The FRONTLINE Interview: Carl Bernstein
Carl Bernstein, along with his colleague Bob Woodward at The Washington Post, became famous for reporting on the Watergate scandal that drove President Richard Nixon from office. He is the author of A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Attempting to understand Clinton, whom he calls “the most famous woman in the world,” Bernstein examined her family, her faith and her record. “There are three fundaments to Hillary Clinton’s life — family, religion and a commitment to public service,” he says.
In his interview, Bernstein discusses Clinton’s relationship with her parents, the influence of a Methodist pastor who shaped her world view as a teenager, and a secret that Hillary Clinton kept for more than 30 years.
This is the transcript of a conversation with FRONTLINE’s Michael Kirk held on May 18, 2016. It has been edited for clarity and length.
Let’s start with this little girl who grows up in Park Ridge. Who’s the dad? Who’s the mom? What’s the life?
The most important thing to understand about her childhood is that it’s not the suburban idyll that she described in her own memoir. It was a difficult childhood in this leafy, suburban neighborhood outside Chicago. Her father was a difficult, almost misanthropic figure and very, very hard on the kids. He had been a drill instructor in World War II, States-side, and he ran his house like a drill instructor. He had a knee injury that went back to basic training or back to high school football. He would sit in a big Barcalounger chair and shout out orders at the kids very much like in basic training camp. It was not particularly pleasant. But more than anything, he was abusive verbally and dismissive of the intellect, sensibilities and feelings of Hillary’s mother, who herself is a remarkable woman.
At the dinner table, for instance, when the kids were young, Hillary’s father would throw out a topic for conversation, and everyone would begin to debate the topic. Hillary’s mother would attempt to come in with an opinion, and he’d say, “Well, what do you know?” But not even that nicely. She would eventually become very upset because of the way he would dismiss her and demean her. Finally she’d get up from the table and leave, and he’d say, “Don’t let the screen door hit you in the ass on the way out.” It was not funny.
He was a self-made man who had started a drapery and blinds business that became reasonably successful in upper-middle-class terms in this period in the ’50s, in America. A success story. [He was] a rock-ribbed conservative Republican with a lot of the cultural prejudices of his day and station.
He dominated the family and the conversation, but not the nurturing nature of Hillary’s mother. Dorothy Rodham had a terribly, terribly difficult childhood, abandoned by her own parents when she was very young, sent to live with her grandparents, who were also very tough on her. And she fled that eventually while still very young.
Who is this little girl living in that environment? What does she drag with her through life because of it?
… We ought to talk about Dorothy Rodham a little more and her influence on Hillary because of how great it was. Dorothy Rodham was a remarkable woman. Late in life, she went to college. She had always wanted to.
… Dorothy Rodham said, “If somebody hits you, you get up off the ground, you dust yourself [off], and you get up again,” just as Dorothy Rodham had done in her own life, both with her parents and with her husband, who was not physically abusive but verbally abusive.
… I’d like to go a little deeper into the politics. Early on she adopts her father’s politics, and she’s a Goldwater Girl.
She does adopt her father’s politics early on. She was a self-described Goldwater Girl in [the] early 1960s. Part of her evolution is very much consistent with millions of young Midwestern [people], especially people from traditional conservative backgrounds, who were very affected by the 1960s in college, by the Vietnam antiwar movement, not so much by the countercultural hippie movement in Hillary’s case.
Before you go there, can we stop to go to Don Jones?
That’s where I’m going. There are three fundaments to Hillary Clinton’s life: family, religion and a commitment to public service. To understand all of those elements, you have to go back to when she was a teenager. She grew up in a Methodist household, though her father did not go to church; her mother did.
… Hillary’s conventionally religious, goes to church, and a youth minister named Don Jones, then about 26 years old, arrives in a red Chevy Impala convertible at the church … and becomes really the most influential, certainly male figure, almost as a counterweight to Hillary’s father. [He] brings with him a philosophy about what’s really going on in America at the time, particularly in terms of civil rights. He takes Hillary and other young people in the congregation to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak in Chicago. He takes them into black churches so they can see how black kids and others less advantaged than themselves lived. This had a profound effect on Hillary. The Gospel that he led Hillary toward was very much Christ-based, in terms of the words of Christ himself about service and the responsibility to your neighbor.
