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Huma Abedin shuns limelight, but is a compelling protagonist in Weiner film

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Hillary Clintons trusted aide and the spouse of shamed politician tells scandal was like living in a nightmare but shows politics is a contact sport she can handle

Huma Abedin is standing in her kitchen, soon after her husband Anthony Weiners candidacy for mayor of New York City has been rocked by new revelations in the sexting scandal that forced him to resign from Congress in 2011.

A voice from behind a camera perched inside her Manhattan apartment asks her to describe how she feels. After some stillnes as she makes a cup of coffee, Abedin offers a sole observation as she strolls away: Its like living a nightmare.

The scene is one of many painful moments in Weiner a revelatory documentary about the former congressmans failed effort to revive his political career in the 2013 New York race. Its arrival in the hot of a presidential election has cast a spotlight once more on Abedin, the trusted aide to Hillary Clinton who has emerged in recent years as a prominent figure in her own right.

Even as she keeps a low profile on the campaign trail, Abedin has long been a subject of public fascination not simply because of the ways in which her private life has held tracings similar to that of her boss, but largely due to her own rise as Clintons right-hand woman. She has been dubbed as Clintons secret weapon, in a profile in Vogue that also celebrated her sartorial flair, as well as the former first ladys shadow.

But despite expending nearly two decades in such close proximity to one the most prolific legislators in the world, Abedins discomfort with the spotlight is readily apparent in the film that features her for the first time in the role of a protagonist.

Hillary
Hillary Clinton talks with Huma Abedin before spoke of Brooklyn, New York, in April. Photo: Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images

In one scene, she carries her nervousnes over the prospect of being stumped by a question on Weiners policy prescriptions recalling an incident a week earlier as she travels to a campaign event with her husband.

That woman was like, whats his position on and Im like, I dont know what the hell his position is on X, Abedin frets.

In another, she works the phones from within Weiners campaign headquarters to help raise money for what was intended to be a comeback bid. When one target turns her down, Weiner retorts: This is your -Alist? Abedin indicates she is not entirely at ease tapping into her extensive political network, although she subsequently persuades another donor to write a maximum contribution.

Abedin recognises in the film the trait that has perhaps most characterized her stature as one of Clintons closest confidantes: she has long eschewed the limelight in favor of what she has confessed is an intentionally behind-the-scenes presence.

As captured in the documentary, she tells a group of women gathered at a New York City fundraiser for her husbands mayoral bid: Those of you who know me are likely surprised to see me standing up here. Im usually back of the room, as far away from the microphone as possible.

There is perhaps no better reflection of this than Abedins existence on the campaign trail, always close to Clinton but seldom occupying center stage.

Although in the formal role of Clintons vice-chairwoman, Abedin has been at her bosss side almost every step of the style helping usher the Democratic frontrunner swiftly along rope lines and ensuring that each day operates as smoothly as can be in the frenetic environment of the campaign trail.

Often, one might not notice her lingering in the background if not for Clinton mulling aloud at local retail stops which flavor of ice cream or cooked goods they should pick up for the road before turning to consult Abedin.

The role she occupies is, of course, far more expansive than that of being simply a body woman. On a typical day, Abedin is assembling policy updates, running through the nuts-and-bolts of a grueling campaign schedule, and serving as an overall surrogate and adviser. As a Clinton aide told Politico last year, Abedin is for all intents and purposes the No 3 on the campaign.

That she is one of the most recognizable and admired each member of Clintons team is evidenced by the chants of Huma! that occasionally greet her when she enters a room of supporters. It is also apparent in the relative wall of stillnes among Clinton staffers and allies who declined to be interviewed about Abedin, a sign of their sensitivity toward the headlines that are once again fixated on her personal life.

Abedins notoriety was well-established before the public invasion of her privacy and has largely been a product of the fruits of a apparently tireless work ethic.

One such testament to her life in public service transpired in 2012, when even Republican rose to Abedins defense in a rare show of bipartisan subsistence after a group of hard-right conservatives in the House of Representatives falsely pushed a conspiracy hypothesi that she and other Muslim Americans had ties to the Muslim brotherhood and were seeking to infiltrate the US government.

Arizona senator John McCain even took to the floor of the Us senate to rebuke what he deemed an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant.

Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to immigrant mothers from south Asia, Abedin was raised in Saudi Arabia before returning to the US to study at George Washington University. It was shortly thereafter, in the fall of 1996, that she found herself assigned to the first ladys office as an intern to Clintons then-chief of staff Melanne Verveer.

Veveer recollected her as very mature, knowledgeable[ and] very responsible despite her young age.

She stood out in more routes than everybody else, Veveer said in an interview, adding that Abedins longevity with Clinton has constructed her an invaluable asset.
She has had an extremely longstanding relationship, and these relationships are really important … because you get to know the orbit of people around your boss, you get to know the likes and detests, whats important and unimportant, Verveer said.
Knowing Abedin, she added that the public scrutiny was very, very hard.

Its extremely difficult in terms of having to cope with something shes unaccustomed to, Veveer told. She is a very private person, “shes never” coveted the public eye.

When she became an intern, Abedin was an aspiring journalist she has said her idol was Christiane Amanpour. Instead, she would fill several high-ranking posts in Clintons team and log tens of thousands of miles of traveling with the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state.

Anthony
Anthony Weiner, left, listens as his wife, Huma Abedin, speaks during a press conference in July 2013. Photograph: Kathy Willens/ AP

In a recent interview for the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, Abedins admiration for Clinton was clear as she recounted their initial interactions and what depicted her into a relationship that has since weathered 20 years of ups and downs.

Their first encounter was all but 30 seconds, as Clinton posed for a photo session with interns. I was shaking, I was so nervous, Abedin recollected.

What was more striking, she noted, was her memory of the night Bill Clinton was re-elected as chairwoman that November. As he and Hillary emerged before thousands of supporters in Little Rock, Arkansas, Abedin stood near the rope line with a group friends.

She strolled by, and she shook my hand, and our eyes connected, Abedin told. And I only remember having this moment where I thought, Wow, this is amazing. It only inspired me.

Although Clinton demonstrated unsuccessful in her first attempt to break the presidential glass ceiling, it was Abedin who accompanied her boss to gratify Barack Obama in Chicago after his 2008 victory to discuss the role of secretary of state.

Abedin subsequently constructed the changeover to the State Department with Clinton, appointed as her deputy joint chiefs of staff. She is all but certain to assume a top chore in a potential Clinton administration, an obvious choice for chief of staff.

Their closeness was perhaps best encapsulated by Hillary Clinton herself, who at the 2010 nuptials between Abedin and Weiner, presided over by Bill Clinton, told: I have one daughter. But if I had a second daughter, it would be Huma.

Much like her boss, Abedin continues to endure a level of public scrutiny over her matrimony that would arguably not apply to any man in her shoes.

Three years after the Weiner scandal, in the aforementioned podcast interview, Abedin reflected on how the experience helped her develop a layer of steel that enabled her to maintain her head down and simply ignore the fuss.

I could not do what Im doing for Hillary Im on the road a lot on the campaign, I have a four-year-old son and I dont suppose I could do this if I didnt are in favour of a spouse who is willing to basically be a stay-at-home daddy as much as he can.

Politics, she added, can often be a contact sport.

Its not for everybody.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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