Commentary Magazine


Topic: Huma Abedin

What Weiner and Clinton Have Taught Us

All veteran journalists know that the only thing to do with fish in a barrel is to shoot them, as the cliché demands. Thus, all members of the media, left, right, and center, have spent this week eagerly popping away at Anthony Weiner and his hapless wife Huma Abedin. And who can blame us? The spectacle of the serial sexter and flasher and his enabler wife is the stuff of implausible fiction, not normal political news. But not everyone is chortling along with a public that can’t seem to get enough of this scandal.

Over at the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart writes to say the calls from conservatives as well as liberal organs like the New York Times for Weiner to leave the race immediately and take his severe behavioral disorder somewhere out of the public square are wrong. Beinart believes it is anti-democratic for prudes to seek to deny the voters their right to vote for the man better known by the name of his alter ego Carlos Danger. Since the need for the body politic to make room for sexual deviants is, I think, nowhere mentioned in the Federalist Papers, I think that’s an odd conception of the essentials of democracy. But in order to make this argument, Beinart stumbles across a profound truth: Democrats have already excused behavior that is, if anything, far worse than Weiner’s bizarre act. And by that he is, of course, referring to Bill Clinton:

By any reasonable standard, Weiner’s behavior is less damning than Clinton’s. Yes, Weiner committed adultery (of a kind). Yes, he repeatedly lied about it. Yes, he humiliated his wife in an effort to save his candidacy. Clinton did all that, too. What Weiner, in contrast to Clinton, has not done—as far as we know—is use his office to reward his paramours. He has not publicly besmirched their character. He has not asked them to violate the law. And he has not violated campaign disclosure laws in his effort to keep them silent. According to legal experts, he has also not committed sexual harassment.

Beinart leaves out Clinton’s lying under oath, but he’s right. But rather than using the refusal of the New York Times to condemn Clinton, let alone demand that Clinton leave the 1992 presidential race or resign once in office, as a rationale to justify Weiner’s continued presence in the public square, what he has done is remind us of the moral bankruptcy of Clinton’s many defenders who continue to ignore the voluminous evidence of his misconduct and treat him as a revered elder statesman–not to mention a future presidential spouse.

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All veteran journalists know that the only thing to do with fish in a barrel is to shoot them, as the cliché demands. Thus, all members of the media, left, right, and center, have spent this week eagerly popping away at Anthony Weiner and his hapless wife Huma Abedin. And who can blame us? The spectacle of the serial sexter and flasher and his enabler wife is the stuff of implausible fiction, not normal political news. But not everyone is chortling along with a public that can’t seem to get enough of this scandal.

Over at the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart writes to say the calls from conservatives as well as liberal organs like the New York Times for Weiner to leave the race immediately and take his severe behavioral disorder somewhere out of the public square are wrong. Beinart believes it is anti-democratic for prudes to seek to deny the voters their right to vote for the man better known by the name of his alter ego Carlos Danger. Since the need for the body politic to make room for sexual deviants is, I think, nowhere mentioned in the Federalist Papers, I think that’s an odd conception of the essentials of democracy. But in order to make this argument, Beinart stumbles across a profound truth: Democrats have already excused behavior that is, if anything, far worse than Weiner’s bizarre act. And by that he is, of course, referring to Bill Clinton:

By any reasonable standard, Weiner’s behavior is less damning than Clinton’s. Yes, Weiner committed adultery (of a kind). Yes, he repeatedly lied about it. Yes, he humiliated his wife in an effort to save his candidacy. Clinton did all that, too. What Weiner, in contrast to Clinton, has not done—as far as we know—is use his office to reward his paramours. He has not publicly besmirched their character. He has not asked them to violate the law. And he has not violated campaign disclosure laws in his effort to keep them silent. According to legal experts, he has also not committed sexual harassment.

Beinart leaves out Clinton’s lying under oath, but he’s right. But rather than using the refusal of the New York Times to condemn Clinton, let alone demand that Clinton leave the 1992 presidential race or resign once in office, as a rationale to justify Weiner’s continued presence in the public square, what he has done is remind us of the moral bankruptcy of Clinton’s many defenders who continue to ignore the voluminous evidence of his misconduct and treat him as a revered elder statesman–not to mention a future presidential spouse.

Beinart is also correct to note that if phone cameras had been available back in Arkansas when then Governor Clinton was running riot with the assistance of his faithful State Trooper bodyguards, the evidence of his disgusting carryings-on might have been too much for even his cheering section in the press to ignore or excuse. There is more than a grain of truth in his point that the difference between Weiner’s indiscretions and those of Clinton and previous generations of sexual predators and philanderers entrusted with high public office is primarily one of technology.

The point about Clinton is telling because it reminds us that allowing people who abuse and lie in the manner that Bill and Hillary did—and which Anthony and Huma would like to emulate—has consequences. The willingness of Democrats and liberal soapboxes like the Times to embrace Clinton in 1992 set us up for what would follow. From that point on, every lying predator in political office or seeking one has been able to say that if Clinton could be excused, so could they.

