Rep. Anthony Weiner has been blasted for lying to his wife and having creepy sexual predilections. Many have been able to forgive his dishonesty, seeing sending kinky sext pics as treading a fine line, yet remaining on the right side of fidelity. And who hasn’t lied? To err is human, and Weiner’s crimes of the heart and underpants make him seem less like a political demi-god and more endearingly like us.
Unless you consider his political history of using racially-motivated fear to win an election. Can we forgive Weiner for playing on his potential constituents’ fear of blacks in the wake of the Crown Heights riots to win his first office? Maybe… no.
Salon.com has uncovered the race-baiting techniques Weiner desperately employed to become a New York City council member:
He was not the favorite. Two other candidates with more name recognition, deeper ties to the community, stronger organizational support, and bigger bankrolls seemed to have the inside track: Michael Garson (the candidate of the Brooklyn Democratic organization) and Adele Cohen (the favorite of a progressive/labor coalition that backed candidates across the city in ’91). It was a low-profile race, but Weiner attracted positive reviews, aggressively campaigning and using his performer’s flair to steal the show at debates and candidate forums. But as the all-important Sept. 10 Democratic primary approached, the consensus was that he’d come up short and that, as Newsday put it in an editorial endorsing one of his opponents, he should “try again next time.”
It was at this point that Weiner’s campaign decided to blanket the district with leaflets attacking his opponents. But these were no ordinary campaign attacks: They played the race card, and at a very sensitive time. They were also anonymous.
Just weeks earlier, the Crown Heights riot — a deadly, days-long affair that brought to the surface long-standing tension between the area’s black and Jewish populations — had played out a few miles away from the 48th District. The episode had gripped all of New York and had been national news. It was just days after order had been restored that Weiner’s campaign distributed its anonymous leaflets, which linked Cohen — whose voters he was targeting in particular — to Jesse Jackson and David Dinkins, who was then New York’s mayor. It is hard to imagine two more-hated political figures in the 48th District at that moment. Jackson just a few years earlier had called New York “Hymie town,” and it was an article of faith among white voters in Weiner’s part of Brooklyn that Dinkins had protected the black rioters in Crown Heights — and thus endangered the white population — by refusing to order a harsh police crackdown. (Two years later, Dinkins would lose to Rudy Giuliani by an 80-20 percent margin in the 48th District.) The leaflets urged voters to “just say no” to the “Jackson-Dinkins agenda” that Cohen supposedly represented. At City Hall, Dinkins held up the flier and branded it “hateful.”
Anthony Weiner went on to admit that he was responsible for those leaflets — after he had won the election. We can easily see how this omission of information at the critical moment of delivery is very similar to the shaky relationship with integrity Weiner has recently displayed. His willingness to lie and manipulate facts in a range of situations ranging from the personal to the political is far worse than any common human error. The drive of his self-serving attitude shows that he is not fit to be a public servant, whose job is to put others before themselves.
Weiner might not be “up” to that challenge.