What kind of tragedy was Anthony Weiner?

The Anthony Weiner saga — which, if not over, has finally been officially demoted to a farce — has been with us for five years. Weiner tweeted a photo of his packed underwear to a West Coast fan on the sleepy weekend around Memorial Day in 2o11. Huma Abedin, his wife since 2010, announced that their marriage was over at the start of the lead-up to Labor Day 2016, another news doldrum. Plenty of politicians make crippling personal mistakes. Few have been cursed with Anthony Weiner’s timing.

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Today’s Weiner story is really about Abedin, and whether (to the relief of friends) she can finally shed a cad who threatened to be a political liability. But since 2011, when he resigned from Congress after press conferences hijacked by Andrew Breitbart and the Howard Stern show, Weiner has become an irresistible subject for counterfactuals.

He had raw political talent, the kind that ambitious congressmen hire handlers to get. In 2005, when he was just 40, he made a skillful run for mayor of New York City. Before the fateful tweet, Weiner was building a reputation as a liberal with guts; after the tweet, he was hit with stories that did not even seem fair in retrospect. (The story of his tweets to an “underaged girl” — tweets that were not explicit in any way, but sent reporters to a 17-year old’s front lawn — definitely qualifies.)

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