WE ALL know that Anthony Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, learned from the master: she worked for Hillary Clinton in the late 1990s, when the first lady was humiliated by Bill during the Monica Lewinsky affair but nevertheless chose to stand by him. Now Abedin is soldiering her way through a similar situation. And at Tuesday’s press conference, where she spoke on her husband’s behalf in the wake of new allegations against him, it was clear that she was operating from the Hillary playbook. Her message to the public was simple: she loves him, she’s forgiven him, she believes in him, and they’re moving forward.
This strategy worked for the Clintons politically. But after this latest press conference, I’m pretty sure that Abedin has stretched the Hillary mantle past the breaking point.
The essential problem is that the circumstances are very different for Weiner and Abedin than they were for the Clintons. Back in the late 1990s, the country’s stability, along with the future of the Democratic Party, hung in the balance. Even in 1992, when Hillary went on 60 Minutes to quell the controversy over Gennifer Flowers, many voters already saw her husband as a potentially transformative political figure, and plenty of them were therefore willing to overlook his transgressions. Weiner, by contrast, is running for mayor of New York City, not president of the United States, and based on his performance in public office so far, he’s not really worth the rest of us trying to forgive or forget what we know of his private behavior.
Going forward, reporters will keep poring over the timeline of these latest revelations to figure out whether Weiner lied to his wife and voters. And Abedin will have to decide how much more of herself she will put on the line for him. For now, it’s painful to watch—and probably politically futile too.