novel, VIRTUE.  I was fascinated as to why a man would risk his entire career and as to why a woman would choose to become a call girl, and my intrigue gave birth to a story. 

On the other hand, voters in New York, who I consider savvy and street smart, need to remember two very important things when choosing a candidate.  Spitzer broke the law and Weiner lied.  Both men have serious issues regarding their sexuality, their narcissistic psyches, and a "do whatever groveling it takes" to re-enter politics.  I still remember Jimmy Carter, who was loyal to his wife, Roslyn, admitting in a Playboy interview, "I have lust in my heart."  But he kept his zipper zipped.

Allison Bassen

Author of VIRTUE

eagle11772
eagle11772

I'ma New Yorker.  BOTH THESE GUS ARE BUMS ! I HOPE New Yorkers are NOT stupid enough to elect them. And unlike Spitzer, The Weenerman has NO law degree.  He has only a B.A. degree.  So he has no law office, or lobbyist job to fall back on.  He has been unemployed for years, and so has been financially supported by his wife.  If she kicks him out of the house, I wonder what city homeless shelter he will shack up in.

stevek77536
stevek77536

"The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy".

Edwin Edwards, Governor of Louisiana

PacificSage
PacificSage

I don't have to even read this article. All I have to do is scan for the name Mark Sanford. If it's not there, the righteous indignation is BS

babycheeks
babycheeks

To me her speaking at the news conference revealed she is just as ambitious as he is, willing to help gloss over a sexual perversion, in order to be married to the Mayor of NYC. This also shown when you go back and read the people article, where she sings his reformation into a great husband and father. We now know at the time he was still in the midst of sexting a 22 year old the most vile messages. Only here ambition could explain such a pathetic participation in the deception.

Amit-Atlanta-USA
Amit-Atlanta-USA

What stands out from this UNFOLDING, NEVER-ENDING DRAMA, specifically on why his wife is sticking with him after all this serial misconduct is this.

His wife Huma Abedin who was the Dy. Chief of Staff at the US State Dept, and the daughter of a leading MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD leader of PAKISTANI ORIGIN, working in SAUDI ARABIA has a GREATER ISLAMIC AGENDA that she can carry forward by having a JEWISH AMERICAN by her side. She is there to just cash-in on her MORALLY WEAK HUSBAND and knows that he can be BLACKMAILED to get her ISLAMIC AGENDA FORWARD.

That's PRECISELY how a lot of people operate, incl. the other COVERT ISLAMIST CNN's Mr. FAREED ZAKARIA who is carrying on (inspite of a TROUBLED MARRIAGE) with his highly influential JEWISH WIFE Paula Throckmorton.

That was what Anna Chapman, the Russian spy who had married a British Man and acquired British citizenship did too.

Similar was the case with Pakistani politician Imran Khan (a sworn anti-American, and an ardent supporter of Taliban & other Islamic radicals) who had married a British Jewish Baroness Marcelle Goldsmith, who later converted to Islam and became Jemima Khan.

These people do everything they can to carry forward their agenda, and try to blend in their personal lives into achieving that too!

paulejb
paulejb

Democrat women will forgive a man for any transgression as long as he mouths support for abortion on demand. Abortion is the highest sacrament in the religion of liberalism.

paulejb
paulejb

Sexual perversion is a resume enhancer in the Democrat party. Bill Clinton was never more popular than when the stain was found on Monica's blue dress.

jmac
jmac

"Will voters reward bad behavior at the polls?"

LOL.   The nation certainly rewarded bad behavior when it elected George W. for a second term and his behavior was a whole lot worse than sexting.  

susanrobin
susanrobin

How is it possible that in a city of over 8M people that it would even consider for more than a minute (and that is too long) to let two men with such low morals, two men that will lie and cheat and steal any time the opportunity arises (and they have and continue to do), run down the streets of New York, let alone run for an office of any kind.  You are the city that during and after 9-11 rebuilt this great city together, you are the city that is listed on the top 10 safest cities in the world, and you are the most diverse, inclusive city anywhereDo you New York want either of those two men to represent anything for you at all? Ever? Do you think that if you had another crisis or another moment in time that you need to bring the city together quickly that either of these men can lead you? Do you want to ever want any of your children to grow up and say ' "Daddy, Mommy, when I grow up I want to be just like that man" Is that acceptable to you? After 9-11 are you willing to settle for the worst we have to offer, or are you going to stand up and say, hey, this is NYC and NY and only the best are allowed the gift we give to lead the greatest city in the world". We did not send out men and woman out to protect our great country after 9-11 (my son included), to allow two losers to lead us after so many lost their lives and suffered so much for you, for us. Stand up and be counted and just say NO to bad behavior.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

I hope Weiner doesn't take Spitzer down with him.  Weiner cannot seem to get out of his own way, but there are a lot of people that suggest that Spitzer was set up by huge political enemies (just think of a few banks, insurance companies, etc. that were not thrilled with Spitzer's agenda).  Spitzer did great work when he was in office.   He made his mistakes and seems to be behaving himself very well.  Other politicians have recovered from bad deeds.  I'd vote for Spitzer in a heartbeat......Weiner, I don't think so but I guess it depends on who the other choices are.

senorplaid
senorplaid

Well, they did in South Carolina, so why not New York?

