Hillary Clinton once wished her dad a Happy Father’s Day by commemorating her mother. And likely not by accident. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton were raised by fathers who set poor examples—a reminder of the crucial role fathers play in raising society’s future leaders.
Certainly, Jackie Robinson is an example of a man who developed himself into an upstanding leader in spite of a deadbeat dad. (Robinson’s mother raised Jackie and his four siblings alone after their father abandoned them.) So, the point of today’s column is to encourage men to be great fathers—not that an imperfect father determines one’s future.
Today, we’ll focus on the fathers who raised two of America’s most famous political leaders: Hillary and Bill Clinton. Bill and Hillary rarely mention their fathers publicly, and for good reason. With different fathers, they may both have become more like Ronald Reagan than Saul Alinsky.
Young People Want Fathers
Every young person needs and desires a male role model in their life. Every young person wants a father. So, one of the best things we can do for young people as a whole is to encourage men to be good fathers and father figures.
Many people consider today’s young people—Millennials and Gen Zs—to be entitled, illiterate and lethargic. Yet you never hear anyone point out: we didn’t raise ourselves. (That credit goes to Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers.) For example, 82% of Boomers did household chores as children, but when they became parents only 28% required their children to do chores.
Young people follow the example of their parents, especially their fathers, and without better fathers it will be very challenging for our young people to develop strong characters.
Hillie and Billie: An American Tragedy
A good man who goes bad is a tragedy. Bill Clinton was born with many traits necessary for leadership—especially charisma. As a young girl, Hillary also possessed many solid leadership traits. Hillary was a good student and a quick study, bringing A’s home to her parents. She was a hard worker, willing to help her father in his business or complete chores around the house. Unfortunately, both Bill and Hillary’s fathers molded them in such a way that they both were more prone to use their strengths for evil than for good.
When Hillary spoke of her eagerness to learn at the family dinner table, her father—Hugh E. Rodham—would sneer and correct her: “Learn for earning’s sake.” As a businessman, “Hugh was a wheeler-dealer, a shyster-type guy, always trying to screw somebody,” his cousin Oscar Dowdy told bestselling author Jerry Oppenheimer. “You’re too f****** honest to be in business,” Hugh told Oscar. It’s no wonder then, that Hillary grew up to seemingly believe that money—however obtained—was more important than improving society.
As a testimony to their father’s (bad) example, all three of his children (Hillary, Hugh and Tony) have been investigated for shady practices at the federal level.
Tony Rodham has been reprimanded by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general for utilizing his company, McAuliffe, to improperly secure EB-5 visas. Tony wooed Cambodia dictator Hun Sen as an investor to his consulting firm despite the fact that Hun Sen was banned from doing business in the United States. Hugh and Tony also were involved in shady business deals with partners convicted of embezzlement, bank fraud and cocaine trafficking.
Hillary’s father’s other notable flaws were his verbal abuse of his wife, who he routinely criticized in front of his children around the kitchen dinner table and his sons, who neighbors say he would curse at regularly and loudly. Hillary wasn’t safe from his biting tongue: when she brought home a report card with A’s, her father made it clear that great wasn’t good enough, saying: “You must go to a pretty easy school.”
Hugh’s aggression apparently rubbed off on his wife. One day, four-year-old Hillary came home and told her mother that the neighbor girl had “bullied” her. Her mother instructed her to “hit her back.” Hillary recalls that she walked across the street and slapped the neighbor girl, while her mother watched “from behind the [window] curtain” with approval.
No wonder Hillary became a leader who seemed to trivialize violence, famously throwing up her hands and shrieking: “What difference, at this point, does it make?” about the cause of death of four Americans who died in Benghazi under her watch as Secretary of State.
Bill Clinton’s father also left much to be desired. While Bill’s mother, Virginia Dell, was “intelligent, ambitious, and passionate” and dedicated to community service, her choice in men was unfortunate. Dell fell madly in love with William Jefferson Blythe Jr. He failed to let her know that she was his fourth wife, and he was still legally married to his third wife.
Shortly after Bill was born, his biological father died in a car accident. Four years later, his mother re-married a preacher named Roger Clinton, who was Bill’s father-figure until he was around 21 years old. Tragically, Roger was a “gambler, alcoholic, and notorious womanizer… an abusive husband prone to jealous rages.” It is no wonder, then, that Bill learned by example that abusing women is normal and acceptable.
Hillary and Bill’s stories illustrate that good fathers are pivotal to helping children develop into strong and moral leaders. Happy Father’s Day to all the men out there who are working hard and enthusiastically to be great role models.