When Anthony Weiner was driven from the halls of Congress because of his penchant for tweeting photos of his nether regions to women who were not his wife, it was pretty clear that his reputation would accompany his political career down the toilet.
What was less clear was that he might inadvertently flush his wife’s reputation as well. Yet I couldn’t help but think that that is precisely what is happening as I watched their incredibly uncomfortable press conference on Tuesday. The scene was so familiar it was almost cliché. The wronged wife standing next to her wrongdoing hubby in an effort to humanize him and, hopefully, save his career during one of the most humiliating moments of their public lives.
The only thing distinguishing Huma Abedin from her counterpart Alicia Florrick, the lead character in the hit television show, “The Good Wife,” is that we didn’t get to see Huma slap Anthony after this press conference, unfortunately.
Let me get this out of the way: I am a Huma Abedin fan. So much so that I previously wrote a column titled, “The Wrong Weiner is Running for Mayor.” I now think perhaps a more apropos title would have been, “Run, Huma, run away from the narcisstic Weiner you are married to who is running for mayor.”
After her husband, who is running for mayor of New York City and is the front runner in some polls, acknowledged that his sexting scandal extended several months past his original mea culpa press conference and resignation, Huma stepped up to the mic. “It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony,” she said. “It was not an easy choice in any way but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage. That was the decision I made for me, for our son and for our family.”
She said that, “Anthony’s made some horrible mistakes,” before ultimately saying, “But I believe that is between us and our marriage.”
There’s just one problem: It isn’t just between the two of them. If it were, then the situation would not have warranted a press conference. But it did because Anthony Weiner is interviewing for the job of our mayor. There are a lot of characteristics people consider during the interview and hiring process. Stability, judgment and honesty are just a few of those characteristics.
So far Anthony Weiner appears to be 0 for 3.
If Huma felt so strongly that the judgment of her husband and his peccadilloes ultimately should be his and hers alone, then why has he chosen to run for mayor and why she has chosen to help him?
After all, running for political office is perhaps the only job in which part of the job interview explicitly involves having your decisions judged by the public — also known as your future employer.
As I watched Huma smile and fidget awkwardly during their press conference, I couldn’t help thinking how she must feel. One of the most eligible bachelorettes in politics chose Anthony Weiner over the most eligible bachelors, including movie stars, said to be head over heels for her at one time, and look at where Anthony Weiner has gotten her. He has made her, and their life, the butt of one big joke. (I lost count of how many headlines used some variation of “Weiner won’t pull out” following the press conference.)
I also can’t help thinking how ludicrous Huma’s “Stand by Your Man” routine Tuesday would be perceived if her husband’s vice was not a sexual one. If an elected official resigned office in disgrace after a drunk-driving accident, and then while seeking office again shortly thereafter was revealed to have had another secret accident, his spouse and anyone else encouraging his political comeback so soon would be labeled an enabler, and rightly so.
There would be questions asked about why those around such a politician were so heavily invested in seeing him regain his political power so quickly. People would ask if the true motivation was that there was absolutely no other candidate as qualified, thus making his comeback a necessity for his supporters, or whether the real motivation is that there was no one else running who could provide the political power and access that his inner circle considered a necessity, his spouse included.
While there are plenty of women judging Huma’s decision to stand by her husband, I am not one of them. I am, however, judging her decision to stand by Anthony Weiner the candidate. If the other mayoral candidates were convicted felons, or illiterate or horrifyingly unqualified in some other way, perhaps I would get it. But the other candidates are not like that, far from it. Instead, right now it looks like Huma is putting her family’s political ambition ahead of the city’s needs, and perhaps her own.
She may even be putting their shared ambition ahead of their marriage. (I’m no couples therapist, but are campaigns and life in the public eye known to make marriages less stressful?)
The last thing New York needs is more distraction and about the only thing Anthony Weiner can guarantee at this point is that his candidacy is one big distraction. We have serious issues in New York, from a housing crisis to income inequality to fixing our broken public school system.
But the most heavily covered news stories of the last week have nothing to do with those issues. Rather, they are stories that have little impact on the lives of working New Yorkers: the royal baby and Anthony Weiner’s adventures in sexting.
If Huma cares as much about the people of this city and the issues that affect them as she has claimed to, then she will stop playing the role of “The Good Wife” and instead play the role of the honest wife, the realistic wife, the no longer enabling wife. Instead of standing by her man, she will stand up for New Yorkers and say, “I may be stuck with him, but you all don’t have to be.”
Keli Goff is a Special Correspondent for The Root. Follow her on twitter @keligoff