Piacevole
Piacevole

Has there ever been a woman politician who has done things like this and expected to recover?  Can we even imagine such a thing?

Ever, in all of American political history?  A woman who patronized prostitutes or posted crotch shots of herself would be instantly disqualified for office.

Maybe what is needed is not "balls," but good judgment, a capacity to behave in such a way as not to be a laughingstock.

As it is, the traditional definition of "chutzpah" ought to be updated to include things like this, and we need to ask ourselves a question: is the scarcity of men who know how to comport themselves so severe that we have to settle for men like this because no others are on tap?

destor23
destor23

"Bad behavior?"  A little prudish, Time. 

wingding5
wingding5

Never underestimate the stupidity of the American voter. 

shaywysong
shaywysong

So politicians who are mired in their own personal obsessions are somehow suitable for public office??????   Weiner displays a baffling lack of judgment and character by engaging in his infantile obsession with his private parts and his sexting "games" with young women. Were I his wife, I'd take him for every penny I could get and kick his ass to the curb. The guy isn't even good-looking, for heaven's sake! !!  Sorry, folks, but people in positions of public trust (hahahaha--can't help laughing when I try to think of politicians this way, but, oh well, hope spring eternal!) should have the moral grounding to contain such proclivities. If they can't, then they should get out of the public view and spend their days sitting in the back of darkened theaters watching cheap porn, so the rest of us don't have to read about their penises.

DawnHavard
DawnHavard

Fool me once - shame on you

Fool me twice - shame on me


cristobal62
cristobal62

So I gather that character and morals have nothing to do with politicians? Have we really scraped so badly the barrel that this is the best that we can do for our cities? The San Diego mayor sexually harasses employees while the democratic party looks the other way, asking these women to take one In the chin for the party. Weiner cheats on his wife, lies to her and to the public, offering bribes to the women he targets for his "dangerous seduction" and that's just ok? Weiner has made New York a laughing stock and if you think anyone is going to respect him, you're wrong. It's also troubling that he's willing to bribe, for goodness sake. I lived in New York for many years -my daughter and her family currently live there. New York is special, the people are special and they deserve way better than Weiner.

KooglaframEndolley
KooglaframEndolley

It's absurd to ask whether voters will reward Weiner or Spitzer's bad behavior. Nobody will be voting for these men because of their personal failures. The votes they get will be because of their public policies.

ChristinaA.Wilson
ChristinaA.Wilson

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DwDunphy
DwDunphy

Go away, penis distributor.

arvay
arvay

I hope for his victory at the polls. 

Americans need to grow up and realize that a politician's sexual "morality" has nothing to do with his/her suitability for office. Weiner's habits are particularly trivial. One could make the case that Spitzer was breaking the law when he visited prostitutes -- a crime that should not be a crime. In any case. committing a crime shouldn't necessarily disqualify someone from either voting or holding office. 

I suspect that younger voters are going to support both candidates. 

PacificSage
PacificSage

@paulejb 

That really means a lot from a regressive that values war & executions as the highest form of religion

Piacevole
Piacevole

Don't be ridiculous.  I don't suppoort Weiner for anything, and I wish he'd just shut up, get out of the picture, and go find an honest job.  And take Spitzer with him.

That said, what they're doing isn't a patch on whar Republican men in office routinely do, ot try to do, to limit the freedoms and actions of women, every time they think they've got a chance to.

Piacevole
Piacevole

Clinton remained popular despite the Lewinsky thing, not because of it.  It certainly didn't improve my op0inion of him, any.  But although his successor apparently didn't get into situations like that, look what Bush did to the economy, and we're STILL digging our way out of his hole.  And his wars.  And his 9-11.

Piacevole
Piacevole

Spitzer was patronizing prostitutes at the same time he was inveighing against other men who patronize prostitutes and ostensibly mounting a huge effort to curtail prostitution.

Can you say, "hypocrite?"

I'd say that Eliot Spitzer is a whole lot smarter than Weiner, but still. . . in a city the size of New York, aren't there some smart people with probity?  Somewhere?  Where's Diogenes when we need him?

Piacevole
Piacevole

@Bigbenn If this is true, it would go a long way toward explaining her behavior: she's "good soldiering."

Better her than me.  I'm just not that good a fanatic.

tommyudo
tommyudo

@senorplaid 


And they re-elected Diaper Boy Vitter in Louisiana as well. Of all the so-called "sex scandals" of recent years, Vitter's romp with prosties, while  dressed as an infant, has to be by far the most degrading. Marv Alberts's dalliance with women while dressed as a French maid pales in comparison, yet Marv has made it back to being a sports announcer wearing one of the worst rugs ever devised.

monicall
monicall

@Piacevole Exactly!! Remember Vanessa Williams? She couldn't even be Miss America because Penthouse was sent and published unauthorized nude model photos of her by an unscrupulous photographer who was suppose to have destroyed them. This innocent woman was ostracized by America and had her crown taken away. We didn't even want a woman to have the relatively insignificant role as a pageant queen. Yet these out-of-control, sex-crazed men can be elected to offices of high esteem over and over again!!!! And by the way Weiner, we you say you hope voters will "still continue to give you a second chance" - that's called a 3rd chance!! Three strikes buddy!!

yodadog
yodadog

@cristobal62 There was a day when most of society had ethics and morals, and anyone caught doing any of these things would be afriad show their face in public and have to face the shame and outrage their actions once generated, much less run for office, much less be voted INTO office. It's not just them, it's all of us.

