Feminism, the Public and the Private

By Joan B. Landes | Go to book overview
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Hillary's Husband Re-elected! The Clinton Marriage of Politics and Power

Erica Jong

Here we are, two minutes after the last American presidential election in the twentieth century, and Hillary Rodham Clinton is still the most problematic First Lady in American history-- admired abroad, hated at home, mistrusted by women journalists even though this Administration has actually done much good for women. Suspected of being a megalomaniac, embroiled in document-losing, spy-hiring, the suicide of an aide conjectured to be her lover, and possible perjury; pilloried in the press and jeered at in political cartoons; distrusted even by her admirers--can't Hillary do anything right? Why does she get no credit for all the positive things she has done?

The old campaign button that trumpeted 'Elect Hillary's Husband in '92' showed a picture of Hillary, not Bill. Indeed, it's hard to remember it now. It's even hard to remember how Hillary flouted the rules decreed for political wives: the obligatory Stepford Wife impersonation, the fake flirtatious flattery that makes wives seem feminine and non-threatening; the willingness to pretend to be the power behind the throne; the diplomatic surrender to the role of First Lady.

The kaleidoscope of Hillary images and the frequently self- destructive behaviour of the First Lady are particularly regrettable because both the Clinton Administration and the Clinton marriage are historic. As a couple, the Clintons raise important issues about both electoral and sexual politics. It is clear that without HRC's participation, Bill Clinton would have gone right down the Gary Hart sewer. Because his wife stood by him in that first Barbara Walters interview in 1992, because he did not exactly deny 'causing pain' in the marriage while Hillary held his hand supportively, the first Clinton campaign was able to weather and rise above what

First printed in The Nation, 263/ 17 ( November 25, 1996), 11-15. Copyright © Erica Jong ( 1996). Reprinted by permission.


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