Skip to comments.Hillary: Sex Goddess (BARF ALERT)
Posted on 11/17/2003 7:50:11 AM PST by venizelos
"All the men I know want to sleep with her [Hillary Clinton]. All the women want to scratch her eyes out."
Democratic National Committee
When Spouses Earn Paychecks
As politicians' wives increasingly forge careers of their own, questions about conflicts of interest inevitably arise
By MARGARET CARLSON;
With reporting by Barbara Burke/New York and Jeanne McDowell/Los Angeles
The presidential campaign completed one full revolution when Bill Clinton found himself standing by his woman on national television. The moment came during a debate before the Illinois and Michigan primaries, when rival candidate Jerry Brown accused the Governor of steering state business to his wife Hillary's Arkansas law firm. "You," the furious Clinton replied, "ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife."
Conflict-of-interest charges are nothing new for political spouses, especially wives. They are easy to make and hard to refute, and can obscure a hidden intent to put an uppity woman in her place. "This is the sort of thing that happens to women who have their own careers," Hillary Clinton said about charges that she helped a savings and loan represented by her law firm to get a break from the state securities board, which is appointed by her husband. "For goodness' sake, you can't be a lawyer if you don't represent banks." Clinton was so rattled by the accusations that she forgot that she hardly ever represents banks. And before she could convey her conviction that feminism means the choice for women to work or not, she snapped, "I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas."
It is doubtful that Clinton would have blundered into such a feminist minefield if the charges hadn't struck the hypersensitive spot inside women who try to make it in a man's world. Many of them still feel that somehow they haven't made it on their own or will be dismissed if they step over some invisible line of appropriate female conduct. This is particularly touchy in politics, which remains a bastion of prefeminist expectations, even though more and more politicians' wives have professional careers. The little wife is still a Norman Rockwell staple of American campaigns. George Bush is not joking when he says more people turn out for his appearances when Barbara Bush accompanies him. Local newspapers are still filled with stories about the wives of public officials visiting hospitals and revealing their favorite recipes.
According to Ruth Mandel of the Center for the American Woman and Politics at Rutgers University, the unspoken rule of political life is that a wife will tend to home and family and be by her husband's side when he runs. Working violates that rule. Being successful in a primarily male profession shatters it, as Hillary Clinton is learning. Most legal experts agree that Clinton took the needed steps to avoid conflicts, by entering into a virtual prenuptial agreement with her firm that anticipated every possible pitfall. She does not represent clients before state agencies, and she refuses her share of the firm's profits that flow from such work. "She's done everything that she can reasonably do and still practice law at a top law firm," says Washington lawyer Marc Miller, author of Politicians and Their Spouses' Careers. "If you dice her practice up into any finer points, it severely limits her opportunities to do what she is eminently qualified to do. It means we don't want wives tiptoeing anywhere near public life." Lawyer Ruth Harkin, wife of Senator Tom Harkin, agrees: "Men don't get this scrutiny, because it is assumed they deserve their success, but somehow a wife doesn't."
Spousal conflict-of-interest charges are usually aimed against wives for a simple reason: few women hold high public office that could place their husbands in jeopardy. When Barbara Morris Lent, wife of New York Congressman Norman Lent, became a lobbyist for NYNEX, she sought assurance from the House ethics committee that her job would not interfere with his voting on communications legislation. When Debbie Dingell, a lobbyist for General Motors, married Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, she switched to an administrative position. "Fortunately," she says, "GM is large enough that I could change jobs."
Successful male spouses, on the other hand, often get the benefit of the doubt, though there are exceptions to the rule. James Schroeder, whose wife Pat, a Colorado Congresswoman, once ran for President, says his legal career has not suffered and he has never been accused of a conflict of interest. But investment banker Richard Blum, husband of former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, says his firm was hampered because he turned down some clients to avoid the appearance of impropriety. "Could I have done better if my wife was home baking cookies?" asks Blum. "I think so." Another Californian, secretary of state March Fong Eu, decided to abandon her race for the U.S. Senate rather than ask her husband to disclose his business holdings. It came down to a choice between her candidacy and her marriage, she said, and she chose her marriage.
Nonprofessional jobs pose as many potential conflicts but tend to attract less criticism. Marilyn Quayle forswore the practice of law because she is the Vice President's wife. But it is hard to believe that she would have been invited to appear on the Today show to promote her turgid novel, Embrace the Serpent, if Dan Quayle were just another golf-loving lawyer from Indiana. Could it be pure coincidence that Greek businessman Basil Tsakos was paying Mark Hatfield's wife $55,000 for choosing fabric and paint chips for his office at the same time the Oregon Senator was urging federal support for Tsakos' $12 billion oil pipeline? Former Washington Mayor Marion Barry's wife Effie hardly got those fur coats and low-interest loans as just another "publicist" in a town where nearly everyone fits that description.
Still, the political wife who scares people most is usually a super success like Hillary Clinton, who ranks among the nation's most powerful lawyers and got better law-school grades than her husband. Perhaps she would be better off just trailing beside her husband, holding the Nancy Reagan gaze. Instead, she is out speaking, spinning and strategizing with as much force as the candidate. When the networks broadcast the Super Tuesday victory celebration at the Chicago Hilton, Hillary Clinton introduced her husband at speech length. She knows the latest take on the GATT talks and Israeli loan guarantees. Her appearances are so devoid of the life-style fluff local papers thrive on that one reporter jokingly complained about "substance abuse."
Although campaign officials say that every time Hillary appears in a state her husband's popularity rises, some of them fear that she is developing a gender gap. Women may be tougher on another woman who seems to have it all: a high-poweredcareer and a family, brains and looks, especially one who has the mansion, the servants and the drivers to make it look easy. Anne Reingold, media director of the Democratic National Committee, has a retrograde explanation: "All the men I know want to sleep with her. All the women want to scratch her eyes out."
Politics is highly susceptible to backlash, and trailblazers do not often win popularity contests. But women who want more choices should think hard about being harsher on Hillary Clinton than they would be on a Barbara Bush. If the only nonconflict profession for a presidential spouse is no profession at all, many people might give up their career so that a spouse could seek office without raising questions of impropriety. Or potential candidates for any high office might not run, rather than ask their mates to give up a rewarding job. If that prospect forces a re-examination of the issue, it may soon be possible for politicians' spouses to work outside the home without arousing suspicions -- even if home is the White House.
"I'll take 'Women In Pants Suits With Fat Hips and a Huge Ass' for $400, Alex."
She must be referring to Janet Reno.
Well, maybe just a couple of men.
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