A Revealing Hour in Harlem With Anthony Weiner

A Revealing Hour in Harlem With Anthony Weiner

By Scott Conroy - August 9, 2013

NEW YORK -- It was just a few minutes into Anthony Weiner's door-to-door canvass of a Harlem public housing complex Thursday night, and the New York City mayoral candidate was already agitated.

As he scanned his staff-prepared list of apartment numbers and corresponding residents' names, the candidate shook his head in disapproval.

"This is no good, the way you have this organized," he said to one of two young, female aides who were accompanying him. “This is N.G. -- not great.”

A few minutes later, Weiner remained fixated on the quality of his staff’s advance work, voicing his displeasure in full earshot of the large media contingent in tow.

“Boy, oh boy,” he said as another young woman from his campaign team stood beside him, shifting through her own notes in uncomfortable silence. “This is not as organized as I would’ve liked.”

For the next hour, things didn’t get much better for Weiner, whose campaign to fulfill one of his long-held ambitions, it is safe to say, has rarely gone the way he would’ve liked.

The scandal-scarred former congressman made his way through the building methodically, reminding residents to vote in the Sept. 10 primary and taking plenty of rebuffs along the way.

“I already said I didn’t want to meet you,” a woman inside one door, which remained closed, told Weiner. “Please stop knocking on my door.”

The woman’s response was directed at the candidate, but Weiner seemed intent upon deflecting it -- along with the rest of the mostly negative vibe that permeated his visit -- onto his earnest young staffers.

“This is ridiculous,” he muttered to no one in particular as he struggled to figure out which door to knock on next. “This is quite a mess. Quite a mess.”

Though he did nothing to mask his displeasure over his team’s performance, Weiner appeared unfazed by the mostly unenthusiastic response he received from the pre-screened voters in the building.

“Mr. Finson!” he shouted after knocking on one door without receiving an immediate response. “It’s Anthony Weiner!”

When Mr. Finson finally emerged, the would-be mayor launched into his abbreviated sales pitch.

“I’d love for you to consider voting for me,” he concluded.

“All right, man,” Finson replied.

“Is that a ‘yes’ or just an ‘all right’?” Weiner pressed.

“All right.”

Weiner laughed and handed Finson his campaign literature before heading off to the next stop.

The candidate hummed a tune to himself as he descended the staircase and made his way onto another floor.

“If I get elected, the next time we hang out, I’ll invite you to Gracie Mansion,” he promised one dubious tenant.

“Remember the name, ‘Weiner,’” he told another, who was unlikely to forget it.

After one particularly unfruitful door-knocking stint, Weiner returned to the 10th floor and inadvertently knocked on the door of a unit that he had previously visited.

“You’ve been in here already,” the woman who answered the door told him. “Why are you coming back?”

Weiner apologized and then proceeded to muse aloud, again to no one in particular, about how no one had prevented him from making the mistake.

“So all the members of the press didn’t say, ‘Wait a minute, we were just in here’?” he marveled, once more demonstrating a penchant for assigning blame to others.

The young aide whose work he had denigrated earlier led him to the next apartment, at which point Weiner realized that most of these residents had already received a visit from his campaign team earlier in the day.

“Oh, we pre-knocked everybody?” Weiner asked the aide.

“We pre-knocked,” she replied.

Not all of the pre-screened residents were standoffish. Several residents told the candidate that they intended to vote for him, and one woman even greeted him with a bear hug.

“I love you!” she screamed.

Another Weiner supporter was more reserved in explaining her support.

“We all make mistakes,” she told the grateful candidate. “Nobody is perfect.”

Her words expressed the sentiment that is Weiner’s last thread of hope in surviving the fallout from recent revelations that he continued to send lewd photos to women he met on the Internet, even after of resigning from Congress in 2011 after lying about similar behavior.

Yet throughout his Harlem visit, Weiner demonstrated a penchant for challenging some of the people who were willing to take him seriously.

When one supporter invited Weiner and more than a dozen members of the media into his apartment, the candidate noted the Israeli flag the man had displayed in his living room.

“Are you Israeli?” Weiner asked.

No, the man answered, explaining that he is a Christian who believes in the central role Israel would play in paving the way for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

“Got it,” Weiner said. “But don’t you also believe that we have to be wiped out before the Messiah can return?”

“No,” the man replied.

“OK, we’re cool,” Weiner said. “Thank you for inviting us into your home.”

A couple more door-knocks later and Weiner finally called it a day.

“This is fun,” he said. “This is what I like doing.”

The besieged yet undeterred Democrat exited the building around 7 p.m. and was immediately set upon by a reporter from ITV, a British television network.

With a camera rolling, the reporter asked Weiner why he has refused to drop out of the race after all of the embarrassment he has brought upon himself and his family and the general consensus that has formed among fellow Democrats that it is long past time for him to exit.

“I guess you must be under the impression that this is supposed to be easy,” Weiner replied, oozing disdain for the questioner. “It’s not. I’m fighting for a tough job. It requires a lot of toughness when you’re on the job, so this is the way I want it to be.”

The British reporter was ready with a follow-up.

“Is it ambition?” she asked. “Is it a hunger for the big job? Power?”

Weiner stared her down for a moment.

“It’s hard to take you seriously,” he said. “No, it has to do with wanting to be the mayor of the city of New York and wanting to help the middle class and those struggling to make it.”

His mood suddenly shifting, Weiner emitted a chuckle.

“Or the hunger for the big job,” Weiner said in a mock English accent.

Refusing to acknowledge the ribbing, the reporter pressed on.

“Would anything stop you?” she asked.

“I just have a feeling I’ve, like, stepped into a Monty Python bit,” the bemused Weiner scoffed. “I don’t know, would anything stop me? Now is a rock going to fall on me? No, nothing’s going to stop me. I’m going to win this election.”

And with that he was off for the night.

“I gotta go home and feed the baby,” he said to no one in particular, but loud enough for anyone in the vicinity to hear. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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