People like Beinart and others continually tell us that we were right to give the Clintons a pass and that it would have been a tragedy if other sexual miscreants who found their way into the Oval Office like John F. Kennedy had been made accountable for their conduct since it would have deprived of us of their gifts. Yet if there is anything that is an eternal truth about democracy it is that no man or woman is indispensable. We are a nation of laws, not men. That’s something that should not be forgotten three years from now when Huma’s mentors the Clintons attempt to regain their lapsed lease on the White House.

Perhaps what Beinart calls the “disproportionate” response to Weiner is merely the result of him being a “pioneer” in the field of using social media to misbehave rather than more private means. But instead of shrugging at this spectacle and resigning ourselves to more like it in the future as Beinart glumly expects we must, perhaps this is the moment for Americans to finally say that we demand more of those charged with the public’s trust. If the Clintons and the Weiners have taught us anything, it is that there is still a viable argument to be made for public morality.

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Women Fed Up With Weiner–And His Wife

It’s not often that one finds the opinion on a politician echoed in the pages of the New York Times and the New York Post on the same day. Politicians like Anthony Weiner don’t come around every day, however–something voters should count as a blessing. Female political analysts and amateurs alike have had strong and remarkably similar responses to the performance given by Huma Abedin at her husband’s press conference Wednesday, convened to respond to new reports of online extramarital contact with young women.

While initially quite sympathetic to Abedin when the allegations first arose last year, the tide of public opinion has taken a sharp turn this time around. What changed? In yesterday’s New York Post Karol Markowicz explains:

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It’s not often that one finds the opinion on a politician echoed in the pages of the New York Times and the New York Post on the same day. Politicians like Anthony Weiner don’t come around every day, however–something voters should count as a blessing. Female political analysts and amateurs alike have had strong and remarkably similar responses to the performance given by Huma Abedin at her husband’s press conference Wednesday, convened to respond to new reports of online extramarital contact with young women.

While initially quite sympathetic to Abedin when the allegations first arose last year, the tide of public opinion has taken a sharp turn this time around. What changed? In yesterday’s New York Post Karol Markowicz explains:

What makes Huma Abedin different isn’t that she stood by her man, while pregnant, as he publicly disgraced their marriage, and lied about it repeatedly while blaming the same “vast right-wing conspiracy” as Hillary.

No, Abedin took it a step further. She didn’t want him to resign, according to what Anthony Weiner later told The New York Times — plus, she encouraged him to jump into the mayoral race.

Mind you, from what the couple now tells us, she knew when she was pushing him to run that he’d kept up the sexting for months and months after he left Congress.

And, as the two were plotting his political comeback, Abedin posed for soft-focus People Magazine photos painting the picture of a happy family that had moved on from Weiner’s indiscretions.

Moved on? Shortly after their publication, he sent new pictures of his privates to new women.

On Tuesday, Weiner was telling everyone that he told Abedin everything. Was he lying again, or has she known all along? If she has, then when she told People, “Anthony has spent every day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be,” she was lying.

And if she wasn’t lying then, she’s lying now, because she’s backing his claim that he told her everything.

During her prepared speech Abedin remarked, “I do very strongly believe that that is between us and our marriage.” Awkward phrasing aside, Abedin couldn’t be more wrong. A new poll from NBC 4 New York, the Wall Street Journal, and Marist showed that the lead that Weiner once enjoyed in the race has disappeared, with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn now garnering 25 percent of the support of the city’s Democrats compared to 16 percent for Weiner. Last month the same poll showed Weiner leading Quinn by five percent.

While some, like Gloria Steinem in the Times, expressed apprehension commenting on the wife of a political candidate, many other women view Abedin as an active participant in Weiner’s continued manipulation of New York voters. By vouching for his rehabilitation time and again, Abedin, a political heavyweight in her own right, risks the destruction of her reputation alongside her husband. That reputation isn’t just built on Abedin’s political role as Hillary Clinton’s advisor, but also as a wife and mother. It is that latter image that’s taking a beating today. Lisa Bloom, an opinion columnist for CNN, explained why Abedin’s behavior was so reprehensible from one woman to another:

Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, was reduced to the standing-by-her-man-at-the-news-conference archetype, a dated wife-as-doormat visual it’s time to eliminate from our political theater.

Sure, she can keep him around if she wants to. But we don’t have to bless their craven political move to stand together before the cameras to protect his career, nor do we have to play along as they both pretend that this is something other than more public degradation of her. That they are both consenting adults who participate in this behavior does not make it acceptable to the rest of us. (Simple test: Would you want your daughter in that tableau?)

By continuing to stand by her husband, and asking voters to do the same, Abedin has lost any goodwill and sympathy she might once have garnered as the jilted pregnant wife. The saying goes “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” New Yorkers don’t appreciate being made fools of. While they may not care about the extramarital affairs Weiner conducts while his wife seemingly looks the other way, they don’t appreciate being lied to or manipulated. For their own sake and for the City of New York, it’s time for the Weiners to drop the redemption act and move on from the mayoral race.

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The Anthony Weiner Spectacle

Some cases involving sexual infidelity and whether it should disqualify someone from an election and public office are complicated. The one involving Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former member of Congress who is now running for mayor of New York City, isn’t one of them.

