Earlier today, Bloomberg View columnists Margaret Carlson and Ramesh Ponnuru met online to chat about the latest revelations from Anthony Weiner. Below is a lightly edited transcript.
Margaret: Ramesh, it was the smile that got me in the Weiner press conference yesterday. Not Weiner's but his wife's. You got a head start with your post before I could admit that you were right all along. The husband-wife press conference made the relationship seem more like a merger than a marriage, deciding that the way to fix their marriage was to make him mayor. I'm in “please leave us alone land" and I commend your arrival there weeks ahead of me.
Ramesh: Believe the worst about people -- well, at least politicians -- and you'll never be disappointed! The psychology of it all is fascinating, especially since Huma Abedin has long worked for someone with her own experience of standing by a husband in a political sex scandal. But I'm with the New York Times editorial board -- wait, did I really just write that? -- in wanting them to take their psychodrama out of the headlines. Do you think he should quit the race?
Margaret: Please, quit the race, please. Huma admires Hillary for more than her virtues as a presidential candidate and secretary of state. The similarity to her long, hard slog with the Big Dog is striking. I'm happy to see you read the Times editorial first thing in the morning. The Times should trade on that. What Weiner did goes against human nature in an obvious way –- this is a sex scandal without sex, as you put it earlier. But it also goes against how we all learn to be better people. Whenever I've done something bad I never do that thing again. When I was in the sixth grade at the Good Shepard School, I toppled the statue of the Virgin Mary with a friend when we tried to dress her up at recess. We didn't cop to it for hours. Mother Marita Joseph finally forgave me and it changed me profoundly. I was grateful. I promised never to do it again and I didn't. I’ve carried that close call with me ever since. How could Weiner get a second chance and not take it? He won't get a third. Despite what Huma said, it's not between the two of them. Normal people would now retreat and repair what's most important, their family, not their careers.
Ramesh: I think it's almost always the right decision for a politician involved in a scandal to leave public life -- if he sincerely wants to change. You can't recover your integrity when you're under so much pressure to pretend you have already done it. But then that assumes that integrity matters to the person in question. For me the ickiest news yesterday was that Weiner had asked his latest online chatter what she thought of the pictures from his earlier scandal -- the one had already led him to express public contrition. It turns out that moral failure and pathology are not mutually exclusive conditions.
Margaret: During her excruciating remarks, Huma kept speaking of Weiner’s behavior as a personal matter ”between us and our marriage,” and that she had made the decision to stay in the marriage for herself, her son and for her family. Wonderful. Divorce is a terrible thing. But she doesn’t get to inflict that decision on us. It doesn’t follow that because she decided to stay with him she can decide we do too. I’ve never seen someone squander a second chance quite like Weiner did. How compulsive he is and self-destructive to engage in the same creepy behavior he asked -- and received -- forgiveness for. He got a public whitewash on the cover of the New York Times Sunday magazine. Yet he kept at it. I don’t want to be harsh about Huma. I feel very sorry for her. But she can’t inflict her decision on us. And the new trail she blazed by not just standing by her man but speaking on his behalf is not an advance for the body politic. She, not us, is going to have to live with and, I hope, fix him. He’s heavy. He’s her husband.