The humiliated wife has long been a standard prop in the mea culpa phase of an American political scandal.
First the husband commits adultery with a prostitute, another man, an assistant, a lobbyist or a family friend. After he gets caught, he expresses contrition and the wife is somehow prevailed upon to stand mute at the press conference as he clings to his job or bows to the inevitable and resigns.
But Huma Abedin, wife of the disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner may have just rewritten the script. For more than a week, Weiner lied to his wife, colleagues and country about whether he had texted a photograph of his engorged member, restrained by a pair of grey Jockey briefs, to a 21-year-old student in Seattle.
On day nine of the scandal, when he appeared before the press to admit everything he could no longer deny (and no more), Abedin was nowhere to be seen. When he finally resigned last Thursday – day 21 – she decided to remain home at the couple’s apartment a few miles away.
In between these two appearances, the first one full of tearful apologies, the second one couched in defiant I-shall-return insistence, Weiner repeatedly cited his wife’s wishes as a reason why he should keep his job. The fact that she was almost three months pregnant was leaked.
Abedin, however, was no ordinary wife and this was no ordinary marriage. A longtime personal aide to Hillary Clinton, who regards Abedin as a “second daughter”, she was travelling in Africa with the Secretary of State while the third week of the scandal unfolded.
Conducting their Long Island wedding ceremony just over a year ago was President Bill Clinton, who described the marriage of the Jew from Brooklyn and the half-Indian, half-Pakistani orthodox Muslim who was brought up in Saudi Arabia as a vision of how “the future of the world” should be.
The joining together of the loudmouth liberal congressman, a cable television favourite who nursed ambitions to be New York mayor, and his discreet, stunningly beautiful bride represented the ultimate Washington power couple.......When she returned from her Africa trip on day 20, however, she made it clear to friends that she was disgusted by her husband’s behaviour and was unconcerned about whether or not he remained in Congress.