DwDunphy
DwDunphy

@arvay It has nothing to do with the sexuality. It's about the lying. He can photoblast his junk until Zeus comes back for all I care...but his sad resignation from Congress was laden with regrets for things he did, and promises to not do it again. Then he continued anyway.

So, fine. He clearly has a problem, but he has apparently made no serious attempt to address it and he wants everyone to "fuggedaboutit" as it goes on. The unrepentant repentance is the problem, as is his inability to protect his wife from being dragged into his mess. He is supposed to be a man and protect her from the garbage he's brought upon himself. No, instead he's forcing her to be a part of it (and anyone who saw her discomfort at the press conference knows this was not something she wanted to be a part of).

So what should anyone interpret from these actions? That what he would say as mayor will have no correlation with what he will do? That he will find any hapless available soul to throw under the bus when he fouls up and does something dreadful with running NYC? 

This has nothing to do with being a moralizing American prude. He can leave his member swinging in the wind for all anyone cares, but the duplicity of his cover-ups, denials, and tendencies to enlist scapegoats and diversionary mouthpieces bodes ill for any sucker who buys his yap.

But hey, if you enjoy being fooled once, twice, three times, four times, and on, be my guest. 

cent-fan
cent-fan

@tl29szzz920 True.  Most people seem to forget that.  If you're driven to stake your career on a perpetual beauty pageant known as politics you have to believe you're worth every drop of adulation... no matter what you do.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@monicall @Piacevole Vanessa Williams story was thirty years ago!  A lot has happened in thirty years (think about the sea change view of gay marriage and interracial marriages).  VW also has enjoyed a pretty good career anyway.  People are more tolerant today. 

Piacevole
Piacevole

@yodadog @cristobal62 Speak for yourself.  I'm afraid their actions put them beyond the pale for office, so far as i'm concerned.  Not because sexuality is involved, but because stunningly bad judgment has been exhibited.

arvay
arvay

@DwDunphy @arvay 

None of this matters. This is the 21st century, lying about an embarrassment that shouldn't be embarrassing, or anyone else's concern -- should have gone away after the Lewinsky affair.

 Lying about fake financial system reform, domestic spying and cyber attacks -- THAT's worth looking into.

The younger people "sext" all the time, when they replace the fogies, we'll be better off. 

Piacevole
Piacevole

Vanessa Williams was a while back, and, indeed, she has had a fairly good career as an actress.

What chance would you give her as a politician, who had to persuade an electorate to vote for her?

yodadog
yodadog

@Piacevole-I agree, and my point above is that people sharing the views in these three posts are in a minority. It seems a majority of citizens are willing to accept this behavior and put them back into office. That just blows me away.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@Piacevole @MrObvious @shaywysong @arvay @DwDunphy 

Lets say a legislator legislate their morality that has a profound impact on regular folks life. For the worse. Yet their morality doesn't extend to their own habits.

To my knowledge Spitzer was a phenomenal prosecutor. He never made his career a point to wash away prostitution - he went after very powerful figures that in turn made sure the world found out about is 'moral' issues.

I'd agree with you that prostitution and crotch shots are 'not cool' but I worry about legislation.

I worry about the 'moral' family values types that want tell us how to live our lives, lives they don't care to live themselves - and then bend over to any corporate power that feel like bribe them to write horrible legislation.

I leave the whole sexual moral stuff to those that cares and to these guys spouces. Because personally I'd never go to a prostitute or post crotch shots online, but I worry less about that and more about things that truly effect us all.

Social conservative issues are sauce for the gander.

Piacevole
Piacevole

@MrObvious @shaywysong @arvay @DwDunphy If the bedchamber had been the site of their activities, that would be one thing, and none of our business.  But when prostitutes and posting crotch shots on the internet are concerned, that takes it out of the realm of the private and into the public.  Or pubic, your choice.

It's their judgment that is at fault, and judgment is sort of a requirement for office.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@shaywysong @arvay @DwDunphy 

For most part, only GOPers run on 'morals' and 'family value' and lots of them break and fail them and still get a second chance. Like Sandford. Moral of the story - what a person does matters. What they legislate matter - the most 'moral' among us falls and it's not a very good platform to run on.

They're public servants - not virgins reborn.

Lets concentrate on what they do and how they legislate, not their bed chamber habits.

shaywysong
shaywysong

@arvay @DwDunphy Oh really?? I know a lot of young people who don't sext. You think the president screwing around in the oval office isn't important? You think a public figure like the prez actually has a life apart from the public one he has chosen, campaigned for, and promised accountability?? MOrals don't matter?  We're worse off than I thought we were....