Anthony Weiner’s unfortunate psychiatric evaluation on MSNBC

<i>This post has been corrected. Please see details below.</i>

It’s the interview everyone’s talking about.

No, not Charlie Rose’s sit-down with Syrian President Bashar Assad. It’s Lawrence O’Donnell’s incredibly awful interrogation of New York Democratic mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner on the eve of Tuesday’s mayoral primary in the Big Apple. The exchange, on O’Donnell’s MSNBC show, “The Last Word,” was cringe-worthy from start to finish.

And shockingly, not because of Weiner.

O’Donnell’s tendency toward over-the-top moralizing got the better of him as he decided to go after Weiner in a weirdly beside-the-point way.


O’Donnell: I have just one question for you that I think lots of people have been wondering about for different reasons over the course of the campaign. For me, I just comes down to: What is wrong with you?

Weiner: I don’t understand the question. What is wrong with me that I care so much about the issues that I fight for every day, that I have my entire career?

O’Donnell: No. What I mean is this: What is wrong with you that you can’t seem to imagine a life without elective office?

Weiner: That’s ridiculous. Are you saying that because I have things in my personal life that are embarrassing that I shouldn’t run for office? That’s a fair question.


O’Donnell: No, I am not. I have never criticized you for anything involving your texting. … What I find strange about your campaign is what seems to be your absolute desperate need for elective office, and what seems to be your inability to live outside of it.

Huh? That’s the big question, on the eve of the New York City mayoral primary? That something is wrong with Weiner because he is a career politician? That description fits hundreds if not thousands of politicians in cities and states across the land. Not to mention Washington, D.C.

O’Donnell: You started in politics right after college. Got elected to City Council before you were 30. It does not seem to be a fully healthy pursuit for your life. Taking the totality of your life, do you think you spent your time well?

Weiner: You think public service is not a noble thing. I disagree with you. So we’re at a standstill.


O’Donnell: Anthony, I think there is something wrong with you.

Weiner: Repeating it doesn’t make it any more interesting.

Weiner has been plagued by many self-inflicted wounds, but his interest in elective office is hardly the thing that will sway New York City voters at the polls Tuesday.

It’s possible that some will be weighing his progressive record, against the records of his opponents, the city’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, and City Council President Christine Quinn.


More likely, though, they will be mindful of his personal missteps: That first sexting scandal, which drove him from his longtime perch in Congress after he lied repeatedly and tried to blame political enemies for sabotaging him.

You’d think he’d have learned from that. But it turned out he couldn’t keep his phone in his pants. Even as Weiner and his wife, longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, were engaged in a rehabilitation blitz, posing for People magazine and the New York Times Sunday magazine in the runup to his mayoral candidacy, he was still making sexy cellphone friends.

Then Sydney, ahem, Leathers went public with her virtual affair with the man who called himself Carlos Danger. Despite another emotional press conference -- this one featuring Abedin defending her man in front of a bank of microphones -- Weiner’s second sexting scandal devastated what had been shaping up as a promising run to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Calls came from many quarters for Weiner to drop out. Maybe it was his arrogance, maybe cluelessness, maybe a misguided belief in his ability to weather a storm of his own making, but Weiner did himself and voters a favor by refusing to leave the race.


Why a favor? Had he dropped out, he would have always blamed others for his political failure. But Tuesday night, when the votes are tallied and his mayoral quest goes down in flames fair and square, Weiner will have to face the stark reality that he has only himself to blame. He threw his political career away because he couldn’t keep his libido in check.

By the time he sat for O’Donnell’s off-point interrogation, you had the sense he has become a man with nothing to lose. He showed more self-awareness than his clueless host. He knows who he is, he knows what he did, and despite a few flashes of bravado, he’s going down with his head held high.

O’Donnell: What I am trying to get at, Anthony, is what drives you?Weiner: OK, in that case, ask me that question.

O’Donnell: Anthony, I meant it from a psychiatric level.


Weiner: Dude, I don’t really need your psychiatric questions. … Do an interview here.

O’Donnell: You are being driven by some kind of demons in some strange directions, and I am wondering why.

Weiner: Do you want to ask me a question or do you have me on harangue, with a split-screen? This can’t be good TV for anybody.

[For the record, 4:26 p.m. Sept. 10: An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of New York’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, as Bill Di Blasio.]



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