For someone who is so astonishingly good at making viral media magic, Congressman Weiner profoundly misread the social media tea leaves. Congressman Anthony Weiner should probably resign right about now, for the sake of his party, which is facing an uphill battle in the House next year. He might want to consider a career in the budding field of opinion journalism, a job that has made his arch-nemesis Andrew Breitbart quite powerful. Weiner's profound misreading on the uses of social media -- as well as lying outright on his Old Media "I was hacked" tour -- have left him in an untenable political position, more laughingstock than legislator. Time to move on, Anthony.
Gawker and just about everyone else in the digital gossip business right about now is hammering the hapless Congressman online. And why not? This scandal equals page views! Even Colbert and Stewart roughed him up (Colbert, though, much more so). Nancy Pelosi -- once the staunchest of political allies -- cannot help but gang up on Weiner, as she promised when Democrats took the House in 2006 the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. Minority Leader Pelosi this week called for an ethics probe of Congressman Weiner yesterday. The writing is on the wall.
Weiner's lies have alienated him from his erstwile allies. Many progressives defended the Congressman on the grounds that he said that he had been hacked, had been "pranked." That, we now know, was a lie. And many of those erstwhile allies in the blogosphere, betrayed, are now ice-cold to his weepy entreaties that he be allowed to stay in office. Further, Weiner overshadowed a great victory in New York's 26th District.
"Right now the party is trying to promote the recent victory of Democrat Kathy Hochul in a special election in New York's 26th congressional district as emblematic of a Democratic recovery from the debacle of the 2010 midterms," says the Christian Science Monitor's Peter Grier. "That's the news that leads the DCCC's web site, for example. Hochul's win is supposed to show how concerns about the future of Medicare might doom Republicans in swing districts. But with the eruption of Weiner's troubles, cable news is spending a lot less time on Medicare."
It seems hard to imagine Anthony Weiner surviving this politically. Even insiders see his chances as slim. Further, there is the matter of redistricting in New York, where two seats as a result of census results will evaporate. It is not inconceivable that Weiner's relative political weakness could result in his seat -- which straddles Brooklyn and Queens -- going the way of the dodo. If that were to happen -- if both Brooklyn and Queens lost a seat because of his social media tomfoolery -- he would NEVER become the next
Mayor of New York (his default position). He would become, instead, an infamous figure in two of the five boroughs. In other words, it is looking increasingly likely that Weiner's political career is over.
What next? The Spitzer Path?
If indeed the Congressman's political career is over -- what next? The Elliot Spitzer Media Route (tm) appears to be the smartest way to go. Spitzer, who resigned from office because of a sex scandal far worse than Weiner's, has reinvented himself as an effective foil against the right on CNN. Further, he may or may not have found enough redemption to run for Mayor of New York -- the job Weiner covets more than anything in the world. Being a talking head and following the Spitzer path may just be Weiner's way to redemption and a future successful Mayoral run.
If Congressman Weiner were to go the Spitzer route the next question would be -- which network? Clearly, he would have to go the cable route, like Spitzer. But Elliot has CNN, he is the big cat in the jungle over there. And Rachel Maddow's scathing attack -- the Post-Bill Clinton Modern American Political Sex Scandal Consequence-O-Meter, anyone? -- suggests that Weiner may not be welcome at MSNBC. Ratings wise we cannot fail to note that Maddow is the big cat in the jungle at MSNBC.
So what option does that leave for Weiner?
Although Current TV is only available in 60 million homes, an explosive hire like Anthony Weiner would be great publicity, especially on the cusp on Keith Olbermann's new show. It's really a no brainer.
Al Gore's network, which averages just 23,000 viewers in prime time each night, is in the process of reinvention. And it appears that Current TV doesn't have a problem with hiring "bad boys" with a checkered past but strong opinions. And it is lucrative: Olbermann -- who makes his debut on June 20th -- is making as much as $10 million a year. If Weiner made even a nice part of that it would be an attractive step up from his Congressional pay of $174,000, enough perhaps of soothing the sting of a thwarted political career.
Ironically, Weiner might be able to get a measure of revenge if he -- and of course this is all speculation -- were programmed against Rachel Maddow (Keith Olbermann competes directly against his own old slot). Revenge, to paraphrase Khan, is a dish best served cold.
Anthony Weiner, if he thinks more about the Democratic Party than his own political ambitions, should resign his seat. It really is over, and he ought to see the writing on the wall. Tenaciousness might actually hurt the party in the 2012 elections if the GOP decides to make him a poster boy of Democrat excesses. And it is nearly impossible to imagine a scenario in which the Republicans don't hammer him and his party and using this scandal as a major issue in increasing their gains in the House in the next election cycle (snuffing the Medicare issue).
Current TV, remaking itself as a freewheeling non-corporate progressive cabler, is the perfect fallback for Weiner to play to his strengths as a combative and partisan fighter. No one in the House of Representatives was better than Weiner at creating viral video moments out of his TV appearances. Perhaps it is time to put the House behind him and put those talents to use not as a legislator but as an "opinion journalist."
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