William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.
When Johnny Carson landed the contract to host the Tonight Show, a deluge of media requests came in. Carson, falling behind in his responses, came up with a brilliant solution. According to the "Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes," he sent a news release to entertainment reporters nationwide in which 10 stump answers were proffered. Reporters could use any one of them to fit any question they should choose to ask him.
Carson's answers: "1. Yes, I did. 2. Not a bit of truth in that rumor. 3. Only twice in my life, both times on Saturday. 4. I can do either, but I prefer the first. 5. No, Kumquats. 6. I can't answer that question. 7. Toads and tarantulas. 8. Turkey, Denmark, Chile and the Komandorskie Island. 9. As often as possible, but I'm not very good at it yet. I need much more practice. 10. It happened to some old friends of mine, and it's a story I'll never forget."
Disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who this week declared his mayoral candidacy to enormous media attention, might consider employing the Carson strategy for the next week or so. How else can the Brooklyn-turned -Queens-turned-Manhattan Democrat be expected to answer the sheer volume of questions now being asked?
He could start by plagiarizing Carson's numbers 1, 9, and 10.
Other canned responses might include:
"As far as I know they were all at least 17;
"I don't have a problem;
"I'm fallible, just like any other member of New York's middle class."
Everywhere Weiner went this week, the media followed. Understandably, they had no interest in Weiner's prepared talking points about New York's forgotten middle class. They wanted the goods: How many women? Will more come out? Are you undergoing treatment for sex addiction? Did Bill Clinton tell you to run? How can people trust you? Reporters ask those questions because that's what the public, delirious with schadenfreude, wants to know right now.
Not one, as far as I know, asked the question Anthony Weiner is waiting for -- the one he knows will eventually come: "What do you plan to do as mayor?"
Weiner, as I've written here before, is enormously media savvy. He knows that the shelf life of a media feeding frenzy is finite. He knows that, if he can tough out the ridicule, the sex questions will eventually run out. The day will come when one reporter, bored sick with "Weiner" metaphors, will ask him a question on policy. At that moment, he will have survived his scandal, a la Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky.
Weiner wisely chose the week before a long weekend to roll out his campaign. He knew that if he could remain alive until Thursday (the Friday before Memorial Day is a dead news day) he could get a four-day weekend to take some wind out of the story's sails. And it will.
Even Weiner must privately acknowledge that he can't win the mayoral race given what he did and the lies he told two years ago. But by the end of the campaign, his past will have been laundered, dry cleaned and steam pressed. He will have moved on.
I've never been a fan of Anthony Weiner, not in the City Council nor in Congress. But still, it's been hard to watch him endure the onslaught of abuse he's taken in headlines this week. The Catholic in me even admires his willingness to go through it in search of public redemption. It has to be brutal to do what he's doing.
But the cynical politico in me is less admiring. It knows Weiner, soon enough, will be back, armed to the teeth with liberal talking points and as arrogant as ever.
This is the new model for disgraced politicians. Grin and bear it until all questions are exhausted.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.