Dubai: The grandeur of Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi provided a welcome relief for Huma Abedin yesterday, away from prying eyes and difficult questions of the Washington press corps.
Abedin, who is now on the final leg of a US delegation trip to Zambia, Tanzania and Ethiopia with secretary of state Hillary Clinton to discuss trade, development, health and other issues, is due to return to Washington on Wednesday.
And she will likely face the hardest question of her life: Is she sticking by her husband, Democrat congressman Anthony Weiner?
Last Monday, she was absent from Weiner's side as he stood at a heaving press conference in New York after he admitted he sent lewd photographs to at least six women.
The scandal has effectively ended Weiner's hopes of making a credible bid to be the next mayor of New York. Before the scandal broke, the 46-year-old career lawmaker had been viewed as the best Democratic Party chance of succeeding mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013.
"He's cooked, done, finished," in any quest to be mayor, says Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Connecticut. "In his district, I'm inclined to think he can hang on."
But can he hang onto his wife? Abedin has for years drawn notice in Washington for her exotic beauty, charm and sense of style. Her high-powered career in the conservative political circles on the Potomac are punctuated by her penchant for Prada suits and high heels.
Now, with the admission by her husband of just a year, she joins the club of the lonely wives abandoned and scarred by their husband's indiscretions. Indeed, her employer, Hillary Clinton, is a member of this emotionally bruised sisterhood.
Abedin, 35, has been a fixture in Clinton's inner circle, beginning her career as an intern and rising through the ranks as an aide to the former first lady.
"She is committed to their marriage, and she loves her husband very much," a close friend of the couple was reported as saying. "Obviously, they have work to do, but she is committed," he said.
That love has proved strong enough to bring the unlikely couple together in the first place.
Fluent in Arabic
Abedin is fluent in Arabic and was raised in Saudi Arabia by an Indian father and Pakistani mother. She is a practising Muslim who once dated actor John Cusack and was pursued romantically by George Clooney.
Weiner is Jewish, and had built his career on a liberal philosophy which also saw him become an attack dog to protect core Democratic causes. He's also a former roommate of comic Jon Stewart, who actually cut his wrist while recording a skit on Weiner's textual relations for his The Daily Show earlier this week.
So far, Weiner has said he won't resign his seat and will participate in a House of Congress Ethics Committee investigation into his conduct. If anything, he can take solace from the fact that Bill Clinton managed to survive a far greater scandal over the Monica Lewinsky affair, and emerged intact with his wife by his side.
"The overwhelming majority of people in [the United States] believe in redemption," notes Jack Quinn, a former White House counsel to Clinton who now runs a public relations and lobbying firm.
"But you don't get redemption until you not only say ‘I'm sorry,' but also say ‘I'm going to fix it. I'm going to deal with this and lead a better life.' Weiner didn't do anything that said that."
And you can add Weiner to the growing list of New York politicians caught in headline-grabbing sex scandals.
His confession this week came just four months after an upstate New York lawmaker, Republican congressman Chris Lee, stepped down after shirtless photos he sent to a woman he met on Craigslist were published online.
A Democrat, Kathy Hochul, won a special election to replace Lee, and Democrats hailed the victory as a turning point for the party following its drubbing in the 2010 midterm elections.
One of New York's most infamous political sex scandals involved former Democratic governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 after 14 months in office after being identified as ‘Client 9' in a prostitution bust. Now a host of a political talk show on CNN, Spitzer described as "cringe-worthy" the extraordinary news conference at which Weiner acknowledged sending a revealing photo to a young woman on Twitter.
"Believe me, I know. I've been there," Spitzer said, adding that the decision on whether to resign is "deeply personal".
— With inputs from agencies