“…I may slit my throat…”
That was former President Bill Clinton’s joking response - - or at least part of his joking response - - when asked how me might cope with going from being the leader of the free world, to being the spouse of another president.
He made this statement on a recent episode of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” on the Comedy Central cable television channel. While being interviewed about his new book “Giving: How Each Of Us Can Change The World,” Clinton commented on a range of issues in a mostly light-hearted, yet poignant show segment.
For Stewart’s part, he was being the smart host that he is - - and asking the question that is probably on the minds of millions.
It may not be the first question that comes to mind for those of us who are paying attention to this unprecedented election cycle. But after the questions of “who do I like?” and “who do I want?,” the “what if?” questions quickly come in to play.
“What if she gets elected President?” “What if he becomes the first male presidential spouse?” Some may not want to think about these questions, but intuitively most thoughtful Americans realize that the questions are real and need to be contemplated.
And it’s difficult to imagine that, if this comes to pass, it will do nothing short of changing the dynamic of the presidency itself.
I’m not suggesting that the presidency will be forever changed. But I am saying that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be unlike any presidency we have known. And this is true not merely because of who Hillary is, herself.
For most of our nation’s history, the role of “presidential spouse” has largely involved being a social coordinator and interior designer. Our nation’s First Ladies have almost always been involved in the details of state visits, and maintaining the “elegance” of The White House.
But certain of them stand out as having done things differently. For example, FDR’s wife Eleanor Roosevelt was a very high-profile First Lady, writing her own syndicated newspaper column and presenting her own regular radio broadcasts from The White House.
Years later, Patricia Nixon would accompany her husband President Richard Nixon on historic trips to China and the Soviet Union, and went on to visit Africa and South America herself as a “Personal Representative” of the President.
Betty Ford, while burdened with the tasks of “damage control” after the resignation of President Nixon, remained an outspoken advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment during Gerald Ford’s brief presidency. She also changed America’s thinking about cancer, and drug addiction, by speaking candidly and publicly of her struggles with both.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.