Thursday, January 07, 2016

Politix Update: Here's Why It's Time For Hillary To Finally Come Clean About Bill

One of the things that we have to look forward to in the new year are the further trials and tribulations of Bill Clinton's penis. 
Right-wing Republican Party operatives are said to be laying the groundwork for a renewed attack on the former president's sexual history designed to distract and damage Hillary Clinton, while Donald Trump is trying to make the former president's philandering an issue and that Paula Jones magically appeared the other day on a conservative radio talk show.  To which I say, it's about time that the probable next president come clean about her views on a shameful episode in American political history, as well as how her husband will fit into her presidency.  

Yes, I know this is sooo politically incorrect, anti-feminist, double standard-ish, all-around yucky and distracting from the "real" issues of the day, but the fact of the matter is Hillary Clinton has never addressed the scandal that nearly toppled her husband's presidency except to charge on the Today show that she and her husband were victims of a vast right-wing conspiracy.  That was way back in 1998
But wait.  Does Hillary Clinton, as a woman, have to prostrate herself on the public altar and explain a most personal wound, let alone why she not only remained with but defended her husband?  No, not just because she's a woman.  Yes, because she's not just any woman.
While Hillary Clinton can drag her feet as she did on the State Department email controversy, which has been a scandal not because of her conduct but because a compliant news media has helped Republicans keep it alive, it is necessary -- not to say how freaking refreshing it would be -- for her to head off the misogynistic Trump and those right wingers at the pass and finally speak with a semblance of feeling about a past she and her husband can never quite escape.  This is because they keep allowing others to frame that past in their own negative and often tawdry terms.  And because she seems to be a little too ready to play the victim, which sometimes can be downright silly such as when she put on her feminist hat and pounced on Bernie Sanders when he said that "all the shouting in the world" wouldn't address gun violence, something he has done without regard to gender. 
There is another reason why it is important for Hillary Clinton to stop being so obtuse.
She is going to win the nomination and almost certainly win the election.  Bill Clinton will not morph from being an alpha male into a passive male on Inauguration Day and will have an outsized, historically unprecedented and possibly unwelcome impact on her presidency. The former president has played a central role in his wife's quest for the White House. She has depended on him so much that the fortunes of her campaign are inextricably tied to him and how voters perceive him is as important as how they perceive her.  It is time for her to explain how a co-presidency is something that the American people should welcome since they will in effect be voting for two people.  Or if it's not going to be a co-presidency, why it won't be. 
This is the point in the movie when I make clear -- and offended readers are well advised to note before they jump off a cliff, let alone to their own conclusions -- that while I would prefer to see Sanders take the oath of office next January, I am making my peace with with a Hillary Clinton presidency and not because of her gender since having a woman president is long, long overdue.  My concerns have more to do with her trustworthiness than her sex, let alone a stained blue Gap dress. 
And that while her husband handled the Lewinsky scandal horribly and had and may still have a serious zipper problem, the Republican mania to impeach and force him from office, let alone the overreach of special prosecutor Ken Starr, was even more shameful than the lousy excuse the president gave his executioners for wasting tens of millions of dollars of our money to build a gallows.   And finally, we have done an enormous injustice to Lewinsky, who it turns out was (and is) smart and dignified, which is a whole lot more than can be said of many of the people who wrote about her. 
Hillary Clinton may well be able to slide without uttering a breath about her husband's private behavior.  After all, voters drew a distinction between that and his performance as president, rebuking congressional Republicans for their overreach in the 1998 midterm elections.  The GOP lost seats in both chambers, and impeachment boss Newt Gingrich, who at the time was engaged in his own extramarital hanky-panky, had to relinquish his speakership.
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There are only two historic precedents for what will transpire when Hillary Clinton is elected: Edith Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt. (Yes, I know that Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer for President Bonzo, but that was different.)
When President Wilson's health failed and a stroke left him partially paralyzed, Edith Wilson became the acting president and took over many of the details and duties of government. She vociferously opposed allowing the vice president to assume the powers of the presidency and the numerous failures that occurred during her husband's incapacitation were substantially of her doing.
Eleanor Roosevelt's role during President Roosevelt's 12-plus year tenure was, by comparison, hugely positive.  While still attending to more traditional First Lady duties, she was a key player in shaping the president's domestic agenda and was a vital connection between Great Depression victims and the government bureaucracy, and later between African-American civil rights leaders and the White House.
Yet neither of these predecessors come close to approximating the reality that the next president may be married to a former president, as well as the unhappy prospect of two families monopolizing the White House over three decades. 
The release of thousands of pages of Hillary Clinton's personal records as First Lady during the 2008 campaign confirms that while she did not necessarily help make major policy decisions, she certainly was a co-president to an extent that First Ladies since Eleanor Roosevelt have not come close to replicating. This included the Lewinsky scandal, where she helped strategize his defense against impeachment proceedings.