“Carlos Danger,” Weiner’s sexting pseudonym, is a man who is disturbed on multiple levels. He’s chronically unfaithful and irresponsible, stunningly reckless and impulsive, drawn to risk and danger like a moth to a flame, and a serial liar. He is also a man of jaw-dropping ambition and arrogance. His press conference yesterday, with his wife Huma Abedin by his side, was depressing and painful to watch. He apparently didn’t believe his infidelity was enough of a humiliation of her; he felt the need to use her as a prop in, and a spokeswoman for, his election. (It needs to be said that she was willing to go along with it.)

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Some cases involving sexual infidelity and whether it should disqualify someone from an election and public office are complicated. The one involving Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former member of Congress who is now running for mayor of New York City, isn’t one of them.

“Carlos Danger,” Weiner’s sexting pseudonym, is a man who is disturbed on multiple levels. He’s chronically unfaithful and irresponsible, stunningly reckless and impulsive, drawn to risk and danger like a moth to a flame, and a serial liar. He is also a man of jaw-dropping ambition and arrogance. His press conference yesterday, with his wife Huma Abedin by his side, was depressing and painful to watch. He apparently didn’t believe his infidelity was enough of a humiliation of her; he felt the need to use her as a prop in, and a spokeswoman for, his election. (It needs to be said that she was willing to go along with it.)

These may not qualify as hanging offenses or crimes, but they ought to disqualify Weiner from becoming mayor of New York City.

The psychological dimensions of this case are too complicated for most of us to untangle. But it’s obvious even to people without a degree in psychiatry that Mr. Weiner has a compulsive need for public adoration that finds its expression in running for and serving in public office. His vanity seems to demand it, to the point that he’s convinced himself that the Empire City cannot function unless he’s mayor. This is, of course, ludicrous. But Weiner (and apparently his long-suffering wife) have convinced themselves that he is New York City’s Indispensable Man.

The layers of rationalization are something to behold. A man on a rather extraordinary ego trip has convinced himself that what he’s doing is a form of self-sacrifice, that he’s willing to endure this humiliation in the name of public service.

What we’re seeing, of course, is an example of a sybarite, of self-indulgence that would be hard to equal. Very few of us are interested in learning more than we have about Anthony Weiner’s sex life and social pathologies. He can do all of us a great favor by withdrawing from his mayoral race. He is a genuinely sick individual who needs help to rebuild his broken life. He should do so away from politics, away from television cameras, away from magazine profiles and the limelight. It’s unclear whether Mr. Weiner and his wife can ever repair their lives; but it would be impossible for him to do so if he were to be rewarded with an election victory and the ego gratification that would go with it. For him to beat the odds and win the race would be the worst possible things that could happen to his supposed recovery. His feeling of invincibility would be off the charts; an even more twisted ending would await him.   

Withdrawing from the mayoral race would be best for the people of New York and the rest of us, and that matters. But it would also be best for Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin.

It’s time to end this ugly spectacle.

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When Ambition Trumps Shame

There are times when we must acknowledge that we are not just watching the news but witnessing history. This evening Huma Abedin, the longtime aide to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, broke new ground in the “stand by your man” routine that has been imposed on the wives of sinning politicians. Previously, Silda Spitzer was widely thought to have given the most painful performance in this category as she stood by her husband Eliot with a stricken look on her face as he resigned in the wake of news about his patronage of prostitutes. But today, Abedin went far beyond the mark set by Spitzer as she accompanied her husband Anthony Weiner to a press conference at which he answered questions about the latest revelations of his bizarre Internet usage. Abedin not only stood by her man but actually spoke herself, issuing a statement which told of the “ups and downs” of her marriage and her struggle to decide whether or not leave Weiner when she found out about what he had done. Having chosen to “forgive” Weiner, the implication is that somehow that obligates New Yorkers to do the same and elect him mayor. Whether New Yorkers are prepared to accept this formulation remains to be seen.

Let’s state upfront that the mysteries of the Weiner-Abedin marriage or that of any other politician ought not to be treated as public property. But when these politicians use their wives as human shields against the brickbats coming their way as a result of their own misbehavior, such unions are revealed to be more political compacts than personal business. In acting in this manner, Abedin appears to be following in the footsteps of her mentor Hillary Clinton, whose willingness to stand by her man when he dallied with a White House intern saved President Bill Clinton’s bacon. But the public spectacle of the Weiner-Abedin press conference illustrates that this model of behavior reveals their pact to be based on a joint decision to pursue political power no matter what the costs to their privacy or how much shame they brought on their family. Given that her own need to enable his lust for power seems to have trumped every other natural instinct she might have had, it raises the question of how much credence voters will place in Abedin’s vouching for the would-be mayor.

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There are times when we must acknowledge that we are not just watching the news but witnessing history. This evening Huma Abedin, the longtime aide to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, broke new ground in the “stand by your man” routine that has been imposed on the wives of sinning politicians. Previously, Silda Spitzer was widely thought to have given the most painful performance in this category as she stood by her husband Eliot with a stricken look on her face as he resigned in the wake of news about his patronage of prostitutes. But today, Abedin went far beyond the mark set by Spitzer as she accompanied her husband Anthony Weiner to a press conference at which he answered questions about the latest revelations of his bizarre Internet usage. Abedin not only stood by her man but actually spoke herself, issuing a statement which told of the “ups and downs” of her marriage and her struggle to decide whether or not leave Weiner when she found out about what he had done. Having chosen to “forgive” Weiner, the implication is that somehow that obligates New Yorkers to do the same and elect him mayor. Whether New Yorkers are prepared to accept this formulation remains to be seen.

