Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Ballad Of The Huma

With Anthony Weiner's epic second meltdown entering the realm of true absurdity the new hot thing to do in political punditry is to talk about all-Weiner-all-the-time and his charming wife Huma Abedin. It reminds me a lot of Frank Rich's take on the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy fiasco from the lazy summer of 2001 from his great book "The Greatest Story Ever Sold":
In retrospect, the Condit affair (or nonaffair-we never did find out) was the last gasp of the fin-de-siecle Clinton culture and its bread and circuses of sex scandals. With Bill Clinton gone from center stage, the country had to settle for a dim-witted price club surrogate-and did. Desperate pundits worked overtime to turn a pale understudy into a star.
Pundits being pundits are expected to write about this sort of celebrity gossip/political news during Congress's August recess and the second term of a presidency, but I don't think we should have to take it lying down. At the very least I wish someone would explain to me why Huma Abedin is such as important figure.

As Slate's Dave Weigel pointed out her whole media persona seems to be based on the old tried and true method of attaching oneself to a more "in the news" person that yourself and once you've gotten the first profile piece written about yourself becoming more and more "in the news" by being, well yourself:
But back to Abedin. It's very nice that her friends are feeling for her in this time of self-inflicted hardship. What, though, is missing from our politics if Abedin's not in it? Before this week, she had a sterling reputation (based in part on how she didn't appear at Weiner's press conferences, but oh well) based on ... what, exactly? If you return to the early profiles that created Abedin's image, they're based on very little. The first big Abedin take-out ran in the New York Observer in April 2007, when the New York media was hungry for coverage of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. "Ms. Abedin is responsible for guiding the Senator from one chaotic event to the next and ensuring that the many hundreds of situations that arise at each—the photo ops, the handshakes, the speeches—go smoothly," wrote Spencer Morgan.
The rest of the profile was a write-around—a very funny one—about how stylish and unflappable Abedin was.
I think that sums it up quite well. She became "in the news" via Hillary and then even more "in the news" via her crazy husband (twice in fact). This in turn made her a sort of rorschacht test for pundits and bloggers eager to find yet more evidence that the world does in fact follow along with their theories. To feminists she was proof of double standards and other nefarious practices; to people who just want to write about the Clintons she is a good excuse to do so; heck the story is even an excuse for the high and mighty to talk up some polls and dish about that schmuck Weiner and his wife.

Occasionally, and only occasionally, we get to learn that Huma is some sort of expert or something. Unfortunately we never get much background on why she's such an expert or what she's an expert on, other than "The Middle East." I don't want to sound like I'm picking on her, in fact I bet she's probably pretty good at what it is she does, after all Hillary Clinton doesn't hire slouches as body people or deputies. (She has hired incompetent jerks to run her campaigns, but that's another story.) Which is entirely the point. I have no idea what it is that she does, and it seems that neither do most people who write about her. Is she an expert because she worked for Hillary? Because she read a lot of books? Because she went to George Washington and interned at the White House? That's not very helpful because the world is full of graduates from prestigious private schools, people who read lots of books and staffers. That's why there called staffers. Indeed the world is full of smart people who know a lot. They all don't deserved recognition as a contemporary cultural heroine. As Dave puts it:
Standing by your husband when he keeps disappointing you is, sadly, an ordinary thing. Making connections in D.C. and then cashing in on them is also pretty ordinary. The single most irritating aspect of the Weiner scandal is that we're being asked to buy tickets for this third-rate psychodrama. The Weiner-Abedin marriage is to the Clinton marriage as Sharknado is to Jaws.
I wish all the best to Huma, but please don't ask me to have an opinion of her. She really doesn't deserve any of our collective attention.

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