Former Rep. Anthony Weiner says he tweeted a crotch picture to a young woman — and, accidentally, the whole world — because he got caught up in the thrill of Twitter, which allowed him to find strangers who actually liked him. Social media allows a huge number of regular citizens to interact with national politicians in a way that's never been possible before. It feels very democratic. But sometimes it also feels like you've seen a kind of desperation that you shouldn't have seen.
Weiner's interview with Jonathan Van Meter in The New York Times Magazine is his attempt to confess and apologize for his sins so he can resume his political career and run for mayor in New York. He says back then, he was shocked his sext scandal was such huge news, and now realizes the penis photos and his initial denials were a fatal combination. Now, too, he is running for mayor — and this much we already knew. But Weiner's new explanation for why he did what he did nearly two years ago is a little unsettling. "By definition, when you are a politician, you want people to like you," Weiner says. Sure, fine, everyone wants to be liked; politicians need to be liked to keep their job. But Weiner explains that the Internet meant that he didn't just get feedback in townhalls, but by self-Googling, reading Facebook comments, searching Twitter. He started engaging: "'Oh, you should like me!' 'No, that’s wrong!' or 'Thank you very much!'" he says. "Or sometimes it would start out about politics and then, 'You're a great guy.' 'Oh, thanks, you're great, too.' 'I think you’re handsome.' 'Oh, that's great.'"
Weiner is not the only guy who's revealed this troubling tendency this week. So did former President Bill Clinton in an interview with Stephen Colbert in a slightly awkward Colbert Report-Clinton Global Initiative crossover episode. Colbert asked Clinton why he didn't tweet. His answer was unexpectedly revealing: "I think I’m so, sort of insecure," Clinton said, pausing. "What if you tweet and nobody tweets back?... There’s nothing worse than a friendless tweeter, right? You're just wandering around in cyberspace." Bill Clinton, the most popular living ex-president, thought no one would read his tweets! That he would be exposed as friendless on the Internet!
Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, has worked for Hillary Clinton since her husband was in the White House. Abedin told Van Meter that she and Hillary "had a lot of personal conversations," but didn't want to go into the details. They have in common not just husbands who humiliated them with a sex scandal, but husbands who have an unsettling and public fear that no one really likes them.