THE IoS PROFILE: Hillary Rodham Clinton - She Doesn't Bake Cookies ; ... and Neither, as She Once Said, Does She Stand by Her Man like a Little Woman in a Tammy Wynette Song. We Know a Lot More Now about the Former First Lady Following Her Stiff-Upper-Lip-and-Tell Revelations in Living History. but What the World Really Wants to Know Is: Will America Welcome a Woman (This Woman) to the White House?

By Cornwell, Rupert | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), June 8, 2003 | Go to article overview
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THE IoS PROFILE: Hillary Rodham Clinton - She Doesn't Bake Cookies ; ... and Neither, as She Once Said, Does She Stand by Her Man like a Little Woman in a Tammy Wynette Song. We Know a Lot More Now about the Former First Lady Following Her Stiff-Upper-Lip-and-Tell Revelations in Living History. but What the World Really Wants to Know Is: Will America Welcome a Woman (This Woman) to the White House?


Cornwell, Rupert, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


First the question asked by everyone who remembers 1998, the ineffably sordid year of Monica: why has Hillary Rodham Clinton revisited the moment of her greatest humiliation, the bleakest moment of all in a marriage surely studded with bleak moments?

"I am a private person - it was difficult to write this book," she confessed last week as the first leaked excerpts of her memoirs appeared. But few are the reticences that an $8m publisher's advance cannot overcome - and Hillary always was more concerned than Bill, the careless poet of politics, with the practical things of life, like money. After all, it was Hillary, not her husband, who in 1979 turned an infamous cattle futures trade on a tip from a friend, netting $100,000 (a huge sum in those days) to supplement his very modest salary as Governor of Arkansas.

But money, one suspects, is not her only purpose. Living History is a book about the past, but with the future very much in mind. Today's recounting of yesterday's pain looks very much like tomorrow's intended liberation, clearing the decks for the former First Lady to make a White House bid in her own right. The very thought seems preposterous: is America ready for a woman in the White House, a woman, moreover, whose very surname is synonymous with scandal, dividing the country according to the liberal- conservative culture wars that now pass for American politics? Look a little closer, however, and the notion is not so far-fetched.

By any standard she is qualified. Leave aside the ever- intriguing question of who called the shots in the Clinton White House. At the very least she knows the business from the inside - amid pressures few presidents have ever faced. By common consent, Hillary has done a fine job since becoming the junior Senator for New York in January 2001. Only Bill Clinton is a more potent Democratic fundraiser. And, often overlooked, she has a marvellous sense of humour.

That came through the first time I met her, in February 1992. Laughing and joking, she sat at a table in a shopping mall outside Nashua, New Hampshire. Those were dark days. Bill was in a McDonald's across the way, greeting customers as they entered, the comeback kid trying to save his White House candidacy in the state's vital primary, amid scandal over his philandering with the nightclub singer Gennifer Flowers, and claims that he had dodged the Vietnam draft.

A few days before, the couple had appeared on the prime-time news show 60 Minutes, which would catapult Hillary into the national consciousness. With a sheepish Bill beside her, she was asked how she had put up with the problems in her marriage. "I'm not sitting here as some little woman," came the crisp reply, "standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I'm sitting here because I love him."

Country stars and their fans rose as one in protest. But that evening one ballsy lady had stolen the show. At later campaign events, Bill would bring his wife on stage, proclaiming: "Vote for one, and get two." And Hillary has stood by him ever since, in a partnership that conforms to no rules, but which has provided fodder for a dozen books. It is a soap- cum-psychodrama that fascinates or repels, depending on your side in the culture wars, but leaves few indifferent.

Time and again, above all after the Monica Lewinsky humiliation, she asked herself the question, whether or not to stick with her husband. When he told her the truth about the young intern (by the book's account just 48 hours before the 42nd President had to testify before a grand jury, after six months of lies) Hillary wanted to "wring Bill's neck". She was not sure the marriage "could - or should - survive" the betrayal.

But as usual, she toughed it out. Her mother Dorothy Rodham loved to tell the story of the four-year-old Hillary and the neighbourhood bully in the middle-class Chicago suburb of Park Ridge.

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THE IoS PROFILE: Hillary Rodham Clinton - She Doesn't Bake Cookies ; ... and Neither, as She Once Said, Does She Stand by Her Man like a Little Woman in a Tammy Wynette Song. We Know a Lot More Now about the Former First Lady Following Her Stiff-Upper-Lip-and-Tell Revelations in Living History. but What the World Really Wants to Know Is: Will America Welcome a Woman (This Woman) to the White House?
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