“Putting yourself out there comes with a cost.”
So concludes a brief essay Huma Abedin wrote last week – before the current scandal broke – and published Wednesday in Harper’s Bazaar. It puts her “out there” with a photo that takes up almost as much space as the essay: She stands smiling in a light mint-green dress, her left hand conspicuously displaying a traditional diamond ring and wedding band.
The title of the article in the women’s fashion magazine: “The Good Wife.”
Now, as a scandal-hungry news behemoth turns its eyes toward Ms. Abedin, this carefully crafted image may be backfiring on the close adviser to potential presidential aspirant Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Given the particularly noxious details of her husband Anthony Weiner’s behavior, not to mention its timing, a chorus of women is beginning to challenge the predictable pageantry of spousal support during the frequent parades of sex scandals over the years.
Call it a changing paradigm in the political perils of power couples, but as Abedin expresses her love and support for her husband, standing by the disgraced former congressman as he admits, for the second time, to lurid details of online sexual dalliances, the costs of being out there as “the good wife” may end up ruining her as well.
“Voters have almost become immune and accustomed to that image,” says David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, an Atlanta-based political consulting agency. “So to the public, that’s almost a playbook. They’ve come to expect that in a scandal.”
“But a lot of people are wondering now, what is the driving dynamic here?” continues Mr. Johnson, a veteran of political campaigns. “Why would such a high profile woman, with such a career, continue to take this?”
Indeed, this is the question most people have been asking for the past few days. The old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” has been peppering conversations about Abedin, especially among female voters.
And since she is so successful and powerful in her own right, the pageantry of the “good wife” is not only starting to wear thin, it is starting to make some women angry.
“It was bad enough when Harvard Law grad Silda Wall Spitzer stood mutely beside then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer as he confessed in 2008 to patronizing prostitutes,” wrote attorney and CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom. “Or when former hospital executive Dina McGreevey stood silently next to her cheating husband, then-New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, as he announced his resignation in 2004. Some of us are trying to raise our girls to be more than voiceless partners sucking up their pride as their husbands trample over their dignity.”
Abedin did make a forceful statement on Tuesday to support her husband – “I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward.” But as more details emerge, many see her unwavering support for her husband as an added blow to her dignity.
Indeed, when Weiner accidentally tweeted a sexual photo to his followers in 2011, setting off the current theater of sex and politics, Abedin was pregnant with their first child. She did not attend his press conferences nor make a public statement. News of her pregnancy, in fact, was announced during the scandal, and was hardly a joyous occasion.
But then the couple began a very public rehabilitation, beginning with a photo spread with their son Jordan in People magazine in July, 2012.
"It took a lot of work to get to where we are today, but I want people to know we're a normal family," Abedin told the magazine. "Anthony has spent every day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be. I'm proud to be married to him."
The picture painted by the couple last year, and in subsequent interviews given while they organized Weiner’s run for mayor, was of a recovering, healing family.
"Every day since this has happened, I've tried to become a better person, a husband that Huma deserves, and as good a father as I can be,” Weiner said in the same People interview. “And I've explored every way to try to do those things and I'm committed to continuing on that path."
This week’s allegations, however, indicate that at this same time, Weiner had begun dallying with yet another young woman online. And Thursday he told reporters he had had illicit online relationships with at least three women since he resigned Congress.
In stark contrast to the statements made last year, Weiner now says, "The fact is that that was also the time that my wife and I were working through some things in our marriage." Or, as he e-mailed his supporters Wednesday, "It was a terrible mistake that I unfortunately returned to during a rough time in our marriage."
Even so, echoing her press conference on Tuesday, Abedin’s article in Harper’s Bazaar explained:
“So why am I doing this? Because Anthony has always been a smart, caring, and dedicated person, and while he’s the same public servant who wants what’s best for the people he represents, he is now something else – a better man.
“New Yorkers will have to decide for themselves whether or not to give him a second chance. I had to make that same decision for myself, for my son, for our family. And I know in my heart that I made the right one.”
More and more, however, few others do.