If any other man in America but Bill Clinton had dared refer to a 68-year-old, first-time-ever female nominee for president by a major party as a “girl,” he would have been instantly pecked to death by flocks of outraged feminists.
“Girl,” indeed! How patronizing, how demeaning, how reactionary, how chauvinistic, how—how–male!
But Bill Clinton did just that in his speech to the DNC on Tuesday night and got applauded for it. Mr. Clinton has always been the beneficiary of a double standard where feminists are concerned. They have always been more than willing to overlook his “bimbo eruptions” and his crude sexual harassment of women—all the more vile because he was a powerful man who preferred to prey precisely on those women who were most vulnerable.
Hillary Clinton has been favored by the same double standard. Thus, she is not criticized for subordinating her own career to her husband’s—bringing home the bacon as a partner in the Rose Law Firm while Bill earned $35,000 a year as Governor of Arkansas. Nor for playing the loyal, longsuffering “little woman” when her husband—not once but twice—publicly humiliated her before the whole nation by his shameless adulteries.
No. Politics is politics after all. Hillary was fully expecting—if she could just stomach Bill’s boorishness long enough—that she would get her reward. And she did. She leveraged her role as the president’s wife first into a seat in the U.S. Senate, then into Secretary of State in the Obama administration and now, finally, into the Democratic Party’s first woman candidate for president.
Does anybody seriously believe that she would be where she is now if she had not been Bill Clinton’s wife?
Remember Hillary Clinton campaigning at her husband’s side in 1992, telling voters, “If you vote for him, you get me”? Better yet, do you remember what she said the following year when the Clinton administration was already coming under fire for ethical lapses: “I’m not going to have some reporters pawing through our papers. We are the president”? We???
Oh yes, I fully believe that art imitates life and that Bill and Hillary were the prototypes for the despicable Frank and Claire Underwood in the popular TV series, House of Cards.
What’s that? Do I hear somebody complaining that I’m not giving Hillary Clinton credit for her intelligence, her abilities and her own hard work?
Not at all. I cheerfully acknowledge all three. She is smart, ambitious and a workaholic. I am merely saying that Hillary did not reach the top of the pole by her own efforts in the way that Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel and Theresa May did—that is, on their own without any boost from their husbands’ careers.
That is why Secretary Clinton’s nomination for president is less a triumph for woman than it has been portrayed. And that is why, if she is elected president, her presidency is going to suffer because of the career path she took to attain it.
Her first problem will be to find a suitable job for Bill. And Bill will have to have a job—if for no other reason than we know what happens when Bill has too much time on his hands.
And what will Bill do when he gets his job? We’ve heard so much about the novelty of having the first woman president, we’ve forgotten that the role of “First Spouse” will be just as much of a novelty and therefore just as worthy of media attention.
And we can expect Bill to take full advantage of the novelty of his own position. We know that he craves attention. It is as essential to him as oxygen. He’s hardly likely to emulate Prince Philip and dutifully walk two paces behind his wife on all public occasions. As Rachel Maddow pointed out immediately afterwards, Bill spent the first half of his speech to the Democratic Convention on Tuesday night “Building [Hillary’s] whole political story … around her marriage to him.” That is hardly a favorable omen.
But suppose Bill decides to be chivalrous and makes every effort to avoid stealing the limelight from his wife. That still won’t be enough, because even if Bill genuinely tries to be self-effacing, he can’t control the political gossips.
Bill is universally acknowledged to be not only a shrewder politician than Hillary, by a smoother and more gregarious one as well. He is a natural politician in a way that Hillary is not. As soon as Hillary’s fledgling administration runs into trouble, she’s going to be bombarded with demands to throw Bill into the breach. After all, President Obama said that Bill should be named “secretary of explaining stuff,” so why not let him—especially since he’s so good at it?
How long do you suppose it will be before every decision made by President Hillary Clinton is being pored over for signs of former President Bill Clinton’s influence?
Good decision? She listened to Bill. Bad decision? She should have listened to Bill.
That may be unfair—just as it will be unfair for Bill to have to put up with a lot of vulgar “First Spouse” jokes—but politics is politics. And as Harry Truman long ago observed, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
I expect to vote Libertarian in this election because I hold Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in equally low regard. But I have this consolation: Whoever wins, the presidency that follows should be vastly entertaining.
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