The current issue of The Economist magazine has as its front cover illustration and inside cover story, “The Comeback Kids,” referring to the possibility of both Hillary and Bill Clinton occupying the White House together for the next eight years. Hillary, at last count, was some 18 points ahead of her nearest rival for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama. And Bill Clinton continues to draw warm and loving crowds wherever he goes on his lecture tours and co-appearances with Hillary.
While the gossip columnists wonder how Bill Clinton would be addressed (“first gentleman,” etc.), the fact is, November 2008 is still a far piece down the road, as they say in the Midwest, and Hillary will have some issues to deal with, very likely defamatory reports and public affronts. Her opponents, meanwhile, will continue to harp on her lack of competence, focusing on her disastrous health care reform plan of 1993-94.
Then there is the old bugaboo of Billâ€™s philandering and unfaithfulness with the young Monica Lewinsky. The episode, which nearly got President Clinton ousted from office, is currently being resurrected, by inference,Â by British jurors holding an inquest into Princess Dianaâ€™s death and that of her lover, Dodi al-Fayed, in a car crash in Paris. It was Prince Charlesâ€™ brazen infidelity with longtime lover Camilla Parker-Bowles that drove Diana out of Buckingham Palace and into the arms of several paramours. Many Americans feel that Hillary grudgingly stayed with Bill solely to further her political career. Likewise, Britons hold an unending grudge against the prince for his disloyalty to Diana – many accusing him of using Diana as a brood mare to produce two male heirs to the throne and then abandoning her. Like it or not, the unsavory parallels between the two families are there.
Recent polls of Iowa voters by the Des Moines Register show that Democratic candidates John Edwards and Barack Obama are rated stronger than Hillary on the issues of integrity and morality – the latter being based on her alleged corruption by special interest groups. Mrs. Clintonâ€™s response: “A lot of people are really coming around to support me after they get to see me as who I am.”
There is the issue of Hillaryâ€™s temper, which I addressed in a recent blog titled, “Hillary Clinton – is her anger manageable?” In that piece, Carl Bernsteinâ€™s biography of Hillary (A Woman in Charge) is quoted, noting her tendency to label people as friends or enemies and, in the latter case, to bear lifelong grudges. Since her election as senator, Hillary has formed what has come to be known as her “war room” from which emerge strategies to deal harshly with her critics and opponents.
Recently, during a campaign stop in New Hampton, Iowa, Hillary was confronted by Randall Rolph, a retired Democrat, who asked her about her recent vote calling on President Bush to declare Iranâ€™s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group. Clinton accused Rolph of being fed the question by some of her enemies. Rolph angrily denied her charge, and she ultimately softened her attitude. The following day, The American Spectator quoted an angry Rolph saying he formed the question on his own and that Hillary had no right to assume he couldnâ€™t come up with a coherent or concrete thought of his own. Rolph continued, “She never did answer the question. She just bitch-slapped me.”
Still to be determined is how Mrs. Clintonâ€™s explosive temperament will manifest itself if the Monica Lewinsky episode is resurrected. Bill Clinton is regularly portrayed as Hillaryâ€™s “biggest asset and her biggest liability.” The Economist refers to Bill Clintonâ€™s “rehabilitation” and the short memory that most Americans have for things unpleasant. He is reportedly more popular among Democrats now than when he left the White House – with 88% of democrats giving him a favorable report card. His appearances with Hillary this summer in Iowa are said to have put her over the top in that state, giving her a victory in the Iowa caucuses and, in effect, ending the race for the Democratic nomination.