Hillary Clinton’s “Wronged Woman” Problem

Many people think that Hillary Clinton is the right woman to be president.  I think the “wronged woman” is her problem.  I was thinking that if Hillary were to be the Democratic nominee, what weakness will the GOP attempt to exploit? What might they zero in on other than the standard “she’s a liberal” thing?  Then it became obvious to me: they will exploit the fact that she’s a woman, but not just any woman.  She is the wife of a man who while he was president was caught cheating with a much younger female White House intern named Monica Lewinsky who was barely out of college.  If this had been the only affair, the GOP presidential candidate surrogates—like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and the Fox babes (excluding Greta Van Susteren but not Laura Ingraham, of course) will say,

“I can see why she would have forgiven and stood by her husband. But, my gosh, Bill Clinton had at least three other affairs while he was the nation’s president and who knows how many he had when he was governor?  Did Hillary know about all these affairs? Well, if she wasn’t aware of what her own husband was doing behind her back, how can she possibly be aware enough to know what her own government is doing? And what about foreign leaders of countries like Red China and Syria and Iran–and the Soviet Union? (This is Sarah and Michele talking, after all.)

“And what if she DID know about all those affairs? What does it say about her strength of character that she has stayed married to a serial cheater of a husband? How could she live with herself? And (here’s what is meant to be the killing blow) what kind of message did this send to your little daughter?  That it’s ok to stay married to a man who would rather cheat with other women than be at home with his wife and child? Bill’s no longer president—why doesn’t she divorce him?  Has she no self-respect? If she’s too weak to leave a philandering husband, how can she be possibly strong enough to run the most powerful nation on earth and stand up to the enemies who want to destroy us?”

This opens the door to planting another visual label on Hillary to add to that of the wronged wife: the battered wife.  They won’t have to come out and say that Bill beat her but they will definitely raise the point that there had to be some reason why she stayed with him all those years through all those affairs. It wasn’t like she didn’t have her own money and her own career to fall back on to support her and her little girl.

I think that Hillary stayed with Bill not out of loyalty or weakness of character but out of pragmatism. To divorce Bill would have just served to give the media two circus tents to cover.  Bill and his advisers probably assured Hillary that he would weather Hurricane Monica and successfully but it behind him. Divorce would add to the scandal and effectively bring his second term to a standstill while overshadowing everything he had accomplished.  And besides, divorce would be their twin legacies. Bill would be remembered by history as the only president to be divorced while in office.  But Hillary may have been formulating plans even then to run for public office, perhaps even for president. She could not afford to carry The Woman Who Divorced Bill Clinton stigma into the political arena.  Everything about Hillary’s past up to that point as a high-powered attorney, activist for children’s rights, First Lady, senator, would be blanketed over by that stigma. But Hillary must have known that if she decided to stay with Bill, at some point she would be asked the question:  “After all his extramarital affairs, why didn’t you divorce Bill Clinton?”  And she must have realized public opinion would center on her loyalty, concern for her child, weakness, or a calculated, politically-motivated plan.  The Democratic Party might refuse to endorse and support her bids for public office as punishment for helping to bring down the most popular Democratic president since John F. Kennedy.  If she remained Mrs. Bill Clinton, she would have earned the Party’s backing for any political office for which she chose to run.

Hillary running for Senate or being appointed Secretary of State didn’t bother the Republicans much, especially after she voted to fund and authorize the invasion of Iraq.  But running for president and the chance that could actually be elected is something entirely different to the GOP.  They will throw everything they can at her and first and foremost will be the Character issue. But by opting to remain married she will be given the question “Why didn’t you divorce Bill Clinton?” How she answers this question—or refuses to—may define how well Hillary attracts the women’s vote outside of her base in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. I think her answer to this question will be as important as how she answers the Benghazi question: What did she know and when did she know it? I think these are twin issues the GOP will hit her hardest on since they may believe she can show as being vulnerable on honesty and strength of character, and independence.

I don’t consider myself smarter or more intuitive than anyone else.  What I’m saying is that if I’m smart enough to think of this whole scenario you can bet that the GOP powers-that-be, guys like Karl Rove, the Koch boys, Ed Gillespie, Ed Rollins, etc., have already thought of this. The best way to take the women’s vote away from a female candidate is to cause women voters to lose respect for the woman candidate.  And the best way to beat this female candidate is for the opposition to run a seemingly stronger of character woman candidate of their own, someone in a long-term marriage to a husband who has never cheated on her, someone younger than the other woman candidate and who is also experienced at running a state for more than one term, someone who has name recognition and is beautiful to boot and someone who is all this and also very popular in the South, someone named Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina—unless she’s sunk by her own scandal—and there might be a couple of them in incubation like they were for Gov. Chris Christie and now ex-governor and newly indicted Bob McDonnell.

Or, the GOP could go traditional and run a candidate whose last name is still highly respected, is a solid family man free of scandal, and has a squeaky clean image outside of Florida—Jeb Bush.  The only reason why Bush has a squeaky clean image is that reporters for the corporate media gave him a free pass after there was evidence his hands were knee deep in fixing the 2000 presidential votes in Florida by purging tens of thousands of legally eligible voters from the roles and getting away with it. They were his hands but he was smart enough to cover them up with Secretary of State Katherine Harris’ fingerprints, for which the Bush family awarded her a two-term stint in Congress.

Of course, Hillary may not run in 2016 and Bush and Haley may not run, either separately or together.  But anyone who supports Hillary Clinton for president has to keep the scenario I presented in mind and ask themselves: What will Hillary do?