On the night of July 30, 2010, Anthony Weiner caught my attention. It was during an impassioned moment on the House floor, when the Congressman railed against Republican efforts to squelch a bill that would have provided health care to 9/11 first responders suffering mightily from their exposure at ground zero.
Here it that video and that impassioned moment:
His emotion, as well as the obvious rightness of his position, made me inch forward in my seat and consider this politician in ways I had not previously. And when he put Peter King in his place on Fox News the next morning, using that same fire, I filled out my official Anthony Weiner Fan Club postcard (for I didn't fully understand his politics or his nature).
However, a year later, on March 3, 2011 – over two months before his first 'sexting' scandal – Congressman Weiner lost me completely.
It was during a debate moderated by Roger Cohen of The New York Times between Weiner and former congressman Brian Baird. Hosted by The Nation Institute, the two men had gathered to debate the recently-issued Goldstone Report, commissioned by the U.N., which chronicled alleged war crimes committed during Israel's 2008 military invasion of Gaza.
During that debate, Weiner said something that stunned everyone in the audience for its absurdity and for its idiocy. It was the first moment I realize that Weiner, while passionate, was also a) not a particularly astute individual, and b) was the type of politician just as willing to sling falsehoods to support extreme positions as his Republican colleagues.
Nobody on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian issue denies that Israel occupies the West Bank. It is a simple reality, one supported and opposed by those on opposite sides of the divide. It is not an issue contested by anyone with a stake in the conflict, including those most extreme.
WEINER: You can see a difference in the development in the West Bank with 11 percent year over year growth, with no Israeli occupation there either, with increasing access to checkpoints —
COHEN: What about area C, D,
WEINER: Hold on, maybe this would be helpful
COHEN: No occupation in the West Bank, did I hear you right?
COHEN: Have you been to the West Bank lately?
COHEN: You didn’t see the IDF there?
WEINER: In Ramallah? No. In Nablus? No. Now can I tell ya there might be some people in this room who think Jerusalem is occupied.
COHEN: Well hold on a second there, let’s stick to the West Bank. You’re saying there is no IDF presence there?
Weiner's statement, which he amazingly reiterated again last month, made me question not just the sharpness of his mind, but the content of his character.
As brooklynbadboy and LaFeminista have since pointed out, Weiner's lack of legislative accomplishments reveals that perhaps his mind is not so sharp, and that his harassment of women reveals the content of his character is very much at issue.
But it was on March 3, 2011 that those two realities became painfully clear when Roger Cohen responded, "Did I hear you right?"
Unfortunately, we all have. Many times. And in my view, it's time to cease listening to what Weiner has to say.