… This Wesleyan mantra that Hillary very much absorbed was about do all the good you can, whenever you can, wherever you can, in any way you can, and serving whomever you can. It’s a pretty tough ideal, but it’s one that Hillary carried out through her childhood and into her adulthood, and has tried to hew to. …
That Wesleyan objective has guided her through her life. She carries a Bible with her that has underlined many passages.
[She is] deeply religious. When she went to the Senate, without wearing it on her sleeve, she started going to the prayer meetings of many of the conservative Republicans who dominated these prayer groups on the Hill. I don’t think it was some kind of ploy to win them over in some way. I think it had to do with her Christian beliefs. Religion very much has gotten her through the tough times, particularly in the marriage.
… Tell me about the Hillary who goes to Wellesley.
The influence of Don Jones and his ministry — he brings Bob Dylan records for the kids to listen to; he very much believes the philosophy and religious beliefs of people like Reinhold Niebuhr, brings in a copy of a picture of Picasso’s Guernica to explain the Spanish Civil War and what that was about.
He’s not an easy political read, but he’s certainly left of center, a real counterweight to Hillary’s father. Hillary was a prodigious grind and student, and she had a high school teacher who was very upset about Don Jones’ influence on Hillary. … The high school teacher was responsible eventually for having Don Jones fired from the church ministry, or reassigned to another diocese or synod of the Methodist church and out of the church Hillary was in.
The cause of it was very much this teacher’s concern about what Hillary was absorbing politically and a kind of Christian message that the teacher thought was inappropriate. It was the teacher himself who described this as a fight for Hillary’s soul.
It also was a fight for Hillary’s soul in terms of away from the values of her father. Her mother secretly admired what Don Jones was doing and saying and was a kind of silent ally of Don Jones in this. And meanwhile, [Hillary] is moving toward college. She picks Wellesley, one of the Seven Sisters schools, an Ivy League college, away from Chicago, and she goes there in an era of tumult and ferment in American culture, particularly young culture that changes America and changes Hillary Clinton.
But she’s not an acid-dropping, super free-love —
No, Hillary is not attracted to drugs, not an acid-dropping, free-love kind of person.
… She is a student. She’s somebody who learns and applies. She’s not a conceptual thinker the way Bill Clinton is. She’s much more an executor, someone who carries out what she’s learned, applies it, keeps learning how to do things a little bit differently.
… Bill Clinton is in many ways her great, great mentor, although it’s also a great love affair. With all the problems they’ve been through, I think it’s really important to understand their relationship, including the breakdown that occurred. It’s still a great love affair. From the beginning, each has looked at the other as the brightest star in their universe. Their journey is one of intent, both politically and as a couple, to look at the world through both their eyes and to work together.
… Let’s go to the Wellesley commencement. Sen. [Edward] Brooke [R-Mass.] talks, a black senator, the only black senator.
Let’s stop for one second about what Wellesley is.
… Wellesley is this remarkable place, a women’s school. The fact that Hillary is around women all the time is one of the [formative] aspects of who she becomes. At Wellesley, in this era, you no longer have this idea of women who are just interested in serving tea to their husbands-to-be. It’s an era early in the feminist movement. In Hillary’s time there, feminism figures in a nascent way, but very different values than she might have gotten in a state co-ed university, where women do everything. They put out the school newspaper; they organize the clubs and political movements.
She rises to the top there. She gives the commencement address at her graduation.
… Just to back up, Don Jones and the theologians that influenced Jones had this idea of the application of the teachings of Christ into a political message, into a social message and the individual’s action on behalf of others who are not as able to help themselves. … In terms of the basic principles of her life that go back to these fundaments that were established back with Don Jones, they’re very consistent. She’s been on the right side of the great issues of her day in terms of race, particularly, as Bill Clinton, in terms of helping the disadvantaged. Whatever problems people have about Hillary moving politically this way or that, she does have, though, a real spine in terms of what the basic beliefs are, and she’s adhered to that spine.
