Symposium offers view into the Clintons’ relationship

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    Bill Clinton’s personal and professional life can best be described as a roller coaster—once he reaches the top, he is sure to come down, a Clinton biographer said in a lecture Monday.

    Dr. William H. Chafe’s book “Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal” used the analogy to describe the emotional ride that encompasses Bill’s life—from childhood to Rhodes Scholar to governor of Arkansas to the presidency.

    Chafe pointed to the former president’s abusive father, how Bill in turn protected his mother in her own abusive marriage, and finally to his own relationship with Hillary Rodham.

    “You can’t understand the political careers of the Clintons without first understanding the chemistry of their relationship,” said Chafe, who spoke in Palko Hall as part of the Paul F. Boller Jr. Symposium on the American Presidency.

    The dynamic of the relationship started at Yale University where the two extremely talented, and determined, individuals met.

    The two complemented each other well, Chafe said, with Hillary’s inner-focused, straight-lined attitude keeping Bill’s charismatic and flamboyant attitude in check.

    It was this charisma that would partially contribute to the former president’s personal and professional mistakes, Chafe said. Likewise, it was this same inner focus of Hillary that would always pull Bill back on track.

    The extramarital affairs that date back to his days as a governor and then forward to the Monica Lewinsky affair that made him only the second president to be impeached (Andrew Johnson was the first) both enraged and exasperated Hillary, Chafe said.

    Despite his many personal dalliances, Hillary continually rescued her partner, Chafe said.  

    This, Chafe said, is a testament to Hillary’s determination and not wanting to lose what she had gained. She believed that both their personal and professional relationship was worth saving, he added.

    Sticking by the president’s side, Hillary did eventually separate herself as her own person, and own candidate when she ran for the U.S. Senate seat in New York, Chafe said.

    This ability to compartmentalize allowed her to run for president. While 2008 didn’t lead to the oval office, Chafe said he believes that Bill’s speech this year at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., paved the way for Hillary’s bid for 2016.

    Whether the roller coaster will resurface in 2016 is a question to be answered in four years.