Anthony Weiner has all but incinerated his own political campaign — and the Hillary Clinton camp wants to ensure he doesn't take theirs down with it.
Weiner, whose poll numbers are spiraling following the revelation that he continued to sext random women after resigning from Congress, has vowed to stay in the New York City mayor's race. Clinton's allies fear that Weiner's continued visibility — and by extension the continued exposure of his wife and top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin — will dredge up memories of Monica Lewinsky and potentially taint Clinton's future political ambitions.
The feelings about Weiner in Clintonland are unequivocal, according to someone close to the couple: "Everyone's done with him." Multiple sources familiar with the Clintons' thinking said they would be delighted for him to disappear from public consumption. (The fact that Weiner, who began the campaign dropping Bill Clinton's name repeatedly, declared at a mayoral forum Monday night that he wasn't overly concerned with the opinion of non-New York City residents like the Clintons probably didn't help). [Politico]
Barring the apocalypse, Hillary Clinton will probably run for president again in 2016. She left the State Department earlier this year to work with her husband's global nonprofit. The high-flying gig was supposed to give her a chance to keep one foot in the public sphere while quietly bolstering her credentials, but the Weiner fallout "is proving to be another stress test of the Clinton infrastructure in a year that was supposed to be relatively quiet for them," wrote Politico's Maggie Haberman.
Pundits have been quick to note the similarities between Weiner and the former president. Both men have admitted to extramarital impropriety and bouts of poor judgment, and both of their wives stood by them as they forged ahead with their political careers. There was even a report that Weiner called his female interns "Monica."
The Weiner campaign has also invoked the Clintons as an example of how an embattled politician could, with his wife by his side, win back the public's trust. That comparison did not sit well with the Clintons, who were "pissed off that Weiner’s campaign is saying that Huma is just like Hillary," according to an anonymous "top state Democrat" who spoke with the New York Post.
"The Clintons are upset with the comparisons that the Weiners seem to be encouraging — that Huma is 'standing by her man' the way Hillary did with Bill, which is not what she in fact did," that Democratic source went on.
The comparison must also have been galling for Bill Clinton, who was not only the president of the United States, but the most talented Democratic politician of his generation, with a solid record of policy accomplishments. Weiner, on the other hand, accomplished little during his time in Congress except get on MSNBC.
Abedin has herself come under attack for sticking with Weiner. The Post last week ran a front page image of her with the headline "What's wrong with you?" The longer Weiner sticks around, the longer pundits will skewer Abedin for standing by him — and the longer Hillary will then be roped into the conversation.
"As soon as she stood up to say those words she changed herself from a sophisticated, mysterious guiding intelligence and beauty next to Hillary Clinton to the wife of a tarnished Anthony Weiner," a source in Clinton's inner circle told the New York Times' Maureen Dowd.
The Clintons reportedly have no plans to push Weiner, publicly or privately, to drop out, which would likely make for an even bigger political headache. Still, they reportedly would like to see him exit the race so they can put the whole sexting spectacle behind them and move on, distraction free, toward 2016.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The secret advantages of great penmanship
- 10 things you need to know today: October 30, 2014
- How to live a long life, according to science
- Sorry, we will not all be having sex with robots in the future
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- For Democrats, the right lesson from 2014 is to be more liberal
Subscribe to the Week