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As uncomfortable as the subject may be for people for whom privacy is more important than the corrosive effects of lying and hypocrisy on politics, the more that I learned about John Edwards' romp with Rielle Hunter, the more Elizabeth Edwards reminded me of Hillary Clinton. Minus the cancer, of course.
In fact, the parallels were rather stunning.
Both women worshiped at the altar of political prominence and power, so much so that they overlooked clear evidence of their husbands' violation of their wedding vows. They contributed to their husbands' phony public personas as straight arrows and then circled their own wagons when confronted with the truth.
But then no one ever said being a political wife was all grand balls and trips to exotic places, right?
Psychoanalyst and cantadora Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a dear friend and author of the seminal Women Who Run With the Wolves, a classic examination of the female psyche, notes that the archetypal view is that people marry for love.
But the reality, she says, is that people marry for many reasons. When prestige and power are sought after, they almost invariably flow from husband to wife and family and seldom in the other direction. Thus there is much more to be lost if the husband is exposed as a cad.  And if the husband is successful the wife is sought out and feted whether she has earned that or not, while doors that otherwise would remain closed magically open.
I would like to believe that in the cases of the Missus Edwards and Clinton their marriages were and are not all about politics and power.
That both women, whip-smart intelligent and admirably independent in some respects, might have concluded once their tears dried that their husbands' infidelities -- in Bill Clinton's case years and years of philandering that sometimes may have had more to do with sexual harassment by today's appropriately more stringent standards -- were less important than not interrupting or destroying these couples' upward bound public careers.  And in the case of Elizabeth Edwards, that her struggle with terminal cancer not be used so cynically for political gain.
Both couples spoke extensively, if abstractly, about the importance of their familial and political partnerships.  Both husbands extolled their wives' greatness.  The only difference is that while Elizabeth had a habit of finishing John's sentences in joint interviews, Hillary never let anyone finish hers.
Nevertheless, the record convinces me that even when taking into account the obvious complexities of both marriages, upward bound trajectories played a greater role than altruism It is no accident that Bill and Hillary Clinton are the power couple of the 21st century, and that Hillary Clinton sacrificed her personal integrity for future political gain.  And would do so again.

Politix Update is an irregular compendium written by veteran journalist Shaun Mullen, for whom the 2016 presidential campaign is his (gasp!) 12th since 1968.  Click HERE for an index of previous Politix Updates.

11 comments:

Susan Winters said...

I was right with you until the last line, Shaun, "Hillary Clinton sacrificed her personal integrity for future political gain. And would do so again." No one can be sure why Hillary Clinton didn't "throw the bum out". As children of the 60's our generation developed a very different view of relationships, marriage, and monogomy. Multiple partners, even within marriage, was not as frowned upon then as it is now. Hillary may have accepted the terms of this marriage very early on as a reality of marriage to Bill Clinton because she saw the greater good- and we cannot be sure that is only about power. The only reason I still cringe at the thought of her explaining the marriage in public is that it is so deeply personal and intimate because it's her relationship rather than her actions that would be disclosed. She may have decided a long time ago to take what some would call the "high road" and proceed with dignity to go on with life. Perhaps it's Bill who must continue to be the one who answers to his actions, the ones that nearly dethroned him, and other behaviors that reflect upon HIM and his character. That's the one thing we need to be concerned about if he once again has a voice in what happens in this country. Hillary is the only person who knows why she responded in the way she did and I don't see her behavior as a character flaw.

Shaun Mullen said...

Thank you for your heartfelt response.

Virtually everyone I showed this piece to hated it. The big national blog where I am a contributing writer refused to publish it.

Just to be clear, I am less interested in Hillary “explaining the marriage” in public than I am with her, as I write, “head[ing] off the misogynistic Trump and those right wingers at the pass and finally speak with a semblance of feeling about a past she and her husband can never quite escape,” as well as address concerns about a co-presidency.

This is what I envision Hillary saying:

“Thank you for jointing me here today. I will have some opening remarks and then take your questions.

“As you know, Bill and I went through some very rough times some years ago. I cried myself to sleep some nights. But today our marriage and our family is stronger than ever, and we have put the past behind us. Bill is a partner in many things, but I — and I alone - will be president.”

Will this stop the attacks? No, but whenever someone brings up these issues she can state that she addressed them forthrightly at a press conference in January and they’re welcome to watch the video. Meanwhile, she’s going to keep talking about income disparity, gender workplace issues, gun violence, stopping ISIS . . . and so on and so forth. But these issues must be addressed.

Susan Winters said...

