Who knows when it took a turn for the worse – when the Clinton marriage stopped being one of commitment and became a marriage of convenience. Despite the idyllic picture that Bill Clinton painted in his DNC Convention speech of a pair of young idealists settling down in a two-room house in rural Arkansas (after both completed Yale law and one was running for Governor), becoming the beaming parents of a red-faced cherub, and then settling into a life-long partnership based on love and mutual respect – The Clinton union is plainly anything but a traditional marriage.
Let’s face it, Hillary was never destined to be the traditional wife – and Bill admitted as much in the speech. Almost every indication about her early youth was that she was both free spirit and a firebrand, someone who was driven from an early age to break through the glass ceiling and assume the mantle of power in America. One wonders whether her marriage to Bill Clinton was a marriage of convenience – at least as far as Hillary saw it – from the very beginning. Shrewd enough to know that despite the fact that doors were opening for women in the early 1970’s, and law schools like Yale and Harvard were admitting women in record numbers, the heights of power, the smoke-filled rooms and white male only country clubs where power was actually brokered, were all but closed to her.
By marrying Bill, another young ambitious graduate – and Southern white male – she would be able to ride his coat-tails and be granted admission (albeit as his companion) to a private club that she, despite her talent, accomplishment and ambition, was barred from joining solely because of her gender. To admit that Hillary Clinton and women of her generation (as well as subsequent and previous generations) have faced a glass ceiling limiting their accomplishments – is to admit the obvious. The fact remains, that before now, no major political party has ever nominated a woman to be President of the United States. This certainly stands out among world democracies, especially since two of Europe’s most powerful nations, England and Germany, are currently helmed by women. Even such countries as India and Sierra Leone, hardly known as places where women’s rights are championed, have already elected a female leader.
But looking at the Clintons marriage one wonders whether it was a business arrangement from the beginning, or whether, at some point along the line, the lies, betrayals and infidelities killed what love there once was – and left only a partnership bound together by the mutual pursuit of naked ambition. What broke the love? Was it the numerous extra-marital affairs while Bill served as Governor? Was it the cover-ups of financial dealings by Hillary in connection with the fraudulent Whitewater Development Corporation? Surely by the time we got to the tawdry, Monica Lewinsky fiasco, the Clintons’ love affair, if ever there were one, had petered out, and perhaps the only remaining thing left was spousal privilege against incrimination.
But aside from being able to confide in each other where the ‘bodies’ were buried without fear of the legal recrimination, another, stronger bond seemed to emerge in the aftermath of the Bill Clinton Presidency. It is this: Bill agreed to back Hillary’s naked ambition to wield political power. Bill may be ambitious, a climber in his own right, and a natural politician – but Hillary is another animal all together. She exhibits none of Bill’s trademark charm, while aspiring to all of Bill’s outsized political power. While Hillary has definitely advocated for women’s rights, sponsored child care legislation, and voiced concern for civil rights – those were merely means to an end; they were part of a long term strategy to build a resume that would eventually break through the glass ceiling, and anoint her the first ‘female’ president of the United States. Oh, she of the traveling pants suit – just as good as any man, only bolder, tougher and with more balls.
Even if Hillary were once an empathetic figure – a pioneer as first lady who was not merely content to support her husband’s presidency, but who also insisted on having her own political portfolio and serving as a de facto cabinet member – she has used the platform of the presidency as a springboard to achieve an aggressive and ambitious political career unlike that seen by any former first lady. And good for Hillary; she leveraged Bill’s popularity to build both a personal fortune and a seat at the table.
But that’s bad for America. The very fact that the wife of a former (and, notably, still living) President is now a major party’s nominee cannot escape the incestuous taint. It points to a state of political entrenchment among a political class that has become so concentrated and interconnected as to actually qualify as inbred. Though the Hillary campaign is not technically a third term for Bill Clinton – it comes awfully close, too close in fact, to escape scrutiny from anyone who cares about our democracy. Further, it represents a weakening of the blood that is bound to have serious consequences for American leadership now and in the future.
It was perhaps telling in commentary by former NAACP President and Bernie Sanders supporter Benjamin Jealous, who exclaimed, during a CNN interview earlier this year – “for me what it comes down to is what Dr. Martin Luther King called the ‘three giant triplets of evil;’ racism, militarism and greed. On each of those categories, Clinton’s history is frankly complex and confounding.” One wonders whether there is an undiscovered evil sibling though, in the form of the Clintons’ business deal masquerading as a marital union.