Anthony Weiner launched his campaign for New York City mayor this week, and did nothing to explain why. One could not even ascribe to him the usual default explanation, which is “because the job is there for me to win.” There is, of course, a long hot summer during which his explanation may emerge, but as we all know, when a candidate doesn’t come out of the box with that part of his story ready to go, it seldom falls into place.
He is, on the face of it, looking in the wrong place at the wrong time. Forget his humiliating tweets, which he wears now like a digital albatross–he’s just the wrong guy. Weiner is a high energy reformer, best on the attack, Bella Abzug without the hat. New York is emerging from twelve years of Michael Bloomberg, and we’ve never had it so good. Mild mannered Mike has presided over a dozen years characterized by low anxiety–no tumors of maladministration, no stomach-churning municipal scandals, no sense of confrontation, either in City Hall or on the streets. Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani had their good points, but they woke up looking for a fight. Not Bloomberg; he has been the essence of calm. He can’t be Bloomberg, and he can’t attack Bloomberg.
Bloomberg has been like Bennie Goodman, the head of a great band who occasionally steps forward with remarkable solos, as he did most brilliantly when defending the construction of the Islamic Cultural Center near the World Trade Center site. The two leading Democrats, Christine Quinn and John Liu, and the leading Republican, Joseph Lhota, are more or less like members of that band; the one who wins is the one who will best convince voters that he or she will be like Mike (Quinn has a huge lead in the polls.) Weiner is like Eddie Van Edder, he of the searing guitar solos; he belongs somewhere else. Maybe he was sending us a sign when he debuted his campaign website and featured a photo of the skyline of Pittsburgh.
So why is Weiner running? For people to see him differently, he has to be seen in the first place. He’s auditioning for something, to be determined.