Anthony Weiner is relentless about being noticed.
Not now, when he’s been dragged back into the headlines to our collective dismay by FBI Director James Comey, but back in his heyday when he was running for office.
The summer he was campaigning for City Council in Brooklyn, Eileen Dorinson says she saw him nearly every weekend at Kingsborough Beach.
“Relentless,” she says — he was shaking hands and making his case both Saturdays and Sundays. It got to the point that she felt inclined to tell him that he had her vote. “Take it easy, go somewhere else.”
She felt that he was a champion for the neighborhood, fighting for “a strong middle-class Brooklyn to continue to exist.”
When the first of Weiner’s various sexting revelations broke in 2011, Dorinson was waiting for a plane at Kennedy Airport. She was shocked. “I said, ‘Oh Anthony, what did you do to us?’”
Now, Weiner is back with a vengeance — allegations that he texted with an underage girl led the FBI to the computer he shared with now-estranged wife Huma Abedin, a close aide to Hillary Clinton.
The FBI’s review of emails on that computer makes Weiner’s involvement more than just comedy. It forced Clinton on the defensive just as she was making closing arguments to undecided voters — and gave Donald Trump a fresh, FBI-certified line of attack on Clinton days before the election.
The sequel is bigger than the original
You may think you’ve seen this movie before, but “Weiner: Part Two” now has larger impact than local comedy. That’s a particular insult to the once-loyal residents of his district who launched him to power.
Weiner’s connections to his old neighborhood go deep.
He was famous among constituents for his glad-handing — mixing and mingling at Seaside Park concerts, the Brighton Jubilee, Marine Park little league openings, or wherever people gathered.
Even before he was an elected official, he was a regular presence for school graduations. Kathy Jaworski remembers seeing him during her son’s tenure at Marine Park Junior High School as a stand-in for then-Rep. Chuck Schumer.
When the district raised him to Congress, Jaworski says Weiner held a breakfast meeting with local community leaders and listened to their issues.
Jaworski struggled to draw a line between his earlier promise and the “terrible behavior” of a “troubled man” that later became clear. She notes that Weiner went from a thin young man to a bodybuilder’s physique in later years — she speculated that, perhaps, he took drugs that changed him. There’s no evidence of this, but it shows how shocking Weiner’s recent behavior was for many of his voters.
Sick and tired
The less-medical drug could have been ambition and a drive for power, which was visible from the beginning.
The stereotype of Weiner is that he was an attack dog defender for his blue-collar, middle-class district.
“A typical New Yorker,” says Philip Presman, 35, in Sheepshead Bay. “Blunt, straightforward.”
But that persona could also be abrasive and aggressive, mostly adopted because it was showy and politically savvy: an unstable, high-energy charisma.
Dorinson, who saw him so often at the beach, says Weiner was just as excitable during appearances for his mayoral campaign in 2013. He always had his sleeves rolled up, she says: “always attacking.”
He might have done better to “calm down,” she says. “We hear you, we’re listening.”
That style might have finally stopped working for Weiner, who won’t be able to brash his way out this time. On a walk along the Sheepshead Bay waterfront Monday, site of long-ago glad-handing by Weiner, residents had mostly expletive-filled things to say about their former elected official, a local embarrassment who is now mixed up in national affairs for the wrong reasons.
“He’s got mental problems,” said Ray Garced, 43, one of the more polite assessments.
After an election stamped with the misbehavior of powerful men, even some Trump-leaning residents of the district could agree with the Clinton-supporting ones:
If Weiner got lost, he wouldn’t be missed.