Former President Bill Clinton spoke lovingly Tuesday night about his wife Hillary, taking us through their lifetime together. There is no question they have stuck by one another through better or worse. They are America’s top political power couple, and they have raised a wonderful and successful daughter.
But let’s not forget the elephant in the room.
Bill Clinton has had a lot of sex outside his marriage.
And he did it while in the Oval Office. With a White House intern. With his wife upstairs. The wife who publicly defended him before she was told the truth.
Through all the stories that Bill Clinton told about his wife, he forgot one of the most important. When he cheated on her while he was president, and the world was watching his embarrassing and highly partisan impeachment and trial, Hillary did not choose to walk out of the limelight and live out her days in obscurity.
She could have done so and every American would have understood.
No, Hillary Clinton, still committed to public service, avoided the drama of a scorned first lady and instead put her energy into being elected a U.S. senator from New York. That decision — her successful decision — gave her the credentials to run for president and the qualifications to serve as Secretary of State.
Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, love her for saving her marriage or hate her for “enabling” his behavior, she has never stopped working to develop the resume to ask the American people to be their Commander In Chief.
From my book Front Row Seat at the Circus:
Shortly before the New Hampshire primary in 1992—with Bill Clinton’s campaign on life support after allegations of adultery—the Clintons had their first joint television interview on 60 Minutes. It aired immediately following the Super Bowl and had a huge TV audience. Bill Clinton denied during that interview that he had ever had an extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers (during a deposition six years later he would admit he did have an affair with her). As reporter Steve Kroft pushed for more details—and with a presidential campaign hanging in the balance—Hillary Clinton famously said:
“I’m not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.” The interview is credited for having helped steady the campaign. Bill Clinton placed second in New Hampshire but went on to win the nomination and the presidency.
Six years later, now as First Lady, Clinton found herself doing another television interview defending her husband who was now accused of lying about having “sexual relations with that woman”; White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
“I think the important thing now is to stand as firmly as I can and say that, you know, the President has denied these allegations on all counts, unequivocally, and we’ll see how this plays out,” she told NBC’s Matt Lauer. “The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”
Hillary Clinton was still playing offense for her husband, saying publicly she believed his denials and that their political enemies were responsible for making all of it up. But less than eight months later, Bill Clinton told the nation in a live televised address:
“Indeed, I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.”
Bill Clinton was impeached by the House for lying under oath about Lewinsky but survived a trial in the Senate. With just over a year left in his presidency, Hillary Clinton—the scorned political wife—could have decided to hide or go away. Instead, she announced she was running for the U.S. Senate in New York—one of the top political jobs in the country.
And she won. Big.
By every objective measure Hillary Clinton is one of the most fascinating political figures of our time.
Read more in Front Row Seat at the Circus.