Into the dramatic void left by the end of the government shutdown comes Anthony Weiner, as familiar as Congress itself with looking into a bottomless abyss.
Last heard from when he stumbled to a single-digit finish in the New York City mayoral primary, Weiner returns via the pages of GQ magazine in a compelling piece that explores the rationales and regrets of the man who sexted his way out of Congress and back into politics, only to falter when more instances of electronic misbehavior surfaced.
Weiner remains a man who doesn't dig terribly far, for us amateur shrinks, into the psychic needs that caused him to send pictures of his anatomy to strangers. Writer Marshall Sella suggests that for Weiner, sexting was an extension of the rush of campaigning, with its pretense of making connections with real people who might just care about you in return.
Carlos Danger--Weiner's nom de text in the newest series of exchanges with the aptly named Sydney Leathers—still wants people to know that he loves his wife and is sorry for causing her pain, and really wishes that people had paid attention in the mayoral campaign to his multi-point plans for solving the city's woes rather than to his off-hours proclivities.
(Leathers, now easily past minute 15 on the fame clock, makes an appearance as well in which she criticizes Weiner as a "baby.")
"I thought there'd be some safe harbor for the issues," Weiner tells Sella. "Safe harbor for someone who wanted to write, 'You know what? He's got five ideas. He's an idiot, but he's got these five ideas.'"
And, he says elsewhere, "Maybe I don't have the greatest connection with the emotional (stuff) going on, but when it comes to looking at a problem in the city and how to fix it, that's where I'm at my best. That's where I'm good."
Author Sella cops to some familiarity with sexting, even raises the theory that reactions to it are generational and political judgments about such things may ease up some day. (Really? Does America want to know its politicians in that way?)
Weiner, for his part, sticks with his explanation that he thought those he was sexting with were his friends. Translation: I thought I would never get caught.
"You ask about the higher meaning of sexting, but it was remarkably meaningless," he tells Sella. "It was almost like a video game you played. One that didn't have much connection to reality."
Except that it was significant, he admits, to his wife Huma Abedin, a Hillary Rodham Clinton aide who was newly pregnant when the first batch of pictures forced Weiner in 2011 to resign from his seat in Congress.
He declines to go into detail about their future. But when he talks about her, and him, and all of it, it still feels like that moment after a car crash, before the dust has settled, when no one is sure if there are injuries or, if there are, whether they will be fatal.
"One thing I'm grateful for is that now I'm under no obligation to answer anything like this," he said. "But we've had a very rough time. It causes me a great deal of pain in the way she gets reported and the way she gets discussed. Her treatment in the press has been rough. It pains me because I deserve it. She doesn't.
"I duck it as best I can," he added, "but her reputation has become the Woman Who Married an Idiot and Stuck with Him. More of it rolls off my back, because that's the way I am constitutionally. She's more sensitive. I'm just an empty, soulless vessel, so it doesn't hurt me as much."