As Hillary Clinton kicks off her Senate re-election run and gears up for what is expected to be a take-no-prisoners presidential bid for 2008, attention is focused on her marriage. Despite her solid service to New York as that state’s junior senator, the media and her rivals can’t seem to help but view Hillary as an appendage of Bill.
As one letter-writer to the New York Times points out, the recent front-page story in that paper about the Clintons’ relationship invites an expectation that all presidential hopefuls will receive similarly prominent matrimonial analysis. That would be intriguing if it did not take us further down the wrong path.
By now, most thinking Americans understand and accept that presidents are human. They’ve apparently felt comfortable with W’s past addictions and his failure to master the English language, Ronald Reagan’s henpecked passivity, Bush-the-elder’s barfing in public, and even Bull Clinton’s zipper problems. This doesn’t mean Americans want a president who gets serviced in the Oval Office, who falls head first into the popcorn, or who defers to his wife and her astrologer on policy matters.
It simply means that when presidents display the human frailties we all have, America tends to be more forgiving — but still love gossip.
Let’s assume that Hillary does run and let’s further assume that Rudy Giuliani ends up topping the Republican ticket or taking the vice-presidential slot below John McCain.
The invisible protective shield afforded by his POW survival status serves McCain well for now, but there will be plenty to be said about him once the gloves come off. His recent public display of affection at the altar of Jerry Falwell will certainly generate more mixed reviews, and McCain’s private life and admitted affairs, always a matter of much speculation, will be under greater scrutiny.
Giuliani, on the other hand, makes Hillary look like Mother Theresa. His public treatment of the mother of his children, ex-wife Donna Hanover, was a disgrace even by Big Apple standards. Once freed from those bonds of matrimony, he married long-time girlfriend Judith Nathan. Between these two dramas there were suggestions of a possible liaison with a staffer many years his junior. In the zipper department, former seminarian Giuliani gives Bill Clinton some, um, stiff competition.
Like all women of power and achievement, Hillary has been called everything from loose to a bitchy lesbian. This is standard procedure: the myth that women who succeed must have slept their way to the top, with people of either gender, is alive and well. The brilliant candidate, an accomplished lawyer, scholar, and political professional with roots going back to Nixon’s early days, when she served on his staff, seems lost in the anti-Hillary rant.
In the absence of fair dealing, the country grows to expect equal opportunity ranting about all the other candidates as well.