Watching Anthony Weiner’s most recent slide down the razor blade of life, in which he was forced to admit his days of sending inappropriate and sexually suggestive texts and photos to indiscriminate women did not end when he resigned his Congressional seat amid lies and disgrace two years ago, I couldn’t help feeling sadness and pity for his long-suffering wife, Huma Abedin. Standing stoically beside her man at the press conference – Tammy Wynette, anyone? – her lower lip quivering slightly as she professed anew her love and forgiveness for her husband, I questioned his love for her in return.I have seen this before, and so have you. It is the agonizing scene in many movies about so-called trailer trash, where the usually drunk husband, clad in a dirty wife-beater T-shirt is accused of beating his wife, but she – all bruised and bloodied and swollen about the face – meekly says she loves him and declines to press charges. She then follows him home like a lost puppy with nowhere else to go. I feel sorry for that wife in the same way I feel sorry for Huma and what Weiner mercilessly continues to subject her to.
Ever since Weiner decided to enter the New York Mayoral race, knowing full well there were other incriminating pictures and tweets out there that had not yet surfaced, he has used his wife as his public shield and crisis communications crutch. Rather than successfully assure people that he is a changed man, he throws his wife on the sacrificial pyre time and again. Huma has forgiven me, he has said in so many words and so many times and to so many people, and that ought to be good enough for you, as if the Huma litmus test is all that matters.
Hardly, as it turns out.
After the first scandal, and long before the latest act of impropriety in which he masqueraded under the nom de twitter “Carlos Danger” – seriously, people, you can’t make this stuff up! – I wrote a semi-prescient piece in which I pointed out the question no one seemed to be asking: had he not been caught, how much longer would his escapades have gone on? Had I been truly prescient, I would have asked more directly: how do we know his aberrant behavior has stopped? Because he said so? Do you know any politician who doesn’t lie?
It has been revealed that Weiner’s sexting continued a full six months after his resignation and public – and private – apologies. And, perhaps even to this day. Who really knows? Weiner, I suppose, but is he to be believed?
Thus, he now finds himself deeply immersed in the mire of the crisis communications conundrum known as “the liar’s enigma,” which posits, If you ask a known liar if he is telling the truth, do you believe him if he says “Yes”…or if he says “No”?
I really don’t care a fig (leaf) what Weiner does, but how much longer can he humiliate his wife, the mother of his newborn son? Does his oversized ego really trump his proclaimed love for his wife? How much longer is he going to trot her out on the stump as some kind of cardboard political prop, a philanderer’s shield to hide behind? His imperious sense of self almost challenges the audience to throw stones, knowing they’re likely to pull their punches, lest they injure the damsel in clear distress.
And how much longer will she stand for it?
Throughout this circus, he has been constant in only one thing: the amount of flagrant disrespect he has continually flaunted at his wife. Weiner was sexting while still a newlywed picking rice out of his hair. As the husband of a pregnant wife. As a disgraced Congressman asking his wife’s forgiveness. Then, as the father of a newborn infant. And for at least six months after he first apologized to his wife and left Washington. And maybe – just maybe – still.
Weiner once relished the sobriquet “combative,” and if you saw his hardened face during the recent press conference with his jaw clenched so tight the man actually lost his lips, you’d understand how combative he feels today, too.
That sort of defiant stance and pugnacious image is not what he needs. By his physical mannerism – crisis communications, after all – he is daring anyone to knock the chip off his shoulder. Whoever is handling his communications should instruct him properly.
But I keep coming back to what he is doing to his wife and the shame he has brought down upon her head by encouraging her to keep repeating her forgiveness publicly while he dallies in the Twittersphere.
Have you no sense of decency, Mr. Weiner? At long last, have you no sense of decency, sir?
If someone is advising Huma on crisis communications, they, too, are deficient. Unless she decides enough is enough and walks, Huma needs to exit the stage and remove herself from the Weiner train wreck that is his alone. She can be a loyal wife from afar, if she so chooses. This is Weiner’s battle to fight in the trenches…should he defy conventional wisdom and stay in the race.
If Julianna Margulies is “The Good Wife,” Huma Abedin is “The Pathetic Wife,” a seemingly helpless pawn in her husband’s scorched earth brand of politics. And that is very sad.
I once wrote that I’d rather vote for Huma than her husband. Now, I think they both should go home and pull down the shades. All the way down.