Whether New Yorkers want Anthony "The Mad Sexter" Weiner as their next mayor is entirely their own choice, but the outcome affects the rest of us, and not just smart-alecky columnists and writers for late-night comedians.
The mayor of our nation's largest city is, ex officio, a national political power with considerable influence outside the city limits. Witness current Mayor Michael Bloomberg's sometimes-quirky crusades against large, heavily sugared drinks and public displays of tobacco products. And that's not to mention Hizzonner's campaigns to get city dwellers to use the stairs and take public transportation.
Weiner's interests run, not to public health, but to texting sexually explicit photos and messages to women strangers he has met over the Internet. The surprise is that he got responses from so many presumably sane women, although the one who said "Your health-care rants were a huge turn-on" was certainly pushing the mental envelope.
And rant is what Weiner did in Congress. The Democrat's anger and combativeness on the House floor, however, were unmatched by any record of significant legislative accomplishment.
When his Internet avocation became public (one of the more printable descriptions of his "sexting" images: him in his underwear pointing to a bulge in his tighty whities), he felt forced to resign from Congress.
His then-pregnant new wife, Huma Abedin, a talented, extremely attractive and very private top aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, stood by him, although she skipped the customary awkward appearance of the wronged wife at her wayward husband's side at the usual mea-culpa press conference.
He left office in June 2011, with the usual commitments to seek repentance and rehabilitation and to repair relations with his wife -- in short, to become a new, or at least a better-behaved, man. He also said that more embarrassing moments might surface. They did.
In many rehabilitations, there are relapses, and Weiner's came, -- and it may not have been the first -- just days after he gave a warm, redemptive interview on July 2, 2012, to People magazine in which he said he tried daily "to become a better person." That same month, he was sexting a 22-year-old woman. Apparently having learned nothing from his previous scandal or the truism that nothing on the Internet is truly private, he sent her descriptions of his sexual fantasies and photos of his genitals.
The photos, which Weiner seems to send out like other people send thank-you notes, were posted on a website named, as if Weiner needed even more grief, "The Dirty." According to the Associated Press, "The woman said Weiner exchanged nude photos of himself with her, engaged in phone sex with her, promised to help her get a job at the political website Politico and suggested meeting in a Chicago condo for a tryst." But after six months -- it took her that long to catch on? -- the 22-year-old became disenchanted with the relationship. Her excuse, she told the New York Post, was that she was "young and dumb," and while she had thought she was in love with him, she now wanted to expose Weiner "as a creep," a task the former congressman seems to have accomplished on his own.
Until now, Weiner had been doing well in the mayoral primary set for Sept. 10. He was leading in the polls, and last week one less-dirty snapshot of the citizenry showed that 59 percent thought he deserved a second chance.
Weiner is exceptionally resilient in his shamelessness and New Yorkers are certainly entitled to choose the person they want to lead them. But if his conduct hasn't disqualified him, his choice of sexting alias, "Carlos Danger," should.
Dale McFeatters is a syndicated columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service.