A few weeks before Hillary Clinton officially declared her intention to run for US President, I picked up her 2003 memoir, Living History, in a used book store. It takes us through her life until she was elected Senator for New York.
It took a while to read because I don’t have a ton of time for pleasure reading, but it’s also written in a tone that matches my impression of the woman herself; smart, with attention to detail and a little bit cold. It’s clear that she loves her husband deeply but she doesn’t get all mushy about it. And when, as a young law student, she logs several first for females, she notes them but doesn’t linger over how it felt to break ground for women in politics.
While she was First Lady, Bill appointed her the head of a task force that would try – and ultimately fail – to overhaul the American health care system. She was the first First Lady to have an official role in her husband’s administration. From the outside it might have seemed like the President was just giving his wife something to do, but Hillary’s previous experience made her a natural choice. If she had never met Bill Clinton she might have already been President by now. Her path was clearly taking her in that direction. Meeting him and supporting his ambitions derailed her own aspirations for a while.Little notice is paid to the sex scandals that plagued Bill Clinton, except for Monica Lewinsky. Hillary dismisses the others as attempts by the Republicans to discredit her husband and it’s true, the opposition at that time paid more attention to bringing down the President than getting any real business done. But Hillary goes into detail about the way Bill deceived her, and the country, with the Lewinsky affair. She believed her husband when he lied to her and wanted to, “wring his neck”, when he finally came clean. He made a fool of her in her own home and in front of the nation and her declarations of his innocence came back to haunt her.
The one area where she melts a little is in her role as a Mom. Chelsea clearly grew up in a home full of love with parents who laboured over how to protect her from the evils of political life while allowing her to learn and grow. By all accounts, Chelsea is an incredible young woman and that’s a testament to her Mom and Dad, faults and all.
I always wonder about the wisdom of anyone who wants to run for political office. In many ways it’s a thankless job. Surely, some reps on Capitol Hill just wanted to get things done during the Clinton years, but they couldn’t help but get swept up in the partisan bickering that put more emphasis on whose party would look good, rather than getting families off welfare and creating a health care system that actually looked after people who needed it. The higher the office, the more people hate you and as we’ve seen in the past, even plot to take your life. It’s insanity! But I think Hillary Clinton – she doesn’t use Rodham much anymore – has a good heart and at the core of it all, apart from the scandals and her husband’s mistakes, she really wants to help people. She has written other books since then, including 2014’s Hard Choices, an account of her time as Secretary of State. I wouldn’t count her out as the first woman to become President of the United States.