Seeing Hillary Clinton gleefully making the rounds of the major talk shows last week, ostensibly to promote her new book written with her daughter Chelsea, was a breath of fresh air. For the first time in eons, it seemed, she was appearing in public without the albatross of her husband Bill.
For a self-proclaimed ardent feminist, Hillary has spent an enormous amount of her own life defending the behavior and policies of her wayward husband, largely at her own expense.
Her attacks on 25 –year old intern Monica Lewinsky, the woman who gave her husband four blow-jobs in the Oval Office, staining and disgracing that hallowed chamber for years to come – Hillary called Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony tune,” a term some have used to describe the former First Lady, in fact – was unkind and far from protective or maternal.
Even worse were her undignified dismissals of three of her husband’s then-most recent rape accusers – Juanita Broderick, Paula Jones and Kathleen Wiley – as part of that “vast right-wing conspiracy” that always seemed to threaten the Clintons with unseemly revelations about their shady Whitewater financial dealings, the mysterious suicide of political aide Vince Foster (rumored to be one of Hillary’s own secret lovers) and of course, the steady stream of bimbos that were shepherded to Bubba in the Arkansas governor’s mansion at all hours courtesy of a bevy of loyal and admiring state troopers.
Hillary strongly implied that the three women were lying – mainly, for fame and fortune. Apparently, in those days, and when it came to her husband at least, women claiming to be sexually assaulted –including Broderick, who suffered a bloodied lip which Bill insisted she attend to as he headed out the door of the hotel room where he’d lured her with promises of future campaign glory– were most definitely not to be believed.
With Bill at her side, Hillary is inevitably inundated with uncomfortable questions about the purpose and integrity of her marriage. Bill supposedly told his former mistress Gennifer Flowers that Hillary never wanted to have a child but agreed to just one in the name of political expediency. It’s quite clear – until recently at least – that Hillary and Bill have long viewed poor Chelsea as little more than a family campaign prop, inveigling her to perform all sorts of duties on their behalf but insisting that she stay in the shadows, like an unwanted love child. Chelsea seemed to have grown up crippled, unable to find and sustain meaningful work as well as a stable marriage partner.
She was unceremoniously fired from her debut as a journalist on one of the major news programs after viewers and producers alike found her behavior unprofessional. And Hillary had to badger her friends at one of the leading Wall Street investment houses that pay her gobs of money to deliver private speeches extolling their virtues to cough up a willing mate – an unimpressive ersatz male, sufficiently neutered, to accommodate a self-negating woman accustomed to life in the back alleys of high finance and politics.
Marriage and motherhood – at long last — do seem to have given Chelsea the semblance of an autonomous persona, but there are limits. She clearly still shines most brightly as her mother’s sidekick and cheerleader, giving Hillary the kind of doting affection she seems to get nowhere else, least of all from Bill, who seems at every turn to try to find a way to embarrass and even humiliate her. In 2016, to the chagrin of her campaign, Bubba was everywhere, grabbing the spotlight, even as he pretended to make room for his wife. And Hillary, as always, used these occasions to extol her husband’s many virtues, especially his record as president, conveniently forgetting how many women, even feminists, turned on him at the end.
In fact, one of the really low points of her campaigns – rarely commented upon then or since – was when she blithely announced that her presidency would be a “two-fer.” Bill, she said, would be named her “Economic Czar” and the two would sit down every morning over breakfast to discuss the broader trajectory of her administration. The idea of Bill returning to the White House, no doubt scheming to establish a private harem in the shadows somewhere, brought the unseemly underbelly of the Clinton partnership and its potential for continuing moral degradation home again. It was not a pretty vision to behold – and many voters, including so many women that ended up turning in the end to Trump, clearly couldn’t bear it — a lesson that Hillary herself may have finally taken to heart.
Some observers have pointed to the Netflix series House of Cards – and its deliciously diabolical partnership between a venal and endlessly scheming Southern politician and his charming but conniving wife — as a deliberate knock-off of the Clinton’s own Machiavellian power coupling. In the series the two rise together to the presidency, thanks to blatant skullduggery including blackmail and even murder, and in the end, the wife even turns on the husband to assume the presidency alone.
Hillary, it seems, has now entered some version of this final act herself. There was no Bill or mention of Bill at all, not even obliquely, on the talk show circuit last weekend even as she waxed on about Donald Trump and his impeachable offenses and seemed to enjoy her “I told you so” moment in the spotlight, this time all by herself.
Without the Bubba overhang, Hillary does carry considerably more weight these days. There was a time when she seemed to be holding onto her high-flying husband’s ankles just to breathe, even as those ankles were covered over with his loosened trousers. The trousers are gone and she’s managed to free herself from one of those ankles. Doubtless, though, at the ripe old age of 71, and the proud grandmother of three, she’s still working on the other.