The purpose of this weekend’s mammoth New York Times Magazine’s story on Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, was presumably to pave the way for Weiner’s return to public life (and an eventual run for Mayor) after a Twitter sex scandal abruptly ended his Congressional career two years ago. It’s somewhat surprising then that the real star of the article is Abedin, and many readers may end up wishing that she’d just run for office instead.
The focus on Abedin starts on the magazine’s cover, where we see her gaze confidently at the camera from the center of image while Weiner stands awkwardly off to the side with one third of his body out of the frame. Abedin’s name is also listed first in the headline and she’s the first person quoted. The reader doesn’t hear from Weiner directly until midway through the seventh paragraph.
It’s a theme that continues throughout the story — the Pakistani-American Abedin comes off as savvy and deeply committed to her career and family, while Weiner rambles on about the reasons he threw his career away without ever actually saying anything at all. At one point, reporter Jonathan Van Meter notes that “never has an interview felt so much like a therapy session.”
Other things we learn about Abedin:
She was ambivalent about the relationship at the very beginning: “Hillary would be going up to the podium, and Anthony would be walking offstage.” Here, she imitates him in shtick mode: ‘I warmed ’em up for you, Hillary. They’re all set, teed up to go!’ Hillary would always laugh, and I would think, My God, he’s such a jerk.”
She likes her chai and has protective friends: “So, we go out for a drink,” Weiner says, “which is when I found out she doesn’t drink, and she orders tea and excuses herself to go to the ladies’ room, and when she gets up, this cabal of four or five of her friends come over to the table and say: ‘Stay away. She wants no part of you.'”
She’s never tweeted: “I’ve never been on Twitter,” Abedin says. “I couldn’t tell you the first thing about how it works. And Anthony had told me in the past that there were these sort of trolls on the Internet who were trying to damage him, take him down. And so, that’s the mind-set I came with to this conversation.”
Her co-workers gave her the space she needed as the scandal broke: “…Abedin, who had been worried about embarrassing her friends in the administration, finally broke down and sobbed. With tears streaming down her face, she turned to Reines and Sullivan and began talking about some issue that was on the Africa agenda. “They just totally went with it and got down to work. There was no attention paid to my tears. And I was like, ‘Thank you for responding like that.'”
Huma and Hillary had several heart-to-hearts as the scandal broke: “We’ve had a lot of personal conversations, none of which I feel comfortable talking about. But what I will say about her, and for that matter her entire family, the unconditional love and support they have given me has been a real gift.”
As for what the article didn’t cover: There was no mention of the fact that Weiner and Abedin have an inter-faith marriage (she is Muslim and he is Jewish), and there was no discussion or reaction to Michele Bachmann’s false attacks on Abedin last summer, in which Bachmann accused Abedin of having links to the Muslim brotherhood.
Abedin and Weiner will continue to be closely watched in the weeks and months ahead as he decides whether to throw his hat back into the political ring. What’s next for the one-time (and possibly future) power couple? A mayoral run looks likely. Weiner tells the Times that Abedin “is starting to think he should run.”