I sat there watching the television screen as Anthony Weiner squirmed before the microphones for the second time in two years, and realized that this was a deja vu moment.
At first I thought it was because the former congressman and aspiring mayoral candidate was, once again, apologizing for tweeting and cheating without really meeting. And then I took one look at Weiner’s wife and realized that this had absolutely nothing to do with the fellow.
Huma Abedin might have creamy olive skin, beautiful brown eyes and long dark hair, but you don’t need to put her in a pantsuit and slap a headband on her tresses to realize that we are now in the presence of Hillary Clinton, version 2.1.
We all remember the pre-Senate, pre-State Department Hillary who inspired both awe and revulsion for her assault on the East Wing. Never before had we been treated to a first lady who so blatantly and brazenly sought equal status with the guy we’d actually elected.
Eleanor Roosevelt, her idol, had exercised a considerable amount of weight behind the scenes. But it wasn’t until Franklin died that she really came into her own. Not so Mrs. Clinton, or, rather, Mrs. Rodham Clinton.
It was painfully obvious to anyone paying attention that Bill’s wife was hell bent on giving us that two-for-one bargain that the couple had promised during the campaign. Say what you will about her, Hillary was a force to be reckoned with. And praised. And loathed. Even her most strident enemies didn’t underestimate her survival instincts.
Health care? (If at first you don’t succeed … .) Whitewater? (Did anyone say rafting?) Vince Foster? (Personal tragedy, nothing more.) And then came the stream of women: Gennifer (no relation,) Paula (a genuine victim) and, of course, “A little bit of Monica.”
Anyone who thought that Hillary was going to let the Bimbo Bombs destroy her carefully constructed plans clearly didn’t know just who they were dealing with. Our first lady stood by her philandering man and rode the crest of a sympathetic wave into the Senate. Mrs. Wynette Goes To Washington, so to speak.
And who did she take with her on that long and fruitful journey, ever upward, ever more successfully? Why none other than Mrs. Weiner, the lovely, inscrutable Huma.
Hillary once said that she had one daughter, but that if she had another it would be her beloved personal assistant.
Huma Abedin has been by her mentor’s side for almost two decades, and it is reasonable to think that she spent a large part of that time taking notes about how to thrive and survive in the political jungle. Therefore, it is not surprising that she (1) chose to marry an animal indigenous to that environment i.e., a cheetah, and (2) figured out how to make sure that she could withstand whatever wounds he managed to inflict on their shared ambitions.
Anthony’s wife has taken a page from her pseudo-mama’s dog-eared book and has perfected the art of damage control.
First, you assume a posture of dignified disappointment, wherein your whole body seems to just “sigh” under the weight of the offensive conduct. It’s a cross between an “I can’t believe he did this to me” and a “boys will be boys, God bless their randy little hearts.” Then, you gaze sadly at the perpetrator as he stares into the camera and apologizes for the second, third or 13th time for being a pervert with his privates. Then, you allow him to draw a line in the sand where he says he might be sorry but he won’t go gentle into that good campaign and is continuing to seek the mayoral prize.
And then you spring into action. You straighten your shoulders, raise your pointed chin, allow a few wisps of that luxuriant velvet hair to fall across your delicately drawn cheek and assume a stoic pose. You love him, you say. You believe in him, you say. You forgive him, you say. You idiot, we say.
But you do not hear us speaking, because you do not care what the peanut gallery thinks. This is not about the crowds massed to watch this public shaming. This is not even about your husband who, truth be told, is probably sleeping in the garage these days, which is why he has both the time and the inclination to tweet.
This is about something far more important to you, perhaps almost as important as the future of the child you and the Tweeter have in common. This is about your political survival.
Huma Abedin learned at the feet of a master, someone who might very well parlay her experience as scorned wife into an office in the West Wing. Huma is a bit more modest, of course. Seems she’d be content to redecorate Gracie Mansion.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.