Saturday, June 11, 2011

What the crisis revealed about Anthony Weiner

I first heard about Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) a year ago when he was injured by a goat in a publicity stunt to fight against the mohair subsidy.

This is an issue I care a great deal about, as it's a perfect example of how politics welcomes concentrated benefits and dispersed costs and the awfulness of agricultural subsidies.

Basically, we needed lots of mohair for WW2 pilots, so subsidies were created to encourage goat farmers to produce more of it. We don't need any of it now, but the subsidy remains because its a tiny piece of the budget, but millions of dollars for certain producers. There's more political will on the mohair producers side as they make a ton of "rent" from the subsidy, as taxpayers are only out a little each.

I gained a lot of respect for Weiner there. He was willing to make a principled stance for something that won't woo a lot of voters. I've followed him ever since and although he's a liberal firebrand, he's a firebrand I can stand. Unlike that smug manatee from Florida.

But now Weiner finds himself in a stupid scandal with jokes too obvious to bother making. My occasional sparring partner Michael Hawkins sums up an idea nicely I've heard a lot lately, that Weiner's personal life isn't important enough to care about.

However, what is relevant is how poorly Weiner handled this crisis. As Popehat's Ken said,

If a politician can’t address a personal crisis without flopping all over the networks like a dying fish on a dock, then there’s reason to question whether he can manage crises of leadership. Hell, even if a politician is falsely accused of sexual impropriety, if he adopts a strategy that makes him look like he’s being controlled by that alien who wore Vincent D’Onofrio for half of Men in Black, then it’s reasonable to question whether he can hack the big jobs.
Weiner screwed this one up. I can perfectly understand why someone would lie about breaking the vows of their marriage. I think that's a rational thing to do. However, there's really no excuse for someone that bright to act like such an idiot about it and refuse to adopt a consistent story about it.

I lost a lot of respect for Anthony Weiner this month, but it wasn't about his Internet-based infidelities. It was his incompetence.

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