Let’s state upfront that the mysteries of the Weiner-Abedin marriage or that of any other politician ought not to be treated as public property. But when these politicians use their wives as human shields against the brickbats coming their way as a result of their own misbehavior, such unions are revealed to be more political compacts than personal business. In acting in this manner, Abedin appears to be following in the footsteps of her mentor Hillary Clinton, whose willingness to stand by her man when he dallied with a White House intern saved President Bill Clinton’s bacon. But the public spectacle of the Weiner-Abedin press conference illustrates that this model of behavior reveals their pact to be based on a joint decision to pursue political power no matter what the costs to their privacy or how much shame they brought on their family. Given that her own need to enable his lust for power seems to have trumped every other natural instinct she might have had, it raises the question of how much credence voters will place in Abedin’s vouching for the would-be mayor.

While there are many questions still to be answered about Weiner, the one thing we know tonight is that he has no intention of dropping out of the race for mayor. Nothing, not even the news that he continued his bizarre behavior in which he sent women he didn’t know naked pictures of himself as well as sexually explicit texts even after he resigned from Congress and vowed to seek redemption via therapy and contrition, seems to be enough to make him leave the public square voluntarily. There is no reason, other than Weiner’s word, to believe that he has actually stopped acting in this manner or that he won’t revert to it in moments of stress if he were elected. But it is an open question as to whether his latest humiliation of his wife will serve to help or to hurt his candidacy.

It is also open to inquiry as to what the public will make of a family where ambition is the only operating principle. No one can tell anyone else when they ought to abandon a straying spouse, especially when children are involved. But anyone who watched this unusual performance live on television had to be asking themselves not how Abedin forgave Weiner but how she could believe him now despite the therapy she spoke about. Since Weiner continued his misconduct for many months after resigning from Congress it makes it hard to believe anyone could trust his judgment.

It may be that New Yorkers care about none of this or are so entranced by the Weiner circus that they will gratify his desire to be mayor. But no matter the outcome of this race, what Weiner and Abedin have done is to reinvent the notion of public redemption in such a way as to allow a transgressor to survive even if his misdeeds went on far longer than we thought or even if the steady drip of revelations of bad conduct never ended. If they succeed, it will set a precedent that will establish such a low standard of conduct that it will enable almost anyone to survive scandals. And that is not something that anyone should celebrate.

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Weiner’s Wife Is the One to Watch

It’s been more than 48 hours since the Anthony Weiner reboot began, but so far the indications are that the plight of the middle class in New York City is about the last thing anybody is talking about. Instead, the main topic of discussion about Weiner’s candidacy is what everyone who hasn’t been in a coma for the last two years always knew it would be: the bizarre sexting scandal that forced his resignation from Congress in 2011.

It should be no surprise that we’re still talking about the fact that Weiner’s career was buried under a deluge of national derision about his habit of sending lewd pictures of his body parts to women and the disgust over his weeks of lies and false accusations that his political opponents had concocted the story in order to discredit him. After all, it’s not just the tabloids like the New York Post and the New York Daily News that are engaging in an orgy of front page headlines with puns at Weiner’s expense. Even the ultra-liberal public radio station WNYC was quizzing him about his problems. Fellow New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo summed it up for most members of his party as well as the citizens of Gotham when he replied to a reporter’s suggestion that Weiner might win by simply saying that if so, “Shame on us.”

But what is just as interesting as the circus freak atmosphere of Weiner’s campaign is another angle of it that was explored this morning by the New York Times. Rather than just being the suffering yet faithful spouse in this drama, the Times claims Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin is the driving force behind his attempted comeback. Indeed the paper claims the main reason why some Democratic consultants have even considered joining his campaign is because they feel doing so will give them access to Abedin and a leg up toward a job with the next presidential campaign of her personal patron and surrogate mother, Hillary Clinton. That means that rather than merely being a prop in her husband’s soap opera whose presence is intended to deflect outrage about his personality defects, it is Abedin who is actually the more interesting subject for scrutiny.

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It’s been more than 48 hours since the Anthony Weiner reboot began, but so far the indications are that the plight of the middle class in New York City is about the last thing anybody is talking about. Instead, the main topic of discussion about Weiner’s candidacy is what everyone who hasn’t been in a coma for the last two years always knew it would be: the bizarre sexting scandal that forced his resignation from Congress in 2011.

It should be no surprise that we’re still talking about the fact that Weiner’s career was buried under a deluge of national derision about his habit of sending lewd pictures of his body parts to women and the disgust over his weeks of lies and false accusations that his political opponents had concocted the story in order to discredit him. After all, it’s not just the tabloids like the New York Post and the New York Daily News that are engaging in an orgy of front page headlines with puns at Weiner’s expense. Even the ultra-liberal public radio station WNYC was quizzing him about his problems. Fellow New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo summed it up for most members of his party as well as the citizens of Gotham when he replied to a reporter’s suggestion that Weiner might win by simply saying that if so, “Shame on us.”