… You’ve walked me right into the place. Before we get to Wellesley, she’s in the summer of ’68. Martin Luther King gets killed in the spring. She’s in Washington working for the Republican Party in the summer of ’68, but also goes back to Chicago and is at Grant Park when the police riot happens. Place her in all of that.
There’s also a correspondence between Don Jones and Hillary. They maintained a correspondence through Hillary’s adult life, and in one particular letter, Jones refers to the philosopher Edmund Burke and poses the question about a “mind conservative and a heart liberal.” And Hillary writes back: Is it possible to be a mind conservative and a heart liberal? I think that is perhaps the best non-clichéd description of Hillary Clinton that you could possibly come up with: a mind conservative and a heart liberal.
The conservative part is about traditional values, about how she lives her life in terms of reverence for family, for religion. And the heart liberal has to do with helping others, back to that mantra: do all the good you can; the responsibility of social organization to help the community, to help the disadvantaged; a heart liberal, a feeling, liberal kind of liberalism.
… Back to the idea of family. There are many people in Hillary’s extended family who said of her mother they could never understand why her mother did not leave her father, given the kind of verbal abuse and the environment in which Dorothy Rodham lived with this very difficult person who was Hugh Rodham. Then you get to the situation with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Bill, other women — it’s not something that happens once. It happens in the most awful way possible during [Monica] Lewinsky. And she indeed thinks about leaving, but ultimately she stays in the marriage. And that, too, goes back to these basic values and what’s most important to her, as well as this great, very unusual love affair that she and Bill Clinton represent.
… I think there’s also considerable evidence that at Wellesley, Hillary’s happy to get the hell out of the house. She’s listening to the Beatles, to the Supremes. She’s going to dances. She has a boyfriend whom she really has great affection for, Geoff Shields. She is now living a life that is not dictated by her parents, but is affected by … what’s going on in America at the time. And that very much, again, has to do with civil rights particularly.
So now apply Hillary, a head-conservative/heart-liberal, to 1968, working in Washington in the Republican Party and Grant Park and the DNC [Democratic National Committee].
Let me just add one thing about Hugh and Dorothy Rodham and about what would happen at the dinner table and the environment in the household. Sometimes Hillary would run out of the kitchen when her mother and father would have these tense, demeaning discussions … Hillary would run to her room and put her hands over her ears and say, “I can’t stand listening to this.”
… 1968 is, if there’s a moment where the head-conservative/heart-liberal comes in to play, she’s in this struggle. She is working for the Republicans in Washington in the summer after Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy have been shot. The Democratic Convention is coming in August in Chicago. She’s really trying to decide, it seems to me, what side she’s on.
In the case of Hillary Clinton, you will find through her life very significant moments — obviously, meeting Don Jones; meeting Bill Clinton; going to Wellesley. But at the same time, there’s an arc. It’s all gradual in terms of execution, in terms of where it’s going. It’s not a sudden move. It’s much more methodical and logical when she’s exposed to something.
She moves slowly from being a Goldwater conservative like her father to becoming a “liberal Republican,” a so-called Ripon Society wing of the Young Republicans, and a kind of Republicanism that’s the opposite of what Goldwater advocates. She wants to see the Republican Party as a vehicle of social change, which of course is not happening in terms of the civil rights movement. And the civil rights movement is the great movement of her time, as well as the antiwar movement.
Eventually, by 1968, which is the year that convulses the world, not just America — you have in 1968 the students take over Paris and take over universities; you have the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy; the riots at the Chicago convention. Hillary goes down with Betsy Ebeling after the carnage at the Democratic Convention to see for herself what has happened and is deeply affected by this.
Meanwhile in school, something similar is happening. She is the student body president at Wellesley.
… The United States is in a place where it’s never been, particularly on the campuses. There’s never been a student commencement speaker at Wellesley. But it is decided by the students that there will be one, and Hillary is involved in that movement to have a commencement speaker. And it’s Hillary who is chosen.
… At the commencement, … he [Sen. Edward Brooke] gives a speech that is really kind of condescending, Hillary’s ear and vibrations tell her, to what’s going on in the campuses and in the antiwar movement. And it’s condescending toward young people and what they’re aiming toward in terms of a different kind of culture and society. She picks up on it and decides to throw away her prepared remarks and instead gives a kind of retort to Brooke.
