Few politicians are as irrepressible as Anthony Weiner, so I wasn’t shocked to learn via the New York Times online that he’s again considering running for mayor of New York. The whole interview is due in print in Sunday’s magazine, but the news was in cyberspace as befits a former congressman who lost it electronically with an eponymous Tweet.
The interview reveals the anguish of his newly pregnant wife, Huma Abedin, when she learned he’d been sending photos of an underwear-cloaked body part she didn’t agree to share with “followers.” No doubt she found it obscene. As it turned out, she was a guest at Buckingham Palace along with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when the news broke. She’d just written a note to her husband acknowledging the wondrously privileged life they were leading. My immediate thought was that Abedin’s life was a bit cushier at the moment that her hubby’s, home alone as a U.S. representative of an outer borough. Maybe he needed some attention.
The impetus to run for mayor now seems to be partly a result of a deadline on getting $1.6 million in public funds to match $4.3 million in unspent campaign funds in Weiner’s account, and I was disappointed he didn’t explain why he was running, except to repair his damaged reputation.
Obscenity is not limited to things sexual in my book or the dictionary, which offers a definition of “offensive to moral principles, repugnant.” And far more appalling obscenities have occurred in politics for which no one seems even slightly embarrassed.
In New York City, there were the chilling actions by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the NYPD to close down last year’s Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in Zuccotti Park. Part of the crackdown involved confiscation of a library that OWS has assembled, and much of which was destroyed. Finally, in federal district court, the city has agreed that it violated the demonstrators’ rights to the First Amendment (free speech), Fourth Amendment (search and seizure) and Fourteenth Amendment (due process). Repugnant, no? The fine of $47,000 and payment of the protestors’ legal fees of $186,350 won’t cause much pain at City Hall, but I’d like to hear from Weiner and other mayoral candidates how they feel about the Constitution on the ground in the city.
Thank goodness, books were involved, because the settlement said nothing about the treatment of physical people. Back in 2004 when the Republicans held their convention in the city, some 1,800 individuals were rounded up under orders from Mayor Bloomberg and Chief Ray Kelly while most of them were attempting to comply with swiftly changing police orders. A federal judged called the arrests “guilt by association” and illegal. But not until 2012. Justice delayed, justice denied, again.
There’s that other pesky issue of perennial stop and frisk, especially of people with dark complexions. In 2011, 87% of more than 684,000 stops were of blacks and Latinos. Some 780 weapons were uncovered, but the number is only slightly higher than 2003 when 604 guns were found in 160,841 stops, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Interestingly, white people searched were more likely to be carrying weapons, the NYCLU said. "The bottom line is the police department is required to judge people based on what they're doing. If what they're doing is perfectly legal and not suspicious of criminal activity then why on earth is the Police Department subjecting them to be thrown up against the wall?" asked Donna Lieberman, the NYCLU’s executive director. Indecent, wouldn’t you say?
At least one Democratic candidate, Sal Albanese, is on record as supporting the stops. Another, John Liu, has called for abolishing them outright, and candidates Bill De Blasio and Christine Quinn have called for reform of the program. (Republican Joe Lhota is a staunch defender of stop and frisk.) What would Weiner do?
Some might say the field is already overcrowded, but I’m intrigued by the possibility of a Weiner run. As congressman, he was progressive and a staunch defender of Israel, but Abedin is a Muslim. As a couple, they would stand as a reproach to all those Republicans who have been fueling anti-Muslim sentiments since 9/11.
New York City has been transformed since Bloomberg took office shortly after the attacks in 2001. Tourists, who once avoided it, teem in its streets and generously contribute to its financial well being. The city is cleaner and “greener, “and the Second Avenue subway is finally under construction. Wall Street is roaring, intermittently, although it seems clear that many of the problems that brought the economy to its knees in 2008 are still unsolved. Marriage between partners of the same sex is cool, thanks to some very generous Republican donors in Albany. And Bloomberg has restored civility to public discourse, something that had eroded seriously.
But some disturbing trends have accompanied the Bloomberg years: It’s clear that the corporatization of our public schools that began under Guiliani is nothing like the success its supporters claim. The demonizing of teachers in New York as elsewhere undermines education and the respect of the very people we hope to educate. A growing and undeniable gap in wealth is crowding out the middle class and punishing the poor. Bloomberg’s support of the demolition of Occupy Wall Street made it clear how little he cares about reform. He also stood idly by while Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper became part of a risky and doomed attempt to extract premium higher rents from what had for years been a bastion of affordability. The number of people in city homeless shelters, just over 25,000 per night when he took office, almost doubled to 48,694 by last October.
How much of any of these issues will be addressed during the campaign, but my hope is that we’ll have the temerity to confront some of these troubling trends. Not to do so would be, dare I say, obscene. And you can Tweet that.
Much as I'd like to hear your response to this post, I've had to turn off the comments section entirely because a couple of robots have found a way in. Progwoman's large and dedicated staff has been working for weeks to delete thousands of pieces of spam. So I'll hope you understand.
Who knew that the key to a functioning, effective Congress would be revealed in the scandal surrounding Representative Anthony Weiner? Yet, there it was in the Sunday Times in a piece by Sheryl Gay Stolberg explaining why sex scandals are rarely initiated by female politicians:
“The shorthand of it is that women run because there is some public issue that they care about, some change they want to make, some issue that is a priority for them, and men tend to run for office because they see this as a career path.”
Random reflections on politics, the media, political activism, women's lives and spirituality, often inspired by travel, cultural events or what I read.
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