Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin’s troubles could become liability for Hillary Clinton

A new poll indicates that former congressman Anthony Weiner has fallen to fourth place in the race for New York City mayor following new revelations about his habit of exchanging sexually explicit communications with young women online. The discouraging results for Weiner’s campaign are from a survey by Quinnipiac:

The poll of likely Democratic primary voters gives Weiner 16 percent of the vote. City Council President Christine Quinn leads with 27 percent, followed by 21 percent for Public Advocate Bill De Blasio and 20 percent for former comptroller Bill Thompson.

The former congressman admitted recently that he continued to engage in sexual conversations with women he met online after resigning from Congress. Just before that revelation, Quinnipiac had Weiner leading with primary voters.

“With six weeks to go, anything can happen, but it looks like former congressman Anthony Weiner may have sexted himself right out of the race for New York City mayor,” Quinnipiac polling director Maurice Carroll said.

In a runoff — triggered if no candidate takes at least 40 percent of the vote — Thompson beats Quinn by 10 points. De Blasio was not included in questions about a runoff, but given his strong showing here, he should be in future. While Thompson is well-positioned, the liberal De Blasio also appears to be benefiting from Weiner’s collapse.

Rachel Weiner

Last week, The Fix wrote that Weiner’s campaign was effectively finished:

Anthony Weiner began this week, somewhat remarkably, as a serious candidate to be the next mayor of New York City. He ends it struggling for relevance in a race that is passing him by as he continues to battle his own self-inflicted wounds.

Weiner’s ever-changing story regarding the number of women with whom — and when — he exchanged lewd online communiques has turned what looked like a story of political redemption into a story of political hubris. Put slightly differently: We Americans love second acts in public life. But no one really likes a really long first act with a remarkably predictable plot. And that’s what Weiner turned into this week. . . .

Make no mistake: Anthony Weiner will continue to draw headlines in the six weeks or so between now and the New York City mayoral primary. But don’t confuse that press coverage with anything like real relevance for Weiner in the race.

Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan

The media’s coverage of Weiner has been almost universally derisive, including this New Yorker cover comparing Weiner to King Kong. The press has also turned its attention to Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and, surprisingly, Weiner’s staunchest defender. Sally Quinn questions Abedin’s decision to stand by her husband:

Anthony Weiner, the New York mayoral candidate, says that his decision to stay in the race despite another sex chat scandal “is not about me. It’s about the citizens of New York.”

Unfortunately, that is just not the case. It’s about the mayoral race, yes, but even more so, his decision is inextricably linked to the perception of the role of women in our culture.

I had felt sorry for his wife, Huma Abedin, even though I couldn’t understand how she was able to condone his online antics in the first place. I have nothing against Abedin. I like her: She is a lovely, gracious, intelligent woman. I ache for her need to come to the rescue of this man who has betrayed her so often and will likely do it again. I ache for all women who find themselves in this position. And yet, there she stood in front of the cameras, this modern American career woman, by her man, saying she had forgiven him, loved him and believed in him. Just what exactly does she believe in? The only thing she can believe in for sure is that he will continue his infidelity.

Though her friends say she is strong and resolute and defiant, sadly she makes all women look like weak and helpless victims. She was not standing there in a position of strength. It was such a setback for women everywhere. . . .

I can’t help blaming Abedin for condoning this behavior and allowing this charade to continue. In a Post story Thursday, Karen Tumulty wrote that Abedin, a longtime key aide to Hillary Clinton, has been playing the Hillary card to solicit money from Clinton donors, who are too afraid of alienating Hillary Clinton to turn Abedin down. Then there was the stunning news conference in which she defended her husband. I understand that one woman’s humiliation is another woman’s power play, but I can’t see how what Abedin did could be a good example for any woman anywhere.

Sally Quinn

Abedin’s faith in Islam has also been criticized — unfairly, writes Asma Uddin:

No one was surprised when Rush Limbaugh publicly ruminated on Huma Abedin’s Islam and its role as the proximate cause of her “powerless” support of her husband and his bid to succeed Michael Bloomberg as mayor of America’s first city. More troubling was liberal feminist Maureen Dowd, urging her New York Times readership to remember Ms. Abedin’s upbringing in Saudi Arabia, where “women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet,” as the only way to make sense of this otherwise inexplicable case of marital fidelity. But this, too, is only shocking to those uneducated about the feminist movement’s long history of having white women speak on behalf of black and brown women, without bothering to actually pay attention to the latter group’s unique experiences.

In the same article, conceptually in the same breath, Dowd compares Abedin to her mentor, Hillary Clinton. No stranger to the sexual infidelities of a less-than-scrupulous husband, Clinton made the exact same choice as Abedin: to publicly support her man in the face of loud voices calling for the death of his career and their marriage. Unsurprisingly, Dowd has no qualm with Clinton’s decision – the paragon of feminism is beyond reproach. The painfully relevant point that both Hillary and Huma came of age in the crucible of American politics, where women are routinely mistreated by their politician husbands, isn’t broached. . . .

Islam, in fact, is one of the sources of her strength. The Vogue article mentioned her faith as a “practicing Muslim” as one of the traits that endeared her to Hillary. “I grew up in a very traditional family,” she says, “but there was never anything I didn’t think I could do.”

That sentiment is one Huma shares with countless female Muslims (and female Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs) living in Muslim countries and in the West, who see no disconnect between their faith and their ambitions, who rely on their faith and religious community as a source of inspiration, not a burden to overcome. This phenomenon of the religious female experience as a liberating, empowering force is unthinkable to both secular feminists like Dowd and reactionary curmudgeons like Limbaugh, because to acknowledge it would upset the respective ways they have chosen to conceptualize the world. But American debate should not be limited by ideology — we need to acknowledge and celebrate the existence of strong Muslim women like Huma Abedin, not use their struggles as launch pads for denigrating their faith.

Asma Uddin

Abedin’s and Weiner’s public troubles could become a liability for Clinton if she decides to run for president in 2016:

At the outset of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton famously attributed the accusations against her husband to a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” When her husband confessed to the affair, Hillary Clinton did not join him, and her office told the public she had been “misled.” But she was “committed to her marriage,” the spokeswoman added, and Clinton traveled with the president to Martha’s Vineyard a day later.

Unlike Abedin, Clinton never brought her decision to forgive her husband into a political campaign. In a sense, she was saved from making the exact choice Abedin faced; Bill Clinton never ran for office again. . . .

Weiner’s run has been propelled in part by Abedin’s connection to the Clintons. Huma has aggressively used her connections to garner support for her husband’s bid. “The chatter was, if you wanted to stay in Hillary’s good graces, you answer the call from Huma,” one Clinton intimate told The Washington Post.

In the gauzy New York Times Magazine profile that launched his campaign, Hillary Clinton appears as an instrumental player in their marriage: She encourages their (ultimately disastrous) first date and later gives Weiner an opportunity to show Abedin his better nature.

The connection is real; Bill Clinton officiated the couple’s wedding. But the Clintons, through their supporters, quietly made no secret of their disapproval of Weiner running, especially when he dropped the former president’s name without permission early on. Now it’s clearly a political disaster they need to get away from. The question is whether they want or even can take Abedin with them by keeping her in the 2016 orbit, or leave her to burn in the fire she helped start.

Rachel Weiner

For past coverage of Anthony Weiner, continue reading here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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