Hope is still alive for former Rep. Anthony "the Twitter" Weiner. In today's America, failure is only the first step to your next success, even when your personality gives new meaning to the term "outgoing."
As the world knows by now, the married New York Democrat stepped down after tweeting lewd chats and photos of his nether regions in various stages of undress to young women who were not his wife. It's not easy to assess the personality that would commit such acts, although the phrase "too big for his britches" quickly comes to mind.
Yet, judging by the boldness of his final news conference, I don't think we've seen the last of Weiner.
Sure, his sad-sack words and face were contrite enough, considering how his dust-up was Congress' weirdest scandal since former Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho blamed his arrest for lewd conduct in a public bathroom on his "wide stance."
Yet unlike others, who might have exited quietly with a written statement, Weiner held a full-blown news conference at which he took no questions. This allowed him to be heckled on live television. The hecklers did him a favor. They made him for a fleeting moment, at least, appear to be a sympathetic figure.
And that's the first step these days toward a ritual that has become quite a familiar sight among disgraced lawmakers: image recovery.
Next I suppose we can expect him to get his own TV show like, say, CNN's Eliot Spitzer, who resigned his New York governorship because of a prostitution scandal. Or maybe Weiner will compete on "Dancing With the Stars" like Tom DeLay, the former House Republican leader who appeared while under indictment for money laundering of which he later was convicted. Or maybe he'll appear in commercials for Wonderful Pistachios like a former Illinois Democratic governor of whom the ad's narrator says: "Rod Blagojevich does it innocently."
It's easy to imagine a new ad's narration: "Tony Weiner does it with his cell-phone camera."
As much as some of us decry the reluctance of today's rascals to stay disgraced, it is hardly a new phenomenon. A new biography, "Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned" by John A. Farrell, reminds us of how that great Chicago trial lawyer argued his most famous cases -- including the Scopes Monkey Trial and the Leopold-Loeb murder case -- while recovering from his indictment on two counts of bribery 100 years ago this fall. He was acquitted in one trial and freed after a hung jury in a second.
Broke and scandalized, he rebuilt his reputation by becoming what muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens called "the attorney for the damned," a champion of cases that others would not touch -- including communists, anarchists, labor radicals and black civil rights advocates.
Weiner could take a tip from Darrow's revival. Prior to Weinergate, the congressman was a rising voice for the Affordable Health Care Act and other liberal causes. He also was a potential mayoral candidate in New York City. Who knows? Voters are hardly less forgiving today than they were in Darrow's era.
New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel was re-elected last year despite his financial scandals. Even in conservative Dixieland, Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, an advocate for abstinence-only sex education, also was re-elected despite his name turning up as client of a Washington prostitution service. At the risk of sounding like a New York Post headline, Weiner also could rise again.