Anthony Weiner fights to pull focus to ideas over scandal
Anthony Weiner does not smile very much. When New Yorkers stop to talk to him, he listens intently, nodding, sometimes frowning, generally with his hands on his hips. He looks serious, even severe.
Combined with that stern demeanor, his dry humor can sometimes seem callous.
When an elderly man at a senior center chatting with Weiner in a crush of photographers asked where his photo was going to appear, Weiner, moving on to the next table, pointed to a Wall Street Journal photographer and said, “You’re gonna be in Vogue. This guy’s from Vogue, so you should put on your best face.”
The Wall Street Journal photographer stayed behind to explain that he was not a Vogue photographer.
But Weiner insists that in contrast to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he will “be a much more approachable mayor, someone who takes much more pleasure in being among citizens, hearing what they have to say.”
And he was quick to promise “a change of focus,” speaking derisively of a recent “valentine to Bloomberg” on the front page of the New York Times “talking about how many big buildings had been built in the city.”
“We’ll have less of a celebration of shiny edifices and more of a conversation about how we make life livable for New Yorkers,” he said.
Weiner has been the target of an onslaught of criticism himself following the revelation that he continued to send illicit messages and photos to women other than his wife long after he resigned from Congress because of that very same behavior. Still, his infamous inclination to loudly call out those he disagrees with clearly has not been dampened — and he does not constrain his contempt to Bloomberg and the New York Times.
Standing outside the Jefferson Houses in East Harlem, Weiner was asked about the value of celebrity endorsements, which his opponent Bill de Blasio has been racking up.
“We all run the campaigns we know how to run,” he said. “I run idea campaigns, focused on issues, focused on citizens. … I mean, some voters might be influenced by the idea that a TV star is standing with a person. I think they’re more interested in how you’re gonna solve the problems that face their lives.
“There is perhaps some chance that (de Blasio supporter) Susan Sarandon will come here and fix public housing development here,” Weiner added wryly. “There’s a chance.”
One of the problems arising in this election is redundancy: There are few unique platforms at this point. As with all of the Democratic candidates, Weiner is pushing for reform of the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy. One of the ideas he highlighted would use CompStat, the NYPD’s program tracking crime by precinct, to track valid and invalid stops. Bill Thompson recommended nearly the same proposal recently: Rather than tracking how many stops police officers conduct as a measure of their performance — a policy that has been accused of resulting in a “quota system” — Thompson wants to track how many of those stops result in a gun seizure, for example.
When asked if he is concerned about making the inevitable runoff to come from the Sept. 10 primary, Weiner noted he has experience exceeding expectations at exactly this stage in an election.
“About this time in 2005, I was at 11 percent, getting these same exact questions and I gave similar answers, and I made the runoff,” he said. “So, um, we’ll see.”
What to expect from Mayor Anthony Weiner
- Weiner is a big advocate of a single-payer healthcare system, which he said is greatly needed even with the upcoming federal health insurance system in order to cover an estimated 600,000 undocumented residents and retirees. He said it would also help reopen some of the hospitals that have closed.
- Weiner would have police officers wear lapel cameras, an idea he said came to him even before it was brought up in a New York Times article on the stop-and-frisk trial.
- Weiner wants to bring back a “Giuliani-era protocol” and hold regular town hall meetings with his commissioners and community boards around the city.
- Weiner is both an Islanders and a Mets fan, but he said he doesn’t have the same “emotional connection” to the Islanders as he does the Mets. “Like, I can’t bring myself to root for the Yankees. I can easily root for the Rangers, you know? I want to see them successful,” Weiner said. “I’m not the same way with the Yankees.”
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat