So there’s this movie. In it is a guy (a white suit he has on). He’s handsome, smart as a whip, debonnaire, a real class act. He’s got all the right friends, hundreds, thousands even, and they adore his every move.
Oh, and he’s rich. Filthy stinking rich. A self-made millionaire.
But he wants more, needs more. First he runs a newspaper, then a whole string of newspapers. He’s telling everyone what to think about - everything. But it’s still not enough. So he decides to run for office. Not just any office, president of the United States.
So why? Why does he do it? His friend, Jedediah Leland, sums it up in this one perfect passage, just why Charles Foster Kane has to run for the presidency.
“For love,” he says, laughing. “That’s why he did everything. That’s why he went into politics. It seems we weren’t enough. He wanted all the voters to love him, too.”
Which brings us to Rep. Anthony Weiner, circa 2011. And a sad story that is, too. But sad in the same sense as “Citizen Kane“; you know he’s going to go down in flames, and he really is a rather despicable guy, but still, it’s all a bit too much, to fall that hard for - want of love?
Over these last few weeks, we’ve all gotten to know way more than we wanted to about an obscure but mouthy congressman from Brooklyn. Yes, we know, he wanted to be a weatherman (God, and that sad Twitter profile picture of Mr. Weiner as a geeky kid). We’ve all heard that he’s buds with Ben Affleck and Jon Stewart and that Bill Clinton personally married the son of Mort and Fran Weiner to Hillary’s ‘personal’ aide, Huma Abedin.
Here is, it can easily be argued, a successful man, who worked his way up from SUNY-Plattsburgh to become a congressman - and recently, a powerful voice in the Democratic Party - loud, brash, fearless. He’s married to an attractive woman, nine years his junior, who’s pregnant with their first child. A man, you could say, just hitting his full stride.
And yet we’ve all had to peer into the dark soul of Anthony Weiner. In that black place is some unquenchable desire for more - more attention, more intensity, and yes, more love. He needed the modern equivalent of more friends - all those followers on Twitter. The more we see, the more the slight, pale nerdy kid from Queens looks like the buff, handsome stud Tiger Woods.
Like Tiger, Mr. Weiner is a man-child. He had somehow gotten very far along on the road of life without knowing the first thing about what it means to be a man. Yes, manhood is a hard gig and the older you get, the less it is all about you. By 46, you’ve got so many things to juggle you can’t possible have time to tweet, to Facebook, or, if we’re being blunt, to send “junk” mail. Lotta stuff going on. Messaging 17-year-olds? Please. No time. Too much to do.
And it just doesn’t end. On Sunday, the salacious website TMZ posted another batch of a narcissistic Mr. Weiner posing in a towel, out of a towel, you name it.
In the old days, men like that were said to have a “zipper problem.” They weren’t “sick,” they weren’t “addicts,” they were just pathetic fools who had no self-control. But today, they’re victims of a terrible “illness,” no match for their wants and desires. Like Mr. Woods, Mr. Weiner is now off to sex rehab, where they will presumably show him how to zip up his pants (or maybe just how to put on a pair).
Mr. Weiner’s lost nearly all support on the Hill (except for Rep. Charles B. Rangel, who helpfully said that at least his colleague “wasn’t going out with little boys”). And he’s got the unfortunate support of Alec Baldwin, who, writing on the Huffington Post, played it all off as Mr. Weiner simply being “a modern man.”
“He needs something to take the edge off. … Appointment sex with your spouse doesn’t always arrive when you need it most,” Mr. Baldwin said.
But those are the words of a man-boy (and boy, Mr. Baldwin should know). Men - by 46 - should know who they are. Men know what love is, even love themselves (it has to happen at some point), and they become secure in their lives, their selves.
But watching a man find out he is no more than a boy is, anyone would admit, sad. And all for the want of love. That makes it even sadder.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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