But what is just as interesting as the circus freak atmosphere of Weiner’s campaign is another angle of it that was explored this morning by the New York Times. Rather than just being the suffering yet faithful spouse in this drama, the Times claims Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin is the driving force behind his attempted comeback. Indeed the paper claims the main reason why some Democratic consultants have even considered joining his campaign is because they feel doing so will give them access to Abedin and a leg up toward a job with the next presidential campaign of her personal patron and surrogate mother, Hillary Clinton. That means that rather than merely being a prop in her husband’s soap opera whose presence is intended to deflect outrage about his personality defects, it is Abedin who is actually the more interesting subject for scrutiny.

As the Times article and other reports make clear, Bill and Hillary Clinton are appalled at the idea of being dragged into the Weiner free-for-all. They have said they won’t endorse any candidate in the Democratic primary and the consensus is that both the former and the would-be future president both think of Weiner with the same contempt that many parents view the spouses of their children. But their affection for Huma is apparently so great (Weiner’s wife is also a close friend of Chelsea Clinton) that she will continue working for Hillary even while her husband dives head first into tabloid hell with Abedin’s encouragement.

That makes Abedin a clear asset to Weiner, especially as he attempts to raise more money from the Clinton campaign base (the Times lets drop that the Mr. and Mrs. Weiner are currently living in a fabulous Park Avenue condo that is owned by a donor to the Clinton campaigns). But while her political smarts that are so valued by her boss Hillary are also being put to good use by Weiner, the extra attention won’t necessarily be helpful in terms of attracting votes.

Abedin came under fire last year when Rep. Michele Bachmann and some other Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the secretary of state that, among other things, noted the ties that some members of the Clinton staffer’s family had close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. That accusation, which was part of a paper that actually raised serious questions about State Department policy that deserved a discussion, was drowned in a backlash against Bachmann that was driven by the affection many in Washington have for Abedin, including prominent Republicans like Senator John McCain.

But while Abedin’s possible connections to extremists should have raised some eyebrows, it should also be conceded that talk about her as an Islamist Manchurian candidate seems far-fetched. Her marriage to a Jew and support for mainstream Democrats may make perfect sense to conspiracy theorists, but for the rest of us those things make it difficult to portray her as the thin edge of the wedge that would theoretically be seeking to impose sharia law on one of the most secular as well as Jewish cities in the world.

That said, if the press ever does tire of asking Weiner why he sent strangers pictures of his genitals or ferreting out the as-yet-unpublished photos that he has told us are still out there, somebody is bound to start asking him about his wife’s views about Israel, the Palestinians or the current Egyptian government. Whether that forces Abedin to come out of the closet as a Muslim Zionist in order to persuade more New Yorkers to trust Weiner again or merely gives her another opportunity to play a victim, as was the case with Bachmann’s accusations, its hard to see how that discussion helps Weiner or Clinton.

In the meantime, most members of the press continue to focus on Weiner’s gaffes (the picture of Pittsburgh instead of New York on his website that was eventually corrected) and the disgust he generates among many Democrats, rather than his preferred talking point about the middle class. The disgraced former congressman may still be the only candidate in the race who can even pretend to care about the outer boroughs of the city or how those who are neither part of the city’s elites nor the poor are being priced out of Gotham. Unfortunately for him, and the cause of helping the middle class, the hypocrisy of Weiner’s pretense is only accentuated by the attention given to his wife since it reminds voters that he is about as solidly planted among the Manhattan elites as any Park Avenue socialite.

But instead of obsessing about the slim chance that Weiner may become mayor, perhaps the only really interesting thing about his campaign is that it will give us a chance to learn more about the woman who might become the White House chief of staff in 2017. As such, let’s hope Weiner hangs around in the race and that his wife continues to emerge from the shadows long enough for us to get a better handle on her views, whatever they might be.

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Note to Weiner: NYC Isn’t South Carolina

As Seth notes, Anthony Weiner’s hopes for a comeback got a major boost from a sympathetic profile in this coming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine that was made available online this morning. There is plenty of material in the piece that should make readers squirm as the hopelessly adrift Weiner tries to worm his way back into the good graces of the public by talking about how he has made amends with his wife Huma Abedin after his astonishing sexting scandal. Yet Weiner is calculating that the creation of what he calls a “second narrative” via his friends in the liberal press can not only begin his rehabilitation but actually him elect him mayor of New York City this year. With millions in his campaign war chest and a weak field, Seth’s optimistic evaluation of his chances seems reasonable. After all, if former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford can be on his way back to Congress after a scandal that involved actual, rather than virtual, infidelity, then why can’t Weiner do as well with the presumably far less moralistic electorate of the Big Apple?

It’s true that, as the Times feature shows, Weiner can count on the sympathy of the mainstream media, has a huge campaign war chest and the current frontrunner for mayor—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—is a relatively weak candidate who can’t count on much support outside of Manhattan. But Weiner may be miscalculating if he thinks he can pull off the same trick as Sanford. New Yorkers may not be as prudish as the rest of the country about sex, but I think they are far less likely to buy into a redemption campaign.

