Bill and Hillary Clinton: A second go in the White House?
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON AND BILL CLINTON
Married Since: 1975
Family Album: One daughter
Bill's philandering was humiliation on a global scale—but there was an unexpected benefit: Hillary got the chance to fire up her own political ambition. "The country was most favorable toward Hillary when she was being victimized," says family therapist Terrence Real, author of The New Rules of Marriage. "Her difficulty is the public perception of her as an ice maiden. When she opened up, it rebalanced her and made her someone that you could feel something for." In 2000, Clinton rode that wave of sympathy to the Senate. But if she captures the White House, will Bill be able to keep his own ego in check and become the supportive spouse a president needs?
Despite endless commentary from fans and foes, the Clinton union remains a tantalizing mystery. It's hard to tell whether this is a marriage of passion, or simply a partnership based on political convenience. Both Clintons have said they have benefited from marital counseling, and Hillary has admitted to extensive soul-searching about her marriage. In her 2003 memoir, Living History, she wrote: "The most difficult decisions I have made in my life were to stay married to Bill and to run for the Senate from New York." She hasn't said much about the subject since then. Even longtime Clinton advisor James Carville, not shy with his opinions, refuses to dish. "It's uranium-242," he told The Washington Post. "You pick that stuff up and it'll blow up in your face."
But the couple earns kudos from marriage experts for sticking it out. "We know more about the Clintons than anybody—and the more I know about each of them, the more enthusiastic I am about what they have been able to do," says Frank Pittman, a psychiatrist and family therapist in private practice in Atlanta and the author of Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy."That's what made it possible for her to overcome all that stupidity. They were best friends."
Since leaving the White House, Bill, now 60, has survived major heart surgery—often a powerful incentive to rethink priorities. If Hillary wins the Clintons a do-over in the White House, he'll be motivated to behave. "We have every reason to assume he has learned the function of a zipper," says Pittman. "He's a smart guy."
On the plus side, Bill Clinton would be the most charismatic spouse since Jackie Kennedy, and could help soften his wife's icy image. A poll last fall showed that his favorable rating was six points higher than hers. His political expertise will be invaluable, and he'll certainly be uniquely sensitive to the demands of the job. Her campaign strategists insist he is an asset. And in her speeches, Hillary told The New York Times, she subtly invokes their relationship by saying things like "When Bill had his heart surgery," or "Bill used to love Dunkin' Donuts." The message is clear: He may be offstage, but he's waiting in the wings.
Click Here For The Official Clinton Campaign Site.
Barbara Kantrowitz is a senior writer for Newsweek.
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