Earlier this week, the Weiner Engine That Still Thinks It Can paraded out Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner’s wife, to speak about his most recent indecencies. Here’s what she had to say about her husband of three years, the elected public official who tweeted photos of his genitalia to a 21-year-old woman, resigned from office, and two years later, apparently still not understanding how the Internet works, sent more seedy texts and pictures to more young women:
“I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him and, as we have said since the beginning [of his spiraling descent into cyber-smut], we are moving forward.”
I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do more when she issued that statement – enfold her in arms of sympathy, or smack her across her somber spokesperson face.
I’m leaning toward the latter.
I get it: The loyal first lady is an archetype as old as politics itself. Uber-popular Scandal turns the president’s jilted, ambitious wife into one of its darker plot points. And I remember watching the public shaming conferences of Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer; I only really watched their poised, professional wives, wondering with morbid curiosity what the hell their private confrontations with their spouses must have looked like, and what on earth was going through their heads at that very moment.
Ultimately, though, I bought their composure. They were part of an intriguing political phenomenon — the unconditionally supportive leading ladies. On some level, they seemed noble, committed to keeping their family units together in the service of something greater than their own wounded pride. I figured that regular married people forgive transgressions all the time, and that the private dalliances of politicians weren’t what we, the public, should worry most about anyway.
But Abedin crossed the Rubicon for me when she gave Weiner yet another pass. After finding out more about her (and really, knowing everything I need to about Weiner himself), the less I buy this bottomless-heart forgiveness of hers.
Abedin has been working for Hillary Clinton since she was 21 years old. She was raised in Saudi Arabia, and was Clinton’s traveling chief of staff during the 2008 Democratic primary. Around this time last year, Michele Bachmann and friends turned Abedin into a target because she supposedly had family members tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. No less than John McCain and John Boehner came to her defense. She’s credited with the resurgence that Weiner seemed to be enjoying until this week.
It’s plausible that Abedin has ambitions of her own, and that this perplexing act of generosity plays into that plan. That she’s sending a message that she’s an honorable public servant because she’s not a quitter. I don’t think it’s unfair to suspect that’s what Hillary Clinton and Silda Spitzer may have had in mind, also. But maybe it’s time to ask whether or not unceasing commitment is really what we want from our public figures. I think I’d be applauding Huma if she’d been less stoic in the wake of all this. If she’d had the courage to be upfront, and to not lay down and tolerate this kind of puerile bullshit from her partner. In 2013, are we honestly still that enamored of women who “stand by their men” no matter what their antics?
It’s starting to seem like for every Wendy Davis, Allyson Schwartz or Kathleen Kane that crops up in the political sphere, we have to watch yet another aspiring, female civic figure pander to some unspoken rule that women cannot sneak their way up the ladder until men have found their footing first.
Just once, can’t one of these intelligent, independently ambitious women say, “Fuck you, you moronic, cheating egomaniac. I want a divorce, and you’re not invited to any of my future campaign fundraisers”?
Of course, I’m speculating here. I don’t know what kind of future Abedin has in mind for her career or her marriage. Maybe she’s really forgiven him. Maybe she thinks he really has a problem (in that case, she’s right). Maybe it’s none of my business. And hell, she’s spent 15 years working with Hillary Clinton – maybe she took some notes.
But if Abedin really wants public confidence, she might consider replacing her stand-firm strategy with a little self-respect.