She becomes anointed because of it. She’s a superstar.
As a result of this — and again, let’s look at this election. We all talk about Celebrity Apprentice and Donald Trump and being this incredible celebrity, which he is, and a product of celebrity culture, but at this point in this election, Hillary Clinton is the most famous woman in the world, and has been for a good while. … She’s lived in celebrity culture now for longer than Donald Trump, actually, and is very familiar with it. She enters celebrity culture while still a student.
… This commencement speech gets great attention. Whatever its incoherent aspects, the fact that she has taken on Sen. Edward Brooke, Life magazine picks it up and profiles her. … And she likes the attention.
… Let’s talk about Bill. Who was he when he arrived at Yale Law School? What was the mutual attraction? She’s a superstar. He’s a guy coming in from Rhodes scholar and a political campaign with a guy in Connecticut who loses.
When they meet, Hillary’s the one who’s the celebrity. Hillary is the one who’s been in Life magazine. Bill is dazzled. … Hillary is a little more reticent about the big dawg. … People were saying then Bill Clinton is going to be president some day.
He had a kind of ambition married to a process of learning, self-taught, and absorbed. He is an intellectual. Hillary is not. He is subtle in his understanding of how things work, of how people work, of how cultures work. He’s got this gift for absorption and reading of the landscape in front of him, and people are drawn to him.
Why does Hillary choose Bill Clinton? I can kind of understand why she’d choose the guy you’re describing, but Bill Clinton comes with Arkansas. Why does she do that?
… She’s in love with Bill Clinton. He is dazzling. She’s never seen or met anyone like this. And she wants to be with Bill Clinton. She goes to work for the Senate Watergate Committee, the great event of her time. She takes the D.C. bar exam and fails it. This is a huge event that of course no one knew about it.
She kept it a secret. How long?
She kept it a secret for 30 years, that she had failed the bar exam. And it’s emblematic of her in terms of wanting to control how she is perceived, even back then, and over the next 30 years, she does not want people to know that she failed the D.C. bar exam. Yet it’s pivotal, one of those hinges, both of history and of her history, because she did not intend to go to Arkansas to be with Bill Clinton. She wanted Bill Clinton to come to Washington to be with Hillary Rodham. She’s on this high-power, all-consuming investigation, the impeachment of the president of the United States, and she has every intention of going to work for a big Washington law firm. And lo and behold, she fails the bar exam and is devastated by it, hanging her head a bit at this terrible failure that she won’t speak about, and doesn’t reveal.
My sense is she was happy. It’s almost like they were already forming a partnership. She knows he’s going to maybe run for Congress. That meant she’ll get back to Washington. He loses the congressional race, and he has to admit to her, “I’m going to run for attorney general and governor, honey; we’re going to be here.” What she thought was a way station is now a life sentence in Arkansas.
That’s the other thing. She goes to Arkansas reluctantly and thinking, well, we’re going to get back to Washington. Instead, Bill seeks office in Arkansas and wins. … It means that she’s going to become much more an adjunct of him than she is of her own persona, and this is something that she’s not comfortable with.
… Bill’s a public officeholder. He’s a big presence in the state. She’s got to be a breadwinner. He’s making no money. She’s got to work at a law firm where the other women say, “We gotta dress you differently, darlin.’”
Let’s start by saying that Hillary experiences culture shock when she goes to Arkansas to live. She comes from Chicago. She comes from a huge urban environment. She has been on the staff of the House Impeachment Committee, and now she is in Podunk, and Southern Podunk to boot.
It’s not a comfortable fit, and the people around here are very different. There’s not the same level of sophistication that she is accustomed to. There is also a real fish-out-of-water quality to where she is and what she’s used to, and that includes dress. … Down here, in Fayetteville or Little Rock, she’s looking a little too flashy for some of the locals.
… She’s got women around her in the workplace trying to redress her. She’s much more assertive than women in that culture, in that part of the South were at the time.
… How much does it change her, drive her crazy, make her something different, to take the name Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton?
