Kathleen Parker

Hillary has paid hers and then some. She endured the humiliation of Bill's serial philandering and supported his career, while nursing the knowledge that she was the smarter one, if not as charming.

For this moment, she has bided her time and bitten her lip.

There are lots of ways to be married and it's no one's concern how couples manage their own in private. But in public, the Clintons' fate is also our nation's. Their marital vows included a blueprint for leading the country, first as a "two-fer" and later with the former president slated to star as "first laddie."

Then along came that upstart Obama -- from Hillary's hometown of Chicago, of all places -- and African-American, too. How does a woman tell a black it's not his turn?

No one's face was longer than Bill Clinton's in Iowa as Hillary conceded Obama's victory. Looking aged and depressed, he was a portrait of the optimist miscast as a stoic.

After Hillary's win in New Hampshire, Bill was back to his old boyish self, wiping away fake tears as he thanked voters for their support. The comeback kids were once again on familiar turf, basking in the glow of affirmation, released for a time from the insult of a public that doesn't mirror their own self-regard.

So yes, Hillary's choke was as real as Bill's relief, but both are tied to something bigger than our country's or our kids' future. They're tied to the Clintons' future. The question in defeat is: How do Bill and Hillary live the rest of their lives?

"This is one of the most important elections America's ever faced,"

Hillary said. And she wasn't just whistling Dixie.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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