The producers of The Good Wife must be having mixed feelings right about now.
Yes, they have a great premise—the beautiful, powerful wife of a charismatic politician finds herself suddenly in the midst of her husband’s newly revealed sex scandal. The show has earned numerous Emmys for the producers and for its star, Julianne Margulies. Now, however, it’s in its own middle age and coming up against other sorta-political TV shows, from Netflix’s House of Cards to the one I talked about last time, Veep. Now is not, perhaps, the time for the TV news cycle to start competing with the show for story lines, subtext, and compelling protagonists. But in their own way, The Good Wife’s writers may have set themselves up for exactly that.
This season, as The New Yorker explained recently, the show’s couple “Peter and Alicia moved from separate beds to icy reconciliation. . . . To the public, however, they have remained a couple, a political brand. When Peter was running for office again, Alicia gave a dazzling interview, absolving him so that voters could do the same.” When I saw this week’s New York Times Magazine cover story, I couldn’t help wondering whether State Department aide Huma Abedin was hoping to spur such absolution for her bad-boy husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
In the dual interview, journalist/therapist/confessor Jonathan Van Meter asked Abedin some of the questions many of us had been swallowing since Weiner confessed to having sent lewd photos as Twitter messages. How did it feel? and Why did you stay? Abedin’s answers about her “journey to acceptance” have since sparked many commentators to call her Weiner’s “secret weapon” as he contemplates jumping into the race for mayor of New York City.
Is Abedin ready for the challenges of a new campaign? Yes, but only if she’s the candidate. I’m with the anonymous source quoted yesterday by the New York Daily News: “If Huma were running for mayor, it’d be a totally different story. She’s smart and very genuine.” Or, as New York magazine put it, “Huma Abedin Weiner for Mayor, 2013.”
Whether she wants that or not, I think it would be way overdue. In these scandals, my heart is mostly with the Good Wives, from the peerless Hillary Clinton to the late Elizabeth Edwards, even feeling some sympathy for those, like Dina Matos McGreevey and Jenny Sanford, who’d likely disagree with me on most else. It’s impossible not to admire the strength it takes to weather a scandal that shouldn’t even be yours; in the case of Clinton, she was in that position over and over. These are women, for the most part, who met The Rogue when they themselves had as much boundless potential as the men in question. There’s a reason why Abedin turned for support to the (then) secretary of state when the scandal broke.
The Guardian‘s Jill Filipovic agrees with me that the political future in question is Abedin’s, rather than the man even The Washington Post couldn’t stop comparing to Don Draper. “Huma Abedin is, after all, “a savvy political animal.” Born in Michigan, Abedin first worked for Clinton in 1996 as an intern from George Washington University. In the intervening 20-plus years, she’s been part of Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, worked in her Senate office, and by 2008 had risen to chief of staff for Clinton’s 2008 presidental bid. “People close to Abedin recognize her excellent diplomatic and organizational skills,” writes Sarah Swong at Policymic.com, who called Abedin “the newest political superstar.” In 2010, TIME named her one of the “40 under 40” rising stars in American politics,” even as she demurred: when asked what she’d be doing in five years, Abedin told TIME “Working at a foundation.”
This week might be laying a different kind of foundation. When Abedin has contemplated politics, it’s entirely likely that being mayor of a fractious major American city wasn’t on the list. Whatever she chooses, Jill Filipovic writes that Abedin’s New York Times serenity bodes well for her future prospects: “Americans despise few things more than angry women. While angry men are tough and passionate, angry women are irrational, hysterical, imbalanced and out of control. While her husband gained credibility for his angry antics as a congressman, a political future for Abedin requires a calm facade.”
I’m pretty sure that Abedin is destined for a better tagline than “The Good Wife.” Even if that phrase does play so well on TV.