Wednesday, December 26, 2007

If Bill Had Been Faithful to Hillary...

How different would the American political landscape look today?

The question is raised anew by the sight of the former President taking over the spotlight to try to save his wife's candidacy with trademark meaning-of-is-is talk about Obama's inexperience and his own opposition to the war in Iraq from the get-go.

"Maybe," Maureen Dowd suggests, "the Boy Who Can’t Help Himself is simply engaging in his usual patterns of humiliating Hillary and lighting an exploding cigar when things are going well."

The conjugal question comes up, too, in the new issue of Newsweek. Sally Bedell Smith, author of a book about the Clinton marriage, writes about the health-car debacle in 1993: "When Bill tried to make the plan more flexible, he had to defer to her, in part because of their implicit marital bargain, in which Bill ceded her power as a trade-off for his history of infidelity."

It's impossible to talk about Bill Clinton's character without running into a polarizing political buzz saw--vast right-wing conspiracy vs. moral depravity in the Oval Office--but the connection between the impeachment, the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s and Al Gore's narrow defeat in 2000 are too important to be swept into the dust bin of history, particularly with the prospect of both Clintons returning to the White House.

Today's New York Times notes that "during one of President Bill Clinton’s major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone advising him, as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled."

A year ago, the former President reacted with fury to a TV mini-series portraying him as so distracted then that he failed to focus on the emerging threat of Osama bin Laden. Yet, the program's advisor was 9/11 Commission chairman Tom Kean, and there is evidence that Clinton might have done more about bin Laden if not for fear of public reaction that attacking him might be seen as a "wag the dog" diversion from the impeachment.

Replaying Bill Clinton's record as a serially straying husband would be mean-spirited and pointless now if his wife were not now claiming spousal experience as justification and preparation for her own presidency.

But, in that light, it's not only proper but necessary to ask, how different might our lives be today if Bill Clinton had managed to be a faithful husband during those White House years? And what kind of distraction could he be if voters sent the Clintons back there for another four years?

1 comment:

dmf said...

i'm always amazed at how easy it is for people to arrogantly assert that they know all the ins and outs of someone's personal relationship, and therefore can make and and all valid judgments about it.