Thursday April 17, 2014

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

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Weiner scandal an embarrassment to Bill and Hillary Clinton

WASHINGTON - The summer sex scandal engulfing Anthony Weiner keeps getting seamier with bikini shots of his latest young sexting partner splashed in the pages of a New York City tabloid on Monday along with allegations that Bill and Hillary Clinton want him to drop his bid to become mayor of America's biggest metropolis.

Former president Bill Clinton officiated at Weiner's 2010 wedding to Huma Abedin, who's a close confidante of his wife, the former secretary of state. The ties and inevitable comparisons between the two couples are prompting some to ask if the Weiner scandal could hurt Hillary Clinton as she eyes her own run for president in 2016.

As Hillary Clinton did following revelations of her husband's sexual dalliances with young White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Abedin has opted to "stand by her man" despite his X-rated online messages to 23-year-old Sydney Leathers. Seashore photos of the woman, who bears a physical resemblance to Lewinsky, became an Internet sensation on Monday.

"It's apparent why sexting was the best option," wrote one snide Twitter wag.

Leathers, meantime, was headed to New York to sit down with radio shock jock Howard Stern in a scandal that is showing no signs of dissipating for Weiner, who insists he's staying in the race despite this weekend's departure of his campaign manager and pleas from fellow Democrats to drop out.

Leathers is now being represented by agent Gina Rodriguez, a former porn star and entertainment manager who's known for taking on dubious sudden celebrities, including "Tan Mom," a 44-year-old tanning salon addict. Leathers will be on Stern's show on Tuesday and is doing a photo shoot for a New York design house and its line of leather clothing.

The New York Post reported Monday that the Clintons are trying to distance themselves from Weiner and Abedin. The tabloid says the Clintons believe Abedin alluded to her mentor when she appeared beside her husband last week to insist she was standing by him and aren't pleased.

"The Clintons are upset with the comparisons that the Weiners seem to be encouraging that Huma is 'standing by her man' the way Hillary did with Bill, which is not what she in fact did," the newspaper quoted an unidentified top state Democrat as saying.

The Post also reported that a prominent Clinton operative was about to go public with harsh criticism of Weiner in order to send the message that the Clintons, said to be nervous about damage to Hillary Clinton's presidential aspirations, want him to drop out.

One close Clinton associate has already done so. Dee Dee Myers, Bill Clinton's White House press secretary for two years, says that both Clintons hope Weiner will withdraw from the race.

"Look, this isn't a story that anybody, particularly the Clintons, are happy to see splashed over the front pages and all over the news relentlessly, and I think they as much as anyone would like to see this go away," said Myers on CBS's "Face The Nation" over the weekend.

"If they could choose they would certainly have Weiner get out of the race and Huma to get on with her life. It's very painful for the Clintons. They are genuinely very close to Huma."

Weiner was apparently unmoved.

"I'm going to keep talking about the things important to this city," he said Monday on the campaign trail. "I don't really care if a lot of pundits or politicians are offended by that."

Some have already raised the possibility that Weiner's shenanigans will dredge up once again the sordid Lewinsky scandal of the mid-1990s, including Hillary Clinton's allegiance to her husband, just as she's attempting to be seen as her own woman.

"The last thing she needs is to go back in time when so much of who she was depended on what he did," Mary Curtis, a contributor to the Washington Post, wrote last week.

But Ed Espinoza, a Democratic political consultant, said Monday he doesn't believe Hillary Clinton has anything to worry about.

"Since Bill Clinton's presidency, she's served eight years in the U.S. Senate, run for president and was secretary of state she has a long and distinguished record of public service," he said in an interview.

"The Weiner scandal is between Weiner, the voters of New York City and his wife. It's not going to affect Hillary Clinton at all."

The Clintons, in fact, have not helped raise funds for Weiner's campaign, although Abedin has reached out to longtime Clinton donors. She's reportedly raised almost US$150,000 for her husband since he announced he was entering the race, with some suggesting people are donating to Weiner in order to stay in Hillary Clinton's good graces since she and Abedin are so close.

But another Democratic source told the New York Daily News that there is no love lost between the Clintons and Weiner.

"They do not like him," the newspaper reported the official as saying.

In fact, the Daily News reported, the Clintons dearly want Weiner to drop out completely.

Myers, for her part, believes Weiner's done anyway with or without a push from the Clintons.

"He may still be in the race, but his campaign is over. Obviously, it's not going to go anywhere," she said. "Voters, we found out, are willing to forgive people as long as the person is genuinely sorry and tries to change. Anthony Weiner's played voters for fools."

A new poll seems to support Myers' view. According to a new Quinnipiac University survey, Weiner has fallen to last place among Democratic candidates in the New York mayoral race.

"It looks like former congressman Anthony Weiner may have sexted himself right out of the race for New York City mayor," said Quinnipiac polling director Maurice Carroll.


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