Huma Abedin announced Monday that she and Anthony Weiner are separating, after a New York Post front page story showed that the former congressman and mayoral candidate has continued the sexting habits that prompted his varied, repeated falls from grace.
The Weiner saga is particularly perplexing and disturbing to New Yorkers who knew the man as a gifted politician with a head for policy, who might have been running New York City now instead of ducking once more into public embarrassment.
That was particularly clear to another person who direct-messaged on Twitter with Weiner — this writer.
That time I started to exchange DMs with Anthony Weiner
After multiple Twitter meltdowns, you’d think Weiner might have quit cold turkey. But the combative politician remained online, sniping at Republicans and journalists alike.
That’s how we came to interact briefly at the end of April, just after Weiner published an opinion piece in the Daily News defending Mayor Bill de Blasio in the face of various semi-scandals.
I sniped at him about the Op-Ed, and he sniped back. We went back and forth a bit, and eventually I sent a direct-message, asking if he’d like to discuss the state of NYC politics offline. He agreed.
By phone, the former congressman acerbically and colorfully staked out positions, arguing that the buzz surrounding de Blasio’s fundraising practices and political nonprofit — in the headlines in amNew York and other outlets — was “a big salad of innuendo” characterized by a vague but unrefined fear of money in politics.
I tried to argue that political nonprofits like de Blasio’s should be more transparent, with filings revealing donors regularly released online instead of just to reporters upon request. He retorted that this was grasping for straws. Reporters being granted access would be enough without needing the hypothetical “Mrs. Crapaluci on Avenue P.” to investigate.
While he himself had fought in the past against Big Money’s negative outcomes — on the phone he called the Republican Party a “wholly owned subsidiary of the health care industry” — he also recognized a “legitimate” First Amendment argument, supporting, to some degree, money as speech.
He said he supported de Blasio in his so-called “feud” with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which he thought voters should see less as an entertaining clash between two political titans than a contest with a right side and wrong side. It was de Blasio, not Cuomo, then, who had the city’s best interests at heart.
“Imagine the amount of housing resources we would have at our disposal if we had more control over our tax policy, for example,” Weiner said.
Despite that liberal blast, he said he thought de Blasio’s original Tale of Two Cities rhetoric had been too divisive.
In short, he remained a politician willing to stake out bold positions and enumerate them colorfully, even as he displayed the competence and mostly establishment Democratic politics that once made him a shining star in the party and a leading candidate for mayor.
He was happy to riff intelligently and creatively on local issues until I started to move the conversation toward his wife and the strange and fascinating documentary of his mayoral campaign, which was then in theaters. At which point he dodged the question and took his leave.
“Alright buddy, I’ve got to jump.”
Anthony Weiner’s biggest enemy was Anthony Weiner
In the months since that conversation, Weiner continued sniping, pontificating and defending himself and other politicians on Twitter. It often appeared like a virtuosic performance, an example of where some of his creative energy was going now that he wasn’t in office.
Apparently, all the while, he was continuing a different kind of conversation offline.
The newest revelations are just more of the same for a man who is now just a private citizen, though they reached a new low in that a scantily clad image of himself sent to a sexting partner also pictures his young son.
Perhaps that was the last straw, pushing Abedin to call it quits with her talented, wayward husband. Or maybe it was a higher power: Abedin is one of Hillary Clinton’s closest and longest-serving aides.
Whatever the reason, now that his most prominent defender is gone, Weiner appears to have done what he might have done much earlier to keep the attention on just one side of his dynamic talents: dismantle his Twitter account.
My direct messages with him have disappeared. It’s too late for the less flattering ones that brought him low.