I think from her mother she has this sense of self. From the early women’s movement, she has absorbed a lot and understands what women are going through, women of her time. It’s emblematic that using the maiden name is an assertion of self and that, no, not everything is a product of my husband or my marriage to my husband, but it is about me. And it was very important to her. She did not go gently into the night on that, on that question. It figured in the electoral politics, the perception of the two of them and the perception of her in particular with voters.
There’s a lot of stuff that’s happening in Arkansas during the early ’80s, up to ’87, let’s say. The McDougals, Whitewater, Castle Grande, the cattle futures with Jim Blair. She is obviously worried about money. Bill is fooling around again. What’s happening with her?
The problems of Bill and other women are central to the Arkansas years … and the marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
… If you were to make a chart of the times that Bill Clinton is about to fall off a cliff, usually because of something that has happened involving allegations about women, it’s Hillary who comes to the rescue. … Hillary comes to the rescue in Arkansas, and that begins a pattern in the life and the history of the Clintons in terms of the dynamic between the two, and the dynamic between the press and the Clintons, and the dynamic between the political ambitions of the Clintons and what can be done to keep them on track.
So while she’s worried about whatever’s happening with him, shoring him up as you say, she’s also worried about the financial future of Clinton, Inc.
… Bill Clinton has never cared about money, has never given it much thought. Hillary is a practical person. Part of this she learned from both her parents. Her father; money was important to him, and he earned well. And Bill is happy-go-lucky about this stuff. Well, Hillary’s not that way. And the marriage is shaky. The marriage is shaky because of his involvement with other women.
Hillary says to [her friend] Diane Blair at one point, “What am I going to do if I’m on my own?” … She is concerned about the family finances. She’s at work at the Rose Law Firm. She’s a lawyer. She’s the breadwinner in the family. But there are not savings.
… She early on opened a brokerage account, and then Jim Blair [Diane Blair’s husband] came along with this idea of commodities trading.
Here we get to the beginning of the pattern of what actually happened being not nearly as damaging or even as — let me think of the word. There’s very little evidence, if any, of anything nefarious that Hillary Clinton did in the commodities trading. She might have been the beneficiary of some of [the commodities trader] Red Bone’s machinations, but with her knowledge of Red Bone was doing, I’ve never seen any indication of it.
With Whitewater, once again, was there anything in the “original sin” department that Hillary or Bill Clinton did there that was untoward? I don’t think so. I don’t think any of the prosecutors ever came up with anything.
But concern of how it would be perceived — There is considerable evidence that when it is revealed much later that Hillary made this money in the commodities market, she then makes up this tale that, “Oh, well, my father taught me to read The Wall Street Journal, and I learned how to,” she implied, “I learned how to do commodities trading.” Well, she could no more do commodities trading than she could play NFL football.
That statement is indicative of too many that she has made to mask what really happened because she’s fearful of what the consequences might be. And the consequences of that turned out to be much worse than had she been open and honest at the time.
However, if you’re talking about the other women, the consequence may, and probably would have been, fatal had she not done what she did. So it’s a very important distinction. … It’s very important to look at what Hillary Clinton has done in terms of the other women, how she has handled it, what her role has been, and as well as the emotional toll that it has taken.
If we are to understand Hillary Clinton as a politician, if we are to understand her as a wife, if we’re to understand her as a person, we have to look at this.
… Let’s go to ’87 as a context setter. Tell us about the Clintons’ decision not to run for president in 1987.
When Gary Hart is forced to withdraw [from his presidential bid], Bill Clinton sees, as does Hillary, that there is a real shot perhaps at him becoming the nominee that would step in. He has been in New Hampshire. He’s testing the waters. And he wants to run. And he explores all the possibilities with his very able and almost uniquely sensitive political antenna in looking at the landscape, which in many ways is very favorable. … This is a great opening for him, unexpectedly, to see the presidency at this early point.
And it looks like he’s going to do it to the point where he books the Excelsior Hotel ballroom to make an announcement of his candidacy. Hillary certainly thinks he probably is going to announce his candidacy. Friends who since Yale have been saying he’s going to be the president some day are coming in to Little Rock to be at the announcement. Yet, great doubt is gnawing at Bill and some of these friends. Because of the rumors about other women that are more than rumors; they’re based on fact.
