Anthony Weiner is floating his name for mayor.
Less than two years after resigning from Congress for exposing his genitalia to the Twitter universe, he thinks he's ready to reemerge as a major political figure. So much so that he recently dropped $100,000 on a poll to test the waters.
It's a breathtakingly brash move.
It wasn't just the photos that did in the former Queens firebrand. Weiner lied about it. (I would have, too.) He accused Republicans of hacking into his computer and Twitter account. He let his old boss, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and the actor Matt Damon go out on a limb for him in public. He swore up and down to reporters that this was all one big setup.
Only when it became public that he had been tweeting with an underage girl did his tale became so politically toxic -- and unbelievable -- that his colleagues began to step away from him. Only then did he fess up at an excruciating and tearful press conference.
Like many others wathcing it, I genuinely felt for the guy. Clearly, he had a problem, and he and his family paid for it with unimaginable public humiliation. I wouldn't wish those circumstances on anyone.
But now, Weiner feels he's spent enough time in the wilderness. He's an avid hockey player, and he figures it's time to get out of the penalty box and back onto the ice.
As a voter I find his decision damnable. But as a PR executive, I know he's sadly right.
Lewd tweets aside, Weiner has always been a savvy media player. He knows that dropping out of sight at the apex of a scandal will only cement that scandal in people's minds. His ugly fall from grace will be hermetically sealed in the history books if he does nothing to add new chapters. It's only by moving forward publicly that one can rehabilitate one's name, and Weiner gets that.
He probably learned it watching Bill Clinton. President Clinton lied to the public and to prosecutors over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He disgraced himself utterly with his actions in the Oval Office, yet Clinton is now one of most popular men in America -- because he kept going.
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter learned from Clinton, too. He was called on to resign after being caught up in a Washington prostitution sting. He refused, and a decade later, he's back on top. Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford is running for Congress this year -- three years after disappearing with a mistress to South America and telling his wife, his staff and the world that he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail.
The list of people who prove one can survive the ugliest of scandals grows longer every year. But what about shame? Is there a still a place for that in this world?
Real shame, I mean -- the kind that, not all that long ago, prompted Japanese men schooled in the samurai way of life, bushido, to disembowel themselves with swords.
Clearly I'm not suggesting that Anthony Weiner commit hara-kiri, but there was some dignity to the act.
We teach our children to get back up when they fall down. But we also teach them honor and shame, don't we?
These seem to be quaint notions in today's political world.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.