In a remarkable departure from her long-standing, tight-lipped policy against discussing her personal life, Hillary Clinton gushed about her marriage to husband Bill in a recent interview.
The disclosure was so significant that Rick Klein and Nancy Flores of ABC’s “The Note” wrote it was a big step in the “great softening of Hillary Clinton.”
Other Clinton watchers, however, say the effort is nothing more than a calculated public relations campaign to humanize Mrs. Clinton and quiet questions about her marital relationship.
Essence, a fashion magazine targeted to black women, published an interview online on October 22 in which Clinton called her husband a “romantic” and showed off a Chanel watch he had brought her home from a trip.
She pointed to the watch band, made of white ceramic pieces and said, “I had dental surgery, and he said it reminded him of teeth.”
Biographer Sally Bedell Smith, author of the newly-released “For the Love of Politics” which closely examines the Clinton’s relationship, said in a phone interview that this kind of media outreach was part of a long-standing political “pattern” the Clintons have used.
She said the Clintons have always “very carefully released tidbits [of their personal lives] that don’t contain that much information.”
“Neither one is going to say how they really interact with each other and it’s always their private conversations other people are trying to figure out,” Smith explained.
In the Essence interview, Clinton also entertained questions about her husband’s infidelity. She said “I have never doubted that it was a marriage worth investing in even in the midst of those challenges, and I'm really happy that I made that decision."
Smith said this wasn’t news either. “From the very beginning she tolerated his infidelity. She just decided that she was going to put up with it because there were various advantages to that.” Smith remarked, “Bill has always given her little gifts….usually when he has misbehaved and needs to win her favor back.”
Emmett Tyrell, founder and editor of the American Spectator and author of “The Clinton Crackup,” said Mrs. Clinton’s “whole life is a public relations campaign.” In order to win in 2008, he said it would be “politically important” for Clinton to discuss her marriage, but “it’s pretty difficult to explain the inexplicable.”
He called her the “greatest enabler in the world.”
Clinton’s chief strategist Mark Penn has told the media many women will vote for Clinton because she will be the first woman on a presidential ballot, but Smith said that Clinton wasn’t a “pure choice” for many women.
“It would be easier for a woman [to win] who had gotten there on her own, like Margaret Thatcher,” Smith said. She said it would be difficult to predict how the couple, who once pitched themselves as a “two for one,” would share power. If Hillary wins in 2008,. “which President would it be at any given moment?” she asked.
In addition to the Essence interview, there are a number of other indications Clinton is trying to feminize her image. She has appeared on ABC’s “The View” where she chatted about her hair, joked about her penchant for pantsuits with CNN, and discussed her pregnancy with daughter Chelsea in recent weeks.
Richard Collins, president of StopHerNow.com, which seeks to mobilize people against Clinton’s candidacy, said “It’s all showbiz.”
“She uses everything like a prop. Just like that cat she discarded.”
His reference is to the Clintons’ former First Feline, a white-footed cat named Socks. As First Lady, Mrs. Clinton published a children’s book that featured the cat, titled “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.” After leaving the White House, the Clintons gave the cat to Mr. Clinton’s personal secretary, Bettie Currie.
While the Clintons appear to be willing to release some details about their relationship, a great number remain, literally, under lock and key.
On the campaign trail, Clinton touts the experience she gained as First Lady working on matters like healthcare, but public access remains closed to records inside her husband’s Presidential Library that deal with policies Mrs. Clinton was involved in shaping. The taxpayer-funded library, located in Little Rock, Arkansas, has been operating for nearly three years, but only one half of one percent of the records are available to the public.
Michael Isikoff reports in the new edition of Newsweek that Mr. Clinton made a November 2002 request to the National Archives, which controls this information,that “confidential communications” related to foreign policy, “sensitive policy, personal or political issues, “legal issues and advice” which encompass federal investigations and “communications directly between the President and First Lady, and their families, unless routine in nature” be withheld.
Subsequently, numerous Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by reporters and authors like Smith to the National Archives to gain access to these documents have been refused.
The Clintons have also declined to disclose the names of those who donated money to the library.