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As Seth notes, Anthony Weiner’s hopes for a comeback got a major boost from a sympathetic profile in this coming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine that was made available online this morning. There is plenty of material in the piece that should make readers squirm as the hopelessly adrift Weiner tries to worm his way back into the good graces of the public by talking about how he has made amends with his wife Huma Abedin after his astonishing sexting scandal. Yet Weiner is calculating that the creation of what he calls a “second narrative” via his friends in the liberal press can not only begin his rehabilitation but actually him elect him mayor of New York City this year. With millions in his campaign war chest and a weak field, Seth’s optimistic evaluation of his chances seems reasonable. After all, if former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford can be on his way back to Congress after a scandal that involved actual, rather than virtual, infidelity, then why can’t Weiner do as well with the presumably far less moralistic electorate of the Big Apple?

It’s true that, as the Times feature shows, Weiner can count on the sympathy of the mainstream media, has a huge campaign war chest and the current frontrunner for mayor—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—is a relatively weak candidate who can’t count on much support outside of Manhattan. But Weiner may be miscalculating if he thinks he can pull off the same trick as Sanford. New Yorkers may not be as prudish as the rest of the country about sex, but I think they are far less likely to buy into a redemption campaign.

Sanford may still wind up losing a safe congressional seat for the Republicans in the general election after his primary win. But even if we assume that he will be returned to Congress, it needs to be understood that his appeal is predicated on the existence of a large group of voters who are moralistic enough to be disgusted by his behavior but religious enough to be deeply affected by his talk of asking for God’s forgiveness.

While there are plenty of religious Christians in New York, as well as lots of observant Jews, the sort of redemption tactic Sanford is trying to employ in South Carolina won’t wash there. Instead, Weiner must convince voters that: a. his transgression was no big deal; b. he’s really sorry about it; and c. he’s still the best candidate for the job of mayor. His chances of selling them on “a” and “c” seem fair. But the sorry part may lead to an unfortunate discussion that Sanford’s religious psychodrama has avoided.

Absent the faith-driven grace that Sanford is extracting from his voters, all Weiner is left with is his own repellent personality. While New Yorkers may have not cared much about him being, in Seth’s admirable phrase, “a geyser of spite and malice” prior to the incident because he was competent, the “ick” factor that stems from his sending pictures of his private parts to strangers lingers. South Carolinians may forgive Sanford for being a sinner, but what Weiner needs is for a city full of cynical, tough-minded New Yorkers to forget that he made a laughingstock of himself. Being a fool for love, as Sanford proved to be, is one thing. Being a fool on the Internet is another. The notion that Christians must forgive the repentant won’t win any elections in the five boroughs.

Let’s also remember one crucial aspect of these two scandals. Sanford’s “Appalachian Trail” fibs were pathetic but once his affair was made public, he owned up to it. Weiner’s problems stemmed not only from his bizarre behavior (which is still harder for people to understand than falling for a South American beauty) but his aggressive lies about it in the weeks that led up to his resignation from Congress two years ago.

The Times’s puffy profile of Weiner had many flaws, but none was as bad as the fact that it failed to discuss just how “beefy” he got with reporters. The piece didn’t mention Weiner’s slandering of the late Andrew Breitbart when he falsely claimed that the conservative journalist “hacked” his Twitter account. While opponents will probably stay away from the sexting, his brazen lies and bullying of the press won’t be forgotten.

Contrary to his own evaluation in which he believes he must come back now or give up all hope, I think he might have done better to start another career and return only after showing some success in another field. But the Anthony Weiner portrayed in the Times is a desperate man. Having never held an honest job in his life, he is ill-equipped to face life after politics and clings to the hope of a comeback in no small measure because he can’t imagine doing anything else. Neither can his wife or anyone else. Indeed, it’s clear that right now his only options are a return to his former career as a guttersnipe politician or remaining home playing “Mr. Mom” while Abedin plots Hillary Clinton’s next political move. It’s hard to see that desperation playing well with a New York audience that prizes competence and toughness.

Weiner always liked to pose as the quintessential New Yorker, but his problem may be that he’s simply appealing to the wrong constituency. For all of the contempt that he often displayed for the hicks in the rest of the country, he’d probably be better off trying to win their love than attempting to do so in his hometown. Perhaps I’m prejudiced about the citizens of my native city, but my guess is that New Yorkers aren’t going to buy Weiner’s second act.

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Obama’s Silence on Egypt Speaks Volumes

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi may be backing down a bit on his attempt to seize dictatorial powers. The Muslim Brotherhood leader agreed to a limited compromise on his assertion of supremacy over the courts in which he would allow the judiciary to exercise review over his edits. This development testifies to the strength of the protests against Morsi’s attempt to acquire as much power as Hosni Mubarak had during his reign in Cairo. But even if Morsi’s putsch is contained for the moment, there is little doubt that he is determined to neutralize any possible competition for control over the country. This is, by any objective measure, a real defeat for an Obama administration that has publicly embraced Morsi and the Brotherhood and publicly disparaged his authoritarian predecessor. It is especially embarrassing since just last week President Obama was heaping praise on Morsi for his role in brokering a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, even though it was the Egyptian’s support for Hamas that helped foment the crisis.

