So the latest political sex scandal involves New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and his seemingly insatiable need to photograph and text his … anatomy. I’d almost say it’s time to have a network devoted to such “news,” but on second thought, it might be more efficient to start one that covers only real news like deficits and Afghanistan and leave the scandals to the existing networks.
With this scandal, it’s almost harder to watch Weiner’s obviously suffering wife, Huma Abedin, than to think of Weiner, who rather resembles a twitchy-eyed gangly platypus, being of sext interest to anyone in this solar system.
Abedin, the former Hillary Clinton aide who once was the subject of a lavish Vogue pictorial, is not unlike other political wives who have used industrial-strength glue to rig a smile while they stand next to their philandering, babbling men. But what makes Abedin different from those other wives is that she’s stood by Weiner after not just his first public admission of bad behavior but the SECOND as well. And unlike most of those other wives, Abedin has defended Weiner to reporters, with a measure of fire in her voice just a few shades cooler than that released by Clinton in January 1998, after the first revelation of President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.
The loyalty issue
A number of pundits have questioned, with varying degrees of mockery, Abedin’s loyalty to Weiner, who as of Tuesday had dropped to fourth among Democrats in the race in the latest poll. At first, second, and even third hearing, it’s a loyalty that’s difficult to understand, especially by average people who don’t have 45 minutes to lunch with friends, much less hours to spend texting and Facebooking complete strangers.
I don’t really want to join those hurling invective at Abedin. She’s got enough on her hands dealing with that platypus who still thinks he can be elected New York’s mayor, plus a small child to care for without much help from said platypus (I didn’t say anything about not hurling invective at Weiner).
Because questioning why Abedin is standing by Weiner, or why any wife sticks with a twitching scoundrel, is pretty pointless. Despite his Weiner’s need to sext, again and again and again, she may still love him and may hope her willingness to stand by him will help fix things. She may be afraid to be a completely single parent. Maybe she’s terrified of being divorced and having to go on Match.com to find dates. But as I said, it’s useless to question Abedin’s reasons. As more than one person has said, what really goes on in any marriage is only known to the people in the marriage. At least sometimes.
Still, I don’t think I’m alone in wanting at least one of these wives to not only divorce the guy (as Jenny Sanford, Maria Shriver and Elizabeth Edwards did) but to hold her own news conference, no glued smile anywhere, no blubbering creep nearby, and tell the world, in words and tones that are lawyerly in their defiance and calm and absence of petty rancor, why she won’t stand by that man and put up with his behavior. Even if divorcing him and criticizing him does (temporarily or permanently) wreck the political career she probably helped him build.
Imagine the Twitter traffic
Can you imagine the television ratings and Twitter traffic on that sort of news conference? Can you picture the scoundrel’s reaction? For now, I think we’ll just have to fantasize about such a scene. That is, unless Weiner’s miserable campaign is killed by staff resignations and plummeting public opinion and he finds himself turning to cameras and cyberspace yet again for comfort.
I also wonder what it would be like if a nationally prominent female politician were to find herself embroiled in a sex scandal of a Weiner scale. It’s tough to picture, possibly because it’s a lot tougher for women to be elected to big office. Most women politicians know that any false move, even one made in the direction of a bad hairstyle, is going to be pounced on with fury by the media and constituents alike. And unlike many of the wives of male politicians, the vast majority of men married to big deal women politicians are big deals in their own rights. Many of them, like the husbands of Nancy Pelosi and Margaret Thatcher, provided most of the income that allowed those women to consider political careers. It’s difficult to imagine any of that kind standing by a cheating woman. Of course, trying to imagine Margaret Thatcher texting photos to some strange guy is easier to do than to picture Denis Thatcher standing by her side at an awkward news conference with any sort of smile on his face.
For now, we’ll have to put up with Weiner until the election or his candidacy withdrawal, whichever comes first. We may see even more puzzling video of a suffering Abedin, followed by either a divorce or an interview detailing why she is staying in the marriage.
Stay tuned. Painfully enough, the next political sex scandal, most likely complete with a silent or defending suffering wife, is just around the corner.
Mary Stanik, a writer and public-relations professional, lives in Minneapolis. She is the author of the recently released novel “Life Erupted.”
WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at email@example.com.)