Your message is clearer now- and it has value and I didn't "hate " it, it made me reconsider the issue. But why must these issues be addressed in public? I think that anything she says will be twisted into more abuse on the subject. I sense she is drawing a line by refusing to answer the attacks. (Why is Trump not under the same kind of scrutiny with his disastrous marriages? Because he pays for silence?) I doubt Hillary can assure us that Bill will not be a part of the presidential energy. I think the only thing she can safely say is, "we have put the past behind us." I don't think there is anything else she can say that won't be shredded in the GOP grinder, they will trot out any evidence they can find to poke holes in the Clinton situation as it stands today, or create their own evidence. She is not the only woman in the world who has a husband who has acted like a total asshole. We don't know what happens behind closed doors, nor can we trust what an ambitious person might say about that. Hillary chose to respond to Bill's antics in a specific and public way, she must have thought it all through very carefully, (as did Jacquie Kennedy? ) certainly she is not the only wife of a man with power who has considered her options when his response to power makes him stupid, and she is standing her ground on that. Sorry Shaun, but this time, the bottom line for me is that if she can continue to hold her ground and just let the assholes jump up and down and get more ridiculous by the minute on the subject, I think she wins in the long run. I had a cat that knew that if he sat in the side yard, the dog in the house next door would have a nervous breakdown. So that's exactly what he did, he sat there and calmly groomed himself while that dog ran from window to window barking furiously. I think of Hillary doing the same thing. Those guys are so desperate they want to hurt her with this. It's off limits. Period. Once again, Bill is the one who must answer to the questions about his character as evidenced by his behavior.

Shaun Mullen said...

All true enough, but don't fall into a false equivalency trap. Hillary is indeed not "the only woman in the world who has a husband who has acted like a total asshole." But she is the only woman in the world who likely will be the next president of the United States. That comes with certain obligations which I have laid out in some detail. Sorry.

Alan Muller said...

This piece is OK with me, except for the last line. How did her keeping quiet about Bill's infidelities become a "sacrifice of personal integrity?" What was she supposed to do? Hack off his balls on TV? IMO, within pretty broad limits (rape, pedophilia, workplace harassment...)sexual behavior should be a private matter. Yes, it may speak to a person's character, but to the (limited) extend possible politics should focus on matters of substance.

The Clinton Foundation and how it has blurred all sorts of ethical boundaries seems a better focus on attention.

I don't like either of these people very much, and I hope you are wrong about the inevitability of her becoming President. But I can see that if ends up with the Dem nomination I'll probably have to hold my nose and vote for her. But I am not going to spend mental energy thinking about Bill's zipper problem and her response to it....

Alan Muller said...

Is it possible to edit a comment on this blow? I see at least three typos in what I just posted.

Shaun Mullen said...

Sorry, no edit function.

George Wolkind said...

As usual, brilliantly written makes a lot of sense to a man ... but I totally agree with Susan Winters assessment and Joann McMillan's painful but accurate lament. First I have no interest at all in Clinton's private parts or Hillary's "Stand by your Man" defense of her marriage ... Just suppose the press gets involved with Trump's private life ... he is going to say ... "it is none of your business ... next question" ... And the press will go on to the next question ... The majority of women on my FB page will vote for Bernie or Hillary for the simple fact the Republican Party has become Anti-Historical...meaning that when it comes to the issues that directly relate to their health ..welfare and safety for themselves and their CHILDREN ... they will vote for Bernie despite the fact that he is a democratic socialist and/ or vote for Hillary despite the failures of her husband ... she did not fail ... her husband did. She did what women have done through the ages ... they put the family first ... their pride and pain second. Moses left his wife and children ... he married a black African women in the desert much to the chagrin of Aaron's wife ... to lead 700,000 Jews to victory. Can you imagine if there was a Fox station then broadcasting the latest scandal of Moses! "Moses elopes with black woman ... hiding out in mountain retreat ... Mt Sinai ... oh what this world is coming to" ...

Shaun Mullen said...

Thank you for a welcome perspective, George, but by your standard we should unremember other yucky things. My Lai? U.S. support of South African apartheid? Watergate? Feel free to unremember. My journalistic license would be if I did.

michael fahey said...

I have always felt that the glue that held this marriage together was that they were made for politics and as a couple, playing the game of big time politics is what they get off on. Bill's infidelities were more of a PR problem that marred their "electability" than a persnal problem in the marriage. Politics as a practical art is the bedrock of their marriage. They were made for this stuff and therefore they are a perfect couple. It is Shakespearean as in that nice couple the MacBeths. So I never felt like Hilary was truly vulnerable on this score because he is just so good at his game. Like Michael Jordan to basketball, Bill Clinton was the Ali of politics and Hilary is his best political friend. It is ,as an aside, interesting to note that her close confidant is married to Anthony Weiner and that marriage is still afloat. We're all sinners. Some are more forgiving .

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Susan's comments. I fail to see how not addressing this makes Hillary untrustworthy. Get to know the woman and judge her on her abilities. There is no way we can know the truth of what goes on behind closed doors of any relationship. Sometimes I am still confused by what goes on in my own 45+ relationship. This issue is no more relevant to her abilities to be president than it was when the GOP drug it up the first time. They are nothing but obstructionist as they have proved time and again.