But perhaps the most telling thing about the way Egypt is heading back down the road to dictatorship is the relative silence from Morsi’s new buddy in the White House and the State Department. At today’s White House press briefing, spokesman Jay Carney stayed clear of anything that could possibly be considered criticism of Morsi or the Brotherhood’s power grab, saying merely: “We have some concerns about the decisions and declarations that were announced on November 22.” Carney also denied that the president felt “betrayed” by the way Morsi used Washington’s fulsome praise for him as a platform from which he sought to expand his ability to rule by fiat. Given the way the administration dumped Mubarak and then publicly scolded and threatened the Egyptian military when it tried to act as a brake on the Brotherhood’s drive for hegemony, the White House’s unwillingness to say anything more than that speaks volumes about the way Morsi is viewed in Washington these days.

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Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi may be backing down a bit on his attempt to seize dictatorial powers. The Muslim Brotherhood leader agreed to a limited compromise on his assertion of supremacy over the courts in which he would allow the judiciary to exercise review over his edits. This development testifies to the strength of the protests against Morsi’s attempt to acquire as much power as Hosni Mubarak had during his reign in Cairo. But even if Morsi’s putsch is contained for the moment, there is little doubt that he is determined to neutralize any possible competition for control over the country. This is, by any objective measure, a real defeat for an Obama administration that has publicly embraced Morsi and the Brotherhood and publicly disparaged his authoritarian predecessor. It is especially embarrassing since just last week President Obama was heaping praise on Morsi for his role in brokering a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, even though it was the Egyptian’s support for Hamas that helped foment the crisis.

But perhaps the most telling thing about the way Egypt is heading back down the road to dictatorship is the relative silence from Morsi’s new buddy in the White House and the State Department. At today’s White House press briefing, spokesman Jay Carney stayed clear of anything that could possibly be considered criticism of Morsi or the Brotherhood’s power grab, saying merely: “We have some concerns about the decisions and declarations that were announced on November 22.” Carney also denied that the president felt “betrayed” by the way Morsi used Washington’s fulsome praise for him as a platform from which he sought to expand his ability to rule by fiat. Given the way the administration dumped Mubarak and then publicly scolded and threatened the Egyptian military when it tried to act as a brake on the Brotherhood’s drive for hegemony, the White House’s unwillingness to say anything more than that speaks volumes about the way Morsi is viewed in Washington these days.

One of the interesting nonevents of the past year has been the way the administration has been able to avoid any debate about its attitude toward Morsi and the Brotherhood. Part of that stems from the unfortunate decision by Michele Bachmann and some other conservative members of the House of Representatives to center any complaints on the personal loyalty of Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Clinton and the wife of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner. The pushback against Bachmann was bipartisan and the question was transformed from a reasonable debate that needed to be held about Washington’s embrace of the new Egyptian government to one of whether the House GOP was attempting to subject Abedin to a McCarthy-like inquisition based on anti-Arab prejudice.

Once Abedin was enshrined as a victim of bias, critiques of a policy shift in which Washington had made its peace with Morsi were effectively silenced. And with Morsi being portrayed as a peacemaker between Hamas and Israel, it seemed as if the new regime was being elevated to the same sort of friendly status with which the president views the Islamist government in Turkey.

Morsi’s relentless drive to rule without a parliament, and now without a judiciary able to restrain him, makes that embrace look strikingly similar to past American embraces of dictators. Only this time, the dictator isn’t a pro-U.S. authoritarian but a dedicated Islamist allied with terrorists and determined to limit American influence in the region.

This ought to have been a moment when President Obama would speak up on behalf of a cause that he had been vocal about in the last two years: democracy in the Arab world and in particular in Egypt, where a popular uprising discarded a pro-American, though unsustainable, leader. Instead, all we get from the White House is silence that effectively negates the president’s past embrace of the cause of freedom in the Muslim world. Mubarak and the Egyptian military must be wondering now why it is that their misdeeds were unacceptable in the eyes of Obama but Morsi’s cynical actions are OK. Americans who care about the billions of their taxpayer dollars that are being sent to Egypt should be asking the same thing.

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Focus on Clinton’s Mistakes, Not Abedin

Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, has been in the news recently as her husband, the disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, tries to worm his way back into the public eye. Weiner paraded Abedin and their six-month-old infant before the cameras of People magazine this week as part of a not-so-subtle campaign to rehabilitate himself. But Abedin has other worries besides those associated with her husband. She was singled out in a letter sent by Rep. Michele Bachmann and four members of Congress that highlighted the ties between her family and the Muslim Brotherhood. The letter asked for the State Department’s Inspector General to conduct an investigation into whether Abedin and others had wrongly influenced American policy to show favor to the Islamist group that is battling for power in Egypt. That prompted a furious response from Sen. John McCain, who blasted Bachmann on the floor of the Senate. McCain described Abedin as a friend and said attacks on her “character, reputation and patriotism” were unwarranted and unfair.

