Huma Mahmood Abedin

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Clintons’ ‘surrogate desi daughter’ under lens

Chidanand Rajghatta

May 18, 2013

From the archives of The Times of India

Washington: She’s been called Hillary Clinton’s “body woman,” her “second shadow,” and her surrogate child. Most famously, at a speech preceding her wedding to a young congressman, Clinton is reported to have said, “I only have one daughter. But if I had a second daughter, it would (be) Huma.” Well, the first daughter, Chelsea Clinton, is doing fine as a correspondent with NBC Television. But surrogate daughter Huma Abedin, an American of Indo-Pak origin, is in trouble. The knives have long been out in the rightwing press for the former Hillary Clinton aide, with dark rumours of her Islamist sympathies and connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, but now the mainstream press has zeroed in on the former secretary of state’s extraordinary forbearance for Abedin’s dalliance with the private sector while she was in government service. However, the back story first. Huma Mahmood Abedin is the US born daughter of an Indian father and Pakistani mother, both of whom received doctorates from the University of Pennsylvania. Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Huma grew up in Saudi Arabia where her parents moved to when she was two, before returning to Washington for her university degree. She began interning in the White House in 1996, attached to Hillary Clinton’s staff, when her hard work and meticulous attention to detail and the long hours she put in impressed the first lady. From then on, she became virtually inseparable from Hillary Clinton, even as the first lady transitioned to a senator, a presidential candidate, and most recently, secretary of state. By 2010, she was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and principal personal aide, sometimes, it was rumoured, even attending to phone calls at her boss’ home in the middle of the night. Her perceived proximity, physical and professional, brought forth some ugly rumours, but in June, 2012 , some ultraconservative lawmakers stunned Washington by writing to the deputy inspector general of the state department requesting an investigation into the influence of anyone associated with the Muslim Brotherhood on state department policy, citing a study by the Center for Security Policy, that said that Abedin “has three family members — her late father, her mother and her brother — connected to the Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/ or organizations.” The charges outraged even Republican moderates, with house speaker John Boehner and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain coming to Abedin’s defence. “Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully. I am proud to know Huma, and to call her my friend,” an angry McCain said. He maintained that the letter from his Republican colleagues and the report it was based on “offer not one instance of an action, a decision or a public position that Huma has taken while at the state department that would lend credence to the charge that she is promoting anti-American activities within our government. These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now.” The attacks did die down, although the rightwing press feasted on the charges, and Abedin had to seek police protection for awhile. But now, the mainstream press and online media has put the spotlight the extraordinarily generous terms of her employment at Clinton’s state department. According to an account in Politico, Abedin worked for private clients as a consultant even while she was an advisor to Hillary Clinton on the state department payroll, without declaring all her sources of income as she was required to do.

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