Let’s have a pity party!
“May I’m just pissed off, but I really don’t give a shit about what happens to Huma to be honest with you,” one close adviser to Hillary Clinton told me recently. He was irked, in particular, at Abedin’s seemingly superfluous breach of decorum during a post-election event. On the day after Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss to Donald Trump, this person said, Abedin appeared within the rope line while Clinton greeted her morose and woebegone supporters. “You’re staff, O.K.?” this adviser continued. “Staff is staff. You’re not a principal.” (A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign notes that Abedin was seated alongside the rest of the campaign’s senior leadership team that morning. Abedin declined an interview request.)
In the bizarre month since Clinton’s loss, few people besides the candidate herself have seen their fortunes overturned as significantly as has Abedin, 40, the glamorous and charismatic former vice-chair of the campaign. For two decades, Abedin has been a fixture inside Clinton’s inner circle; she began her career as a college-aged White House intern and rose to become Clinton’s deputy chief of staff at the State Department. As a former adviser to Bill Clinton once put it to me, over time Abedin morphed into “a mini Hillary” herself. She wasn’t merely an aide, but rather an amalgamation of adviser, best friend, confidante, and perhaps even surrogate daughter. Abedin “inspires loyalty, and she’s loyal back,” one Clinton aide told Amy Chozick in her widely read dissection of Clintonworld for The New York Times Magazine, in 2014.
In fact, according to Chozick, Clinton appeared to countermand those who suggested that Abedin should be relegated on behalf of the sexting antics of her spouse, the randy former congressman Anthony Weiner. Clinton, Chozick reported at the time, appeared more concerned with quarantining the so-called “night stalkers”—sycophants and hangers-on from her many decades in public life—who might try to re-exert their influence. Abedin, meanwhile, was widely expected to get a big job inside a Clinton White House.
BBut amid Clinton’s stunning post-election hangover, some inside the inner circle wonder if Abedin became overwhelmed by the attention, and shut too many people out. “She was enjoying the red carpet and enjoying the photo spreads much too much in my opinion,” one Clinton insider told me. “She enjoyed being a celebrity too much.” The close Clinton adviser elaborated that Abedin and the other tight-knit circle of people may have suffocated Clinton, preventing the campaign from taking in outside counsel. “The real anger is toward Hillary’s inner circle,” the Clinton insider told me. “They reinforced all the bad habits.” For instance, the suggestion had been made that Clinton should show her gregarious side, by, for instance, appearing more often on The View. (She appeared once, but Bernie Sanders, her rival for the nomination, appeared a handful of times.)
According to this person, however, the inner circle nixed that idea. It seemed, this person elaborated, that even minor suggestions about changing the narrative fell on deaf ears. “Right away,” this person continued, “it was either regarded as an intrusion or a naïve suggestion or maybe someone has an agenda. And so people just stopped bothering. Where in most presidential campaigns the circle grows broader and broader, hers grew smaller and smaller.” (A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign refutes this characterization, noting that the campaign may have had up to three times as many people on their plane during the election’s final weeks.)
Huma Abedin isn’t a villain. But she spent most of her adult life as a villain’s sidekick. Her official title should have been something like “chief henchman”. For over a decade now if you saw Hillary out in public it was a sure thing that Huma was nearby. If she wasn’t right there whispering in Hillary’s ear she was just off camera, whispering into a phone as she relayed instructions.
Huma even survived the first couple of the Weiner scandals relatively unscathed. Ironically, in the end it may have been her Weiner that screwed Hillary.