McCain’s counterattack on behalf of Abedin is being echoed throughout the mainstream press. The New York Times editorial page today described Bachmann’s charges as a “crackpot allegation of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the government.” The Boston Globe’s Juliette Kayeem wrote in a column that the mention of Abedin’s mother was a new take on an old theme, a “Manchurian Mom.” While McCain’s speech centered on a defense of Abedin, both pieces poured scorn on the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood was worth worrying about or whether a discussion of the State Department’s conduct vis-à-vis the organization was worthy of scrutiny. The whole thing, they said, was merely a new front in an effort to single out Muslim-Americans and subject them to discrimination.

Prejudice against Muslims is wrong, and conspiracy theories are a noxious weed in political discourse. Those who think the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the State Department are probably wrong, as there is no shortage of diplomats and consultants who foolishly think the United States should be engaging with the Islamist group without any of them being part of a plot. But if the Bachmann letter is used as an excuse to brand as McCarthyism any effort to discuss a possible shift in U.S. policy toward appeasing Islamist groups, that would be a mistake.

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Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, has been in the news recently as her husband, the disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, tries to worm his way back into the public eye. Weiner paraded Abedin and their six-month-old infant before the cameras of People magazine this week as part of a not-so-subtle campaign to rehabilitate himself. But Abedin has other worries besides those associated with her husband. She was singled out in a letter sent by Rep. Michele Bachmann and four members of Congress that highlighted the ties between her family and the Muslim Brotherhood. The letter asked for the State Department’s Inspector General to conduct an investigation into whether Abedin and others had wrongly influenced American policy to show favor to the Islamist group that is battling for power in Egypt. That prompted a furious response from Sen. John McCain, who blasted Bachmann on the floor of the Senate. McCain described Abedin as a friend and said attacks on her “character, reputation and patriotism” were unwarranted and unfair.

McCain’s counterattack on behalf of Abedin is being echoed throughout the mainstream press. The New York Times editorial page today described Bachmann’s charges as a “crackpot allegation of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the government.” The Boston Globe’s Juliette Kayeem wrote in a column that the mention of Abedin’s mother was a new take on an old theme, a “Manchurian Mom.” While McCain’s speech centered on a defense of Abedin, both pieces poured scorn on the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood was worth worrying about or whether a discussion of the State Department’s conduct vis-à-vis the organization was worthy of scrutiny. The whole thing, they said, was merely a new front in an effort to single out Muslim-Americans and subject them to discrimination.

Prejudice against Muslims is wrong, and conspiracy theories are a noxious weed in political discourse. Those who think the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the State Department are probably wrong, as there is no shortage of diplomats and consultants who foolishly think the United States should be engaging with the Islamist group without any of them being part of a plot. But if the Bachmann letter is used as an excuse to brand as McCarthyism any effort to discuss a possible shift in U.S. policy toward appeasing Islamist groups, that would be a mistake.

Abedin is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and given her history and personal circumstances the notion that she is a Brotherhood mole seems farfetched at best. But her family connections with the Brotherhood should raise some eyebrows. If a Jewish official were similarly tied to an extremist group such as the Jewish Defense League, it would be a matter for some uncomfortable speculation despite the fact that the JDL is utterly marginal. Given that the Brotherhood is a powerful and dangerous organization, it is not unreasonable for some questions to be asked.

But even if we assume, as we probably should, that Abedin has been thoroughly vetted and that mentioning her in this connection was an error, that does not mean members of Congress ought not to be asking questions about the State Department’s willingness to make nice with the Brotherhood. Nor should it lead us to ignore the other issues raised in both the letter to the State Department and another one written by the same group to the Department of Homeland Security about the vetting of individuals with Islamist ties and the use of materials that tend to downplay the nature of the Islamist threat from the Brotherhood and related groups, including those that have rationalized or support terrorism. The government has shown a troubling tendency to be unable to distinguish between patriotic American Muslims and Islamists who purport to speak for American Muslims.

The problem here is that by making a martyr out of Abedin, Bachmann and her colleagues have fed the false narrative about a mythical post 9-11 backlash against Muslims whose purpose is to shut down appropriate scrutiny of extremist groups and individuals. Doing so has aided those who wish to silence the discussion about Islamist terror and portray the Center for Security Policy, the Washington think tank that has documented many of the concerns the members of Congress raised, as a voice of extremism. In fact, it is raising legitimate issues that deserve to be aired.

McCarthyism was wrong not just because some of those who were subjected to scrutiny were innocent of the charge of being Communists, but because unfair accusations served to discredit any questions about Soviet espionage. Despite Joseph McCarthy’s lies about the subject, the issue of Communist subversion was real. While there is no evidence the Muslim Brotherhood has embarked on a similar campaign, the threat from Islamist terror is no less real and should not be ignored because of worries about false charges or prejudice.

Instead of worrying about Abedin and her family or elevating her to the status of Muslim-American heroine, what we should be doing is discussing the mistakes of her boss, Secretary Clinton. It is Clinton who is responsible for the administration’s troubling decisions to edge closer to the Brotherhood. Anything that distracts us from that or from the genuine threat of domestic and international Islamist terrorism is a terrible blunder.

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