For five decades alongside Hillary Clinton, the former spokesperson talks about the dark days of the scandal that stopped the race for the presidency: power, infidelity, sisterhood
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For nearly twenty-five years she was Hillary Clinton’s shadow. Everywhere the first lady, then ex, then senator, then secretary of state and finally presidential candidate went, Huma Abedin was with her. In institutional journeys, in political and marital crises. Helper, confidant, friend, like a daughter, one extension of the other. But always a step backwards, even when one of the most salacious scandals of American politics in recent years has overwhelmed her (due to her husband). And a bit like Hillary, she found herself playing the part of the good wife.
Yet Huma Abedin has everything not to go unnoticed, to be her, the story. Beautiful, with an extraordinary biography. Daughter of a Pakistani mother and an Indian father, practicing Muslims, as she will become, was born in Michigan, but as a child she moved with her family to Saudi Arabia, where her father was offered a prestigious university chair. What was supposed to be a short experience turns into a stay of years, life in Jeddah, summers in America, until the definitive return to the United States, the university, the internship at the White House just twenty years old in ’96, the ‘meeting with Hillary. And later with Anthony Weiner, the charismatic, fascinating, and very ambitious member of the Clinton orbit who becomes, at 30, her first real boyfriend, and then her husband (Bill will officiate the wedding). When I was with him, I thought nothing bad could happen to me, Abedin writes in a book just released in America, Both / And: A life in Many Worlds, a title that alludes to its many identities. Instead, that perfect life that he thought he lived ends precisely because of his partner, who used to have virtual relationships with other women, including a fifteen-year-old, to whom he used to send selfies from under the belt.
The first scandal
The first scandal broke out in 2011, and Weiner resigned as a deputy. But then, with Huma at his side, he returns to run for mayor of New York. A few months later, more photos, sent using the alias “Carlos Danger”, and she telling the reporters I forgave him. It will be Stockholm syndrome, then wrote the feminist Gloria Steinem, while she now explains that she felt responsible for having pushed him back into politics. In 2016, while Hillary’s vice president of presidential campaign, another revelation, a shot sent by Weiner while on the bed in his underwear next to the two Jordan Zain’s sleeping son. Huma leaves him, but not over. Ten days before the vote, the FBI decides to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, after having found some related to the investigation on Weiner’s PC. We need to determine if the emails contain confidential information, explains then Federal Bureau director James Comey. Hillary and all the staff are flying to Iowa that day. The instant I met his gaze, Abedin recounts, I burst into tears. Clinton hugs her. The investigation is closed a few days later, but the damage done. According to many, that October surprise, as the unexpected events of the last weeks of the election campaign are called, contributed to Donald Trump’s victory. A devastating awareness for Huma. I don’t know how I will survive all this writes in a notebook during those terrible days God help me. And still today she says: Every day I wake up and see something that goes wrong in this country or that would not have happened if she had been president. Including the “muslim ban”, which has hurt his community so much.
A few days after the elections Anna Wintour invites her to lunch in Manhattan. I ate two starters and two main courses. Only then did I realize that I hadn’t eaten for days, he says in interviews. The legendary, powerful director of Vogue America suggests that she write a book, finally tell her version. An “absurd” idea, or so it initially seemed to Huma, of which she becomes convinced not when friends support her, but when an acquaintance discourages her by claiming that no one would read that book. I’m high as she told the New York Times when they laughed saying I couldn’t win the election for the student presidency I decided to run and I won. And judging by the publicity and the amount of attention the book – much of which was written right at Wintour’s vacation home in Mastic, Long Island – is receiving, Huma has won again. One dress more beautiful than the other, bright smile, here she is in the late night shows and in the family broadcasts in the morning, on the New York Times and on the BBC. And then in one presentation after another, in a party more exclusive than the other (in the one at the Wintour house in Manhattan there were from Sienna Miller to Adrian Brody, from Michael Kors to Diane von Furstenberg).
Look to the future
Hillary often follows her, as in the early November event on New York’s Upper West Side: her boss and mentor is now her shoulder and support. In some of these appointments you feel nostalgia for what hasn’t been, like at the launch party in Washington, in a house full of women that the Washington Post wrote, if Clinton had won the election, they would lead the world. Women who are part of an exclusive sisterhood with lifetime membership and a shared commitment to pragmatic feminism. But Huma is only 45 years old, relieved, she says, freed from the weight of shame accumulated on her shoulders in the past years, and now that she has explained why she stayed so long with an unfaithful husband (the same question that Hillary had to do), playing a part so out of sync with today’s sensitivity, now that she has told of unsolicited advances (a senator, of the which does not name) the future ahead of her. Also (especially?) Political.