The Weiner I knew

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So Anthony Weiner has finally left the building and the district. One wrong button-press on a BlackBerry set off a national incident that reverberated to the White House and shook the halls of Congress. A promising political career built on thousands of hours of hard work vanished in an instant.

I remember the first time I interviewed Weiner. It was back in the 90s, and I was covering a breaking story in Brooklyn. Somebody said that some councilmember was available to comment. It was late, around 9:30 p.m. and my producer said I should meet this guy at his office. "His office?," I remember asking. "What’s he doing at his office at 9:30?" Sure enough, Anthony Weiner was waiting, down in the street in front of his office, so I wouldn’t have to waste time going in. I remember saying to myself, "Who is this guy?"

I would find out soon enough. Weiner was a protégé of Chuck Schumer, one of the hardest-working men in Congress, and later the Senate. Weiner learned all the right lessons and always did the grunt work.

I recalled doing a story about an old Irish-American, who came to the U.S. decades ago in 1929 and wanted to head back to Ireland for the first time since he was nine years old. He was a U.S. citizen who had fought in World War II and settled in Bayside. But for some reason, the U.S. government had no record of his passport.

I called the office of his congressmember, Anthony Weiner, and asked if they had any ideas. Weiner and his staff worked for months on the problem and finally, when the US government could not come up with papers, Weiner got the Irish government to intervene and issue an Irish passport.

Weiner was there to present the passport to his grateful constituent and then headed out on a Saturday afternoon. I asked him what his next stop would be. "Little League, Opening Day," he answered. The old Irishman said to me, "That kid Weiner, I don’t care for his politics, but he works for me. I vote for him. He’s my congressman."

We’ve spent the last few weeks hammering Weiner for his lies, his bizarre behavior, his bullying and his disgusting texts, and we don’t need to cover all that again.

But this really is a tragedy of Greek proportions. Weiner certainly could have been a contender for mayor, or maybe another office. He had smarts, ambition and tons of energy to go with it.

Weiner might still make it back, if not to politics, then almost certainly to some job on the cable channels. But all those constituents with impossible problems will have to go elsewhere for help.

Like Weiner, the Ninth Congressional District may soon be gone too.