Just two years ago, former Rep. Anthony Weiner was forced to resign from Congress after lying to the press and public about tweeting illicit photos of himself. Today, however, he is waging an improbably competitive race for mayor of New York City. Weiner recently spoke to at a high school graduation about “redemption.” According to the New York Times, he invoked the “art of the hero” and compared his own recovery from adversity to that of Nelson Mandela and FDR.
He compared these struggles to a GPS system. “What happens when you make a wrong turn? Does it turn off? No. It simply say ‘recalculating’ and it gets you back on your path,” Weiner told the students. “There is no reason you can’t recalculate and get back on the road to greatness.”
Yes, the “road to greatness.” Let’s recap.
Nelson Mandela was an activist and revolutionary against South Africa’s apartheid regime. He served 27 years of hard-labor in the country’s notorious prison system. He was subjected to abuse throughout his time behind bars. After he emerged from prison, he helped engineer and oversee his nation’s peaceful transition to a multi-racial democracy.
FDR contracted polio towards the beginning of a promising political career. He was just under 40 at the time. In spite of the illness, he went on to serve as Governor of New York and was elected President of the US four times. One of the 20th Century’s more revered Presidents, he also oversaw America’s build-up and successful execution of the Second World War.
Anthony Weiner had inappropriate communications with young women on Twitter and was caught sending lewd pictures of himself. When this was revealed, he spent almost two weeks lying about the incidents to any reporter or crowd who would listen. He also allowed his supporters to spin wild narratives that he was the victim of right-wing bloggers, especially Breitbart News’ founder, Andrew Breitbart.
Hubris, not Twitter, was the cause of Weiner’s downfall. He acted as if the rules didn’t apply to him. He believed he could lie to the public with impunity and, if the lies were repeated enough, escape accountability. He didn’t willingly accept the consequences of his actions. He was forced into it by the accumulation and unbearable weight of his lies.
Weiner has apparently learned little in the ensuing two years. Not only is his “road from adversity” completely unlike those of Mandela or FDR, it seems impossible that he is even a member of the same species. Real leaders don’t think about their “road to greatness,” as if it is predestined. They simply act in a manner that makes it seem obvious in hindsight.
Weiner doesn’t need another political campaign. He needs an intervention. Hopefully, the voters of New York City will deliver him one.