Bill and Hillary Bickerson: White House Martial Arts

By Fields, Susan | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 16, 1999 | Go to article overview

Bill and Hillary Bickerson: White House Martial Arts


Fields, Susan, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Lots of married couples and lovers quarrel and make-up, quarrel and make-up. It comes with the territory. But rarely do the rest of us quarrel and reconcile in the headlines.

We've had that with Hillary and Bill for years. It began with that famous "60 Minutes" interview; like Tammy Wynette, she stood by her man by sitting by her man. When he put her in charge of health reform, it was generally assumed that she had struck a deal with him. We've seen them dancing by sea and snuggling by land. We've watched them separate like magnets that repel.

Hillary's gone from treating the president as "nothing but a hound dog," to making him heel like a puppy, raising money for her Senate campaign.

But as bad as the personal confrontations were, nothing's been quite as bad as their public differences on policy issues. The first lady calls Jerusalem the "eternal capital" of Israel. The first man says its status should be decided through talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The president springs Puerto Rican terrorists from the pokey. The first lady flips and flops and finally stays flopped.

Obvious questions: Does the first lady pander to the Jewish vote? (She even found a Jewish step-grandfather in the family tree.) To the Puerto Rican vote? To the upstate New York vote? These are all legitimate concerns of a voting public but it's positively eerie to watch the first couple disagree.

There's simply no greater way to exacerbate Clinton fatigue than being an unwilling party to their policy feuds. Her listening tour has become our voyeur tour.

When Paula Zahn interviewed George Bush the elder on Fox, she asked what he thought about the first lady's campaign for the Senate. Mr. Bush said, "I couldn't take it." Simple as that: "I couldn't take it."

This is not about male chauvinism or feminism, but a lot about the image of American leadership in the eyes of the world. It's tacky.

Can anyone imagine the first couple of any other nation acting this way?

Historians of first ladyhood suggest that the role of the wife of the president reflects the status of women in society. …

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