Bill and Hillary Clinton are reportedly upset that Huma Abedin is implicitly comparing herself to Hillary so much. "The Clintons are upset with the comparisons that the Weiners seem to be encouraging — that Huma is ‘standing by her man’ the way Hillary did with Bill, which is not what she in fact did," a New York Democrat tells the New York Post's Frederic U. Dicker. In private conversations with Democrats, Weiner and Abedin have cited the Clintons' example as proof he can win over voters in the New York City mayoral race. On CBS on Sunday, former Bill Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Meyers said the Clintons, "like many of us, would like to see" Weiner quit the race. (She followed up with an email saying, "I haven't spoken to either of them about the situation.") The Post's source says, "How dare they compare Huma with Hillary?" This is a fascinating question. How can they make the comparison between Huma and Hillary? Let's examine what they have in common, and what they don't.
"The Clintons are pissed off that Weiner’s campaign is saying that Huma is just like Hillary," the Post's Democrat says. "How dare they compare Huma with Hillary? Hillary was the first lady. Hillary was a senator. She was secretary of state."
It's true that Clinton's résumé is now far more illustrious than Abedin's. But when Gennifer Flowers claimed she'd had an affair with Clinton during the 1992 Democratic presidential primary, Hillary Clinton was not secretary of state. Or a senator. She was the first lady of Arkansas, an unelected position. She had worked on the congressional committee investigating Watergate, and was an important lawyer in Arkansas.
By contrast, Abedin worked as deputy chief of staff to the secretary of state. That is a much bigger deal. Granted, the secretary of state was Clinton. But Abedin was up to the task, or Hillary wouldn't have promoted her, right?
"Hillary didn’t know Huma would do this whole stand-by-your-man routine, and that’s one of the reasons the Clintons are distancing themselves from all this nonsense," the Post's source says.
It's not entirely fair to point this out, since Clinton was living in a red state 20 years ago, but she worked to fit into a very traditional wifely role. In 1982, when her husband ran for reelection, her last name was an issue. As The New York Times reported, she said, "I've been Mrs. Bill Clinton. I kept the professional name Hillary Rodham in my law practice, but now I'm going to be taking a leave of absence from the law firm to campaign full time for Bill and I'll be Mrs. Bill Clinton. I suspect people will be getting tired of hearing from Mrs. Bill Clinton." (In 1993, The Wall Street Journal polled Americans to ask, "Should the First Lady be known as Hillary Clinton or Hillary Rodham Clinton?" Sixty-two percent picked Hillary Clinton. She went by Hillary Rodham Clinton until she ran for president.)
Abedin has kept her own last name.
Standing by your man
The Post reports the Clintons don't like the comparison that "Huma is ‘standing by her man’ the way Hillary did with Bill, which is not what she in fact did." But it is in fact what she did. I have found no record of the Clintons filing for divorce, or of Hillary moving out of the White House. The Clintons did many side-by-side interviews, and Hillary allowed herself to be photographed dancing in her swimsuit with her husband on vacation in the Virgin Islands.
The biggest difference between the Clintons and Weiner and Abedin doesn't seem to be the wife so much as the husband. In the early 90s, Clinton was a rising star in the Democratic Party, and when the Monica Lewinsky scandal struck, he was, of course, president of the United States. Weiner, by contrast, is a former congressman with a meagre legislative record who is mostly known for going on cable TV. If the Clintons are really annoyed at Abedin, it's more likely not because she's standing by her man, but because she's standing by a loser.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.