And some friends take him aside on the eve of the announcement and he asks them, “What do I do here?” And he comes to the conclusion, as do some of them, that it would be ruinous, particularly to Chelsea, to the marriage and also to his presidential ambitions if he were to make this announcement that he is a candidate. So instead of running for the presidency, this big event booked at the Excelsior Hotel becomes an announcement that “I won’t run for the presidency,” which is very depressing to Bill Clinton, because he thinks that his great shot that has suddenly appeared is now being eclipsed by being unable to run because of what is going on in this aspect of his life.
… Bill Clinton wins in 1992, and from the very beginning of moving into the White House, Washington doesn’t seem to welcome the Clintons. Sally Quinn sends a message to Mrs. Clinton: Do this, don’t do this; act this way, don’t act that way. How much of this is at Hillary’s feet? We’re heading, of course, to health care.
The Clintons come to Washington. Hillary Clinton is going to be part of this presidency in a substantive way. Eleanor Roosevelt was part of the presidency in a substantive way, but we really hadn’t seen it since. Pat Nixon, Mamie Eisenhower, Rosalynn Carter, Lady Bird Johnson were not substantive parts of their husbands’ presidency. Hillary is an elemental part of her husband’s presidency.
So what happens? They come to Washington. There’s one state dinner. Then there are no state dinners. This is what Washington lives on, the cave dwellers as — I’m a native of Washington, and the cave dwellers, those people who are native to the city or who have been there forever, that administrations come and go, and they don’t. And here come the Clintons and Hillary Clinton, and instead of state dinners there are maybe more than 100 substantive White House teas and events keyed to politics.
… Hillary talks about “we” and “what we are going to do” in this presidency. And as Sally Quinn writes in this historic piece in Newsweek magazine, “we” might work in Little Rock, but it’s the kiss of death in Washington.
… They don’t hit it off. There is a cultural clash right away, but particularly about how “we” do things in Washington versus how “we” do things in the White House and in the presidency. And Sally writes this piece that infuriates the president, infuriates their friends, and divides a part of the city, actually, into two camps in a very insular, inside-the-Beltway way.
Let’s go to a policy moment, which is health care. She takes on this task, and all of the themes we’ve been talking about — secrecy, the policy wonkiness, the “I’m holding this thing close; I’m going to get this done,” the lack of compromise in lots of ways, the huge scope and scale of it — all become sort of hallmarks of Hillary’s first stab at —
It’s more than a hallmark. It is Hillary’s worst instincts and Hillary’s really worst actions in terms of policy, because policy, which she is unquestionably on the right side of, is undermined by secrecy; it’s undermined by entitlement; it’s undermined by “We’re doing the right things; you people are doing the wrong things, so we’re going to do it by my rules.”
It is a horrible precedent and a horrible event. Bill Clinton, whether he’s intimidated or for whatever reason, is not responding to a kind of roar out there that says: “Wait a minute. You folks are going about this wrong. Let’s include the Congress of the United States. Let’s open these meetings up to the press. Let’s do this in a way that gets your objectives and at the same time is an example of the New Democrats that you claim to be.”
Well, the opposite is occurring. She’s shutting down dissent. She is operating in secret. She’s throwing her weight around in a way that people in the United States Congress are absolutely appalled by — and also are empowered by and use it against her and the Clinton White House. It empowers their enemies, who are very, very determined. And by enemies, I mean their political enemies. Gradually her conduct becomes the issue in the Clinton presidency, to the extent that in the election of 1994, this huge upheaval in which Newt Gingrich and the Contract for America changes the future of the country.
The “vast right-wing conspiracy” succeeds, and it drives Hillary out of policymaking in the White House. It drives the Democrats out of a majority in the House for the first time in a generation. It totally changes the political equation, and it totally changes the life of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Page 198 in your book. It’s the paragraph about the martyrdom, the sort of martyr complex. It feels like if ever there was a time to talk about it in relation to Hillary, it just lit up from the book to us.
