Few people know this, but Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton celebrated their professional anniversary in September: it’s been 20 years since the two first started working side-by-side.
Now, with the election roughly 30 days away, many are wondering how Abedin’s role might evolve in a Hillary Clinton White House. Would she continue on as Clinton’s body woman, confidante, fixer, mind-reader? Or after two decades, is she (understandably) ready for a change?
Abedin gave a few hints in a little-noticed episode of the feminist podcast “Call Your Girlfriend” released earlier this year. (Unfortunately, the interview took place before the recent news of Abedin’s marital separation from incorrigible sexter and ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner. So no new revelations there.)
“I prefer to be behind-the-scenes and stay behind-the-scenes,” the famously private Abedin told hosts Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman in March. “It does take a village to support Hillary Clinton. I am part of that village … I help keep the trains moving on time.”
Some people tuned into Clinton-world gossip believe Abedin could play a role somewhat like Valerie Jarrett’s if Clinton wins the election. Jarrett, the White House staff member most intimately involved in the Obama family, holds the title “senior adviser” and uses it to delve into a wide range of issues (some might say too many).
Then again, Abedin is like a daughter to Clinton (the affection is mutual: on the podcast, Abedin called her “one of the greatest American women in the history of the world”); she’s not the sister-mother-“First Friend” figure the Obamas have in Jarrett. So some envision Abedin as an assistant to the president or deputy chief of staff instead. Either post could allow her to remain, literally, at Clinton’s right hand.
Amid all the speculation, it’s worth remembering one thing: congressional Republicans’ deep antipathy toward Clinton’s closest aides, including Abedin, who was called for a day-long deposition in the House’s latest Benghazi probe.
Outside Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — remember in 2012 when a group of Republicans accused Abedin of participating in a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the government and those two defended her? — it’s unlikely Republicans would give Abedin an easy time if she were nominated for a Senate-confirmed job. But, lucky for her, that’s highly unlikely.
So how does Abedin cope with the all the scrutiny? After all, there’s no other woman in Washington besides Clinton known only by her first name.
Here are some highlights from her “Call Your Girlfriend” interview, where she talked motherhood, HBO’s Veep, her first White House internship and meal time on the campaign trail.
On political attacks:
Abedin: You get too used to it. You get to a point where you’re used to there sometimes being these barbs thrown at your or negative insinuations thrown at you. And I think for many of us who are in that position, you can sort of steel yourself and not think about it and just get up and do your job. I think when your families are involved it’s a little bit harder.
On media coverage:
I have a policy. First of all, I never read anything about myself … I could count on one hand how many actual interviews I’ve done.
On her childhood career goals:
I wanted to be a journalist and I specifically wanted to be Christiane Amanpour … She was just this intrepid, brilliant, fearless sort-of truth-teller.
On her “fangirl moment” with Clinton at a 1996 rally in Little Rock, Ark.:
You know these things that happen in your life that just stick? That she walked by and she shook my hand and our eyes connected and I just remember having this moment where I thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ … She would probably be so annoyed that I say this, but I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, she’s so beautiful and she’s so little!’
On prominent women who encourage her:
I think of people like Anna Wintour who, even when it’s tough, will send me an encouraging message and say ‘You can keep doing this.’ She’s somebody to me I look at and she makes the impossible look effortless … Shonda Rhimes [is] another, a woman who again has done things that no one’s ever done before.
On possible first gentleman Bill Clinton:
I don’t think there’s anything in the world that he can’t do. I have a feeling, though, that he will not be picking the china out and he will not be picking out the flowers for any of the [White House] events. I think that my boss actually really enjoys doing those things … She’ll be the first president, I don’t know, who picks out her own flowers for state dinners.
On how she bonds with Hillary Clinton:
We’re obsessed with food. It’s a joke on the campaign. Whenever we have a chance and it’s meal time … we look forward to it. ‘What is it?’ ‘I want to know the menu.’ And then we enjoy it. So we talk about food. We talk about fashion. We’ll often do celebrity gossip, although very often we’ll be looking through pages and say ‘Who are these people?’