I’ve never been one to give the wives of disgraced politicians a pass. Gloria Cain, Anne Sinclair, Silda Spitzer — it made me cringe to see them trotted out for damage control after their husbands’ sexual improprieties. But I don’t feel that way about Huma Abedin, the wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned his seat last summer after sending lewd photos of himself to young women via Twitter.
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Abedin, who was pregnant with the couple’s first child at the time, didn’t toss him to the curb. Nor did she appear by his side at his press conference announcing his resignation. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Abedin was traveling out of the country for much of the scandal. This gets to the heart, I think, of why I can’t put her in the doormat category — one that even her boss, Hillary Clinton, belonged to when, in 1998, she blamed the Monica Lewinsky scandal on a “vast, right-wing conspiracy” instead of on her husband’s libido. Unlike any of her predecessors, Abedin seems to be truly a free agent in this marriage, and that can be directly attributed to her own powerful career. She was never riding on her husband’s coattails and could have left Weiner if she’d wanted to, and that makes her choice to stay something that I can respect instead of deride.
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So while some saw Weiner and Abedin’s interview in this week’s People (complete with adorable photos of their baby) as craven opportunism, I feel Abedin is being genuine when she says, “I’m proud to be married to him. My husband did a really stupid thing. It was an extremely painful time. But there was love and a commitment to this marriage. It took a lot of work to get where we are today, but I want people to know we’re a normal family.” And when John McCain took to the senate floor yesterday to defend against Michele Bachmann’s ridiculous allegation that Abedin has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood that make her unfit for her job — as if the Muslim Brotherhood would actually deploy a woman to infiltrate the State Department — I actually felt proud of our elected officials.
Apparently, I’m not alone. There is now a group page called “I stand with Huma” on Facebook, with such comments as “You are my hero — for all the work you do, for your graciousness and integrity in the crisis with your husband, and as a woman. It is a horrifying example of how low our political discourse is. I stand with you.” Who cares if Anthony Weiner is contemplating a comeback? Huma Abedin doesn’t need one.