Let’s go back to Dorothy Rodham, to Hillary, to her daughter. You get up, and you fight. The embattled Hillary is the essence of Hillary. She’s comfortable in battle. … She has fought on now for two generations. Well, she’s won. And she’s got a lot of scars. Who she is is a map of how she has traversed that battlefield, going back to Arkansas.
… Bill’s been re-elected. They’re back on top. Hillary’s gone off to Pakistan and other places and is working with young women and issues she feels pretty comfortable with, grounded in those issues.
Hillary does an amazing thing after being exiled from her husband’s White House, certainly from the West Wing of the White House. She becomes an ambassador to the women of the world about women’s empowerment. She learns. She becomes a student again. Learns about what’s going on with women all over the world and becomes an example and hope and practical advocate for disempowered women, as well as asserting that there needs to be a worldwide women’s movement in politics. It’s an amazing thing she does. She re-invents herself with great success.
What happens to Hillary Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair?
First of all, Bill Clinton tells her that he’s had no involvement sexually with this woman, that she is someone who has kind of thrown herself at him and that he has pushed away. Hillary Clinton believes that, and believes it and wants to believe it.
… It’s a Monday. The story breaks. Bill Clinton says to someone that I talked to, “I don’t think that I’m going to be able to last a week in this presidency,” that the calls for his resignation are going to become so great that he’s going to be forced to resign. He thinks that’s very likely. And indeed, his timing might have been off by a couple days, but had it gone into Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of the following week, he might have had to.
So what happens? Hillary Clinton goes on the Today show and saves his presidency.
There she is. Again, the defender.
More than the defender. Again, I use the phrase “conjugal credence” in the book; that she’s not only standing by her man, she has logic perhaps on her side and in her own mind. And she thinks, look, this has been a golden cage. There’s no way that he would have done this or had even the ability to do this. And —
And months go by.
… Hillary becomes almost the last person standing to believe that there was no sexual event or relationship between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. … But her world was collapsing around her. The presidency, her husband’s presidency is collapsing.
First she saves his presidency, and then, as we get to the special prosecutor in August, it looks again like the presidency might collapse because of her husband’s recklessness. All they have worked for is being undermined by what he’s done here. Imagine her not just disappointment, but fury.
It’s almost like she says, now it’s my turn. OK, buddy, whatever happens with the impeachment, I’m —
Well, it’s not whatever happens with the impeachment, because she becomes the manager of fighting impeachment. … He is impeached. But she leads the fight against conviction, and successfully so, and does it very skillfully on grounds, constitutional grounds.
OK, chapter finished for her. But don’t you think by then the Senate is a thing they’re talking about; it’s becoming viable? It’s almost like she’s saying, OK, I’m going to take a hiatus at least from the family.
Well, first of all, what we need to go back and look at is that they have lost almost everything in terms of reputation, that all the things they have fought, at that moment his presidency does not look like a golden, shining age that perhaps we and her and other Democrats look back to today. His presidency is in tatters. His is the impeachment, the Monica Lewinsky presidency. It is unprecedented. And she’s in the middle of it. Their dream, the journey, is a wreck. And she’s mad as hell and hurt beyond belief.
And yet, she has succeeded in thwarting the mechanism of impeachment and conviction by managing his Senate trial and what is to happen there and his defense.
The day that the Senate votes to acquit Bill Clinton, where is Hillary Clinton? She is in the study off of her bedroom in the White House, with maps of New York state laid out in front of her … and considering whether to run for the Senate of the United States, to rescue herself and perhaps their journey, but certainly herself, from what has occurred, and to do the unthinkable: a first lady, incumbent first lady, is going to run for the Senate of the United States from a state she has never lived in, to go for a seat occupied by a revered senator who disdains her, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Against all the conventional wisdom of the pundits, she succeeds and wins that seat.
… What a tale! What a tale. She pulls this off. Talk about a rescue mission. You talk about getting up. Dorothy Rodham, well, you get yourself up and go at it. Dust yourself and get ready for the next fight.
Why did she run in 2008? Why did she run for the presidency?
Because she wanted to be president of the United States. Because Bill Clinton wanted her to be president of the United States. Because it’s part of the journey. Because it is about ideas and a vision of policy and what this country ought to be. …