11:24 am Jun. 8, 2011
We already knew what the story was with Anthony Weiner, right?
He did something embarrassing, then he made up a story to go along with it and told it everywhere, and now he has admitted both to the embarrassing thing and the made-up story.
Of course it still barely computes, just how stupid it all was given the amount of unfriendly scrutiny Weiner knew himself to be under. (Maybe there is something to the idea that he didn't quite understand what the internet is?) But in terms of the basic contours of what happened, we've got a grip on it, and the rest is just details.
So there's this stuff, and no doubt there will be more of the same out there, which people will keep finding and publishing for as long as "Weiner" continues to be such a popular search term on Google. Maybe the story will go on even longer than that: A House Ethics investigation of Weiner, called for by his friends in the Democratic leadership, would provide a drawn-out, officially sanctioned opportunity for anyone who would like to rehash dirty text messages with a congressional seal of approval.
Assuming Weiner is found to have been telling the truth about not having used government property to create and send his pictures and messages, it shouldn't matter. There is no P.R. calculation anymore. Voters know what he did, and they care or they don't. At this point, it's more a question of Weiner's personal willingness to stay in the public eye long enough to run again.
But assuming his determination to stick it out continues to hold up, Weiner's real problem may be that, thanks to redistricting, his congressional district is likely to be gone or drastically changed when the lines are redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections. It would be one thing for him to win reelection in the district that has elected him seven times before; it would be quite another for him to pull off a feat like that when he's before a newly formed constituency, starting from scratch, and appealing to voters who never paid attention to him before his recent Twitter mishap.
If the rules that govern the redistricting process are reformed, Weiner might have a shot at keeping his district intact. Which is funny, in a tragic way, because Weiner is an opponent of the reform.
The way the rules are set up at the moment, the fate of Weiner's district is in the hands of the Albany legislative leadership. They will have to come up with new lines by next year that account for a loss of two congressional seats for New York, and they don't have to make any pretense of doing what's good for voters. They protect friends, and do favors for people who have power; they victimize troublemakers and officials who can't do much for them, or to them.
A couple of weeks ago, Weiner wouldn't have been in danger. Now, though, he is bloodied and friendless, and Albany will be only too happy—Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans alike—to kill him off to spare one of his better-liked colleagues. A downstate Democrat will have to go, and now, Weiner is probably it.
The thing is, an overhaul of Albany's nakedly partisan redistricting process has been proposed by reform Democrats in the legislature, and has since been taken up by Andrew Cuomo, who is actually in a position to make it happen despite opposition from the Republicans holding onto a tenuous, gerrymandering-aided majority in the Senate. The overhaul would hand power over the district lines to an independent commission.
In theory, this would get Weiner off the hook; the point of the commission is that it would be their job not to care whether Weiner was politically weak, or personally obnoxious.
Back when he had the luxury of assuming reelection to the House, and of actually putting most of his thought and energy into positioning himself for the mayor's race in 2013, Weiner opposed the idea of redistricting reform on the grounds that New York is a Democratic state and he'd rather not see his party give up the advantage of drawing lines that are bad for Republicans. It was an unapologetically anti-good-government argument, in favor of a process that is bad for anyone who is not in the good graces of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos and good, above all, for incumbents who can't win re-election without the game being rigged in their favor. But it was an argument that served Weiner, who sells himself these days as a hyper-Democratic warrior, just fine.
Maybe Weiner would like to change his position and support the reformers, now that they're the only ones who can prevent him from being redrawn into oblivion. But probably to say so out loud, at a time like this, would be unseemly.