Does he wish he could be 18 again? Update: Nothing inappropriate happened, says girl's mom

Last night at dinner, theories percolated over the latest revelation in the sad saga of Anthony Weiner — following and DMing a 17-year-old girl.  Some of my companions aren’t familiar with Twitter, and I had to explain that there are only three reasons to “follow” another Twitter user:

  1. You’re interested in their minute-to-minute updates
  2. You have a policy of reflexively following everyone who follows you
  3. You want the ability to have private DM message sessions with them

Weiner had over 77,000 followers and followed far, far fewer users.  As of today, the @RepWeiner account only follows 197 Twitter users, so it’s a pretty exclusive club.  With that information, none of my tablemates bought the idea that Weiner had some fascination with the public Twitter feed of a high-school girl, and that option 3 seems to make the most sense — for whatever reason.  Today’s update from the New York Times makes it clear that Weiner’s decision to follow the girl was not made without knowledge of her age:

At the time, a group of conservatives was monitoring Mr. Weiner’s Twitter activity, after noticing that he was sending messages to a pornographic star from Tennessee.

When members of the group saw the girl’s post, suggesting she was engaging in a private conversation with Mr. Weiner, they alerted the congressman that they were watching him. “@RepWeiner new pal is a high school girl. First porn actresses now little girls. Weird.”

According to the girl’s family member, people in the group also copied the girl on some of the messages they sent to him, so she sent Mr. Weiner a private message telling him that she felt she was being harassed. He apologized to her in a private message, and removed her from the list of people he followed on Twitter.

About a month later, Mr. Weiner sent out a public message saying he wanted to attract more followers on Twitter and offered to follow people on his account if they wanted him to.

The girl responded to the appeal and posted a public message to him: “Don’t forget me. I used to follow you.” On May 16, he began following the girl again, and over the next 10 days they had three private message exchanges, the family member said.

According to the family, the messages themselves during that 10-day period — which ended after his inadvertently public tweet of a salacious picture of his crotch to a college student — were innocuous:

One was about baseball. In another, he replied to a question she had about legislation by jokingly asking for her advice, the family member said. His third message to her was in response to a link she posted to a YouTube video of his giving a speech, with the message: “My true love.” …

“I came back strong,” he wrote. “Large. Tights and cape. …”

Weiner had written something similar in a more explicit exchange with a middle-aged card dealer in Nevada, which prompted Patterico to put two and two togetherThe Telegraph credited him with smoking out the latest development in the case (and Patterico and Aaron Worthing have more in this roundup).  The sudden interest in a girl Weiner knew to be underage at the same time that he was sending crotch shots to a college student can certainly have people wondering if Weiner was grooming a victim, but this smacks of a more basic problem.

Is Anthony Weiner a grown-up at all?  This isn’t a question that evades other questions; he may also be a lot of other things, like an Internet predator and a creep.  But mostly Weiner looks like a case of arrested development, an adolescent with 30 years of experience rather than an adult.  Weiner is a year younger than me, solidly into middle age, with a young wife, a child on the way, and a high-profile job of substantial importance and responsibility. Yet his focus has not been on any of these, but instead on silly and salacious interactions with a variety of women on line, especially women less than half his age.  His interactions with them bespeak the sexuality of a 14-year-old, taking pictures of his equipment and engaging in dialogue that most resembles a porn script.

We have a long history of Congressmen behaving badly in terms of sex scandals, but none quite so puerile as Weiner.  Having affairs is bad enough, but at least it doesn’t look like an escape back into high school.

A few years back, Hollywood produced a spate of comedies involving generation-gap body-switching, such as Like Father Like Son, Freaky Friday (remade twice),Vice Versa, Dream a Little Dream, and 18 Again, a 1988 film with George Burns.  The trend seemed to speak to aging Baby Boomers who wanted a second crack at their youth to take all the risks they once avoided and to turn their petty tragedies (especially in romance) into triumphs.  This sad spectacle gives the impression that Weiner is attempting to do the same thing in real life.

And if that’s true, we’re probably not seeing the last of it, either.  National Journal reports this morning that this has Democrats dreading whatever comes next, and that they’re reaching the end of their rope with Weiner:

Placed in the context of the scandal that has engulfed Weiner, the revelation about internet chatting with a 17-year-old could push the congressman’s career into political oblivion.

“The little support he had is evaporating,” said a top House Democratic source.

Said another House Democrat familiar with the ethics process: “I feel like there’s still more to come. This is painful.”

The seven-term congressman has not been accused of criminal wrong-doing. But the specter of the police investigation could mean Weiner’s conduct has crossed a line – or, at minimum, authorities want to be sure of all dimensions of his conduct before reaching a conclusion.

Nothing may come of the investigation into Weiner’s conscious decision to conduct private communications with a 17-year-old who publicly dreamed of getting Weiner to escort her to her high-school prom.  But the mere fact that Weiner chose to do this, especially while conducting more revolting communications with other women using the same modus operandi, should have everyone convinced that Weiner lacks the judgment or the maturity to handle his responsibilities, and that the best option — for Weiner as well as all others concerned — is for him to withdraw from public life … and start thinking about what he wants to do when he grows up.

Update (AP): The girl’s mother tells the New York Post that while she doesn’t understand why a congressman would be messaging her daughter, there’s no evidence of anything inappropriate happening:

The mom said she pointedly questioned her daughter about whether Weiner sent her anything obscene, and the girl swore it was all G-rated.

“I guess because he knew she was in high school,” the mom said, though she added it was weird that Weiner would spend any time communicating directly with her daughter.

The mom did say her daughter wrote in one message, “I’m in love with you,” but explained it away with, “She’s 17.”

“None of us will be getting our 15 minutes of fame because of this nonsense,” the mom said. “Representative Weiner never tweeted her anything inappropriate . . . That is the answer, honestly.”