I ask that question not out of partisan animus. I concede that I am a progressive Democrat who supported Bernie Sanders. But I will support Hillary Clinton, without reservation, even though I disagree with some of her positions.
I ask this question not because I have the expertise to answer it. I’m not a psychiatrist, or a historian.
I am, however, a journalist who lived through the Clinton years. I’ve intensively followed Hillary’s campaigns, both now and in 2008. And I’m a feminist who’s been married more than thirty years to the same man.
I certainly don’t believe that Bill is consciously trying to sabotage his wife. But I’m not sure what’s happening subconsciously.
There have been so many instances when, just when she’s reached some sweet spot in her campaign, he does or says something that throws her off kilter.
The latest example, of course, is his “chat” with our current Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. Let’s assume that Bill is telling the truth when he says he happened to be at the same airport at the same time as the Attorney General. There is no doubt that his showing up at the door of her private plane, and staying 30 minutes to visit, has caused a firestorm of attacks challenging whether the Department of Justice can credibly complete its investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server for her State Department emails.
Lynch has been put on the spot. It’s difficult, when a former President comes knocking without notice, to just slam the door in his face, although her joke about not knowing how to lock the plane, seems to indicate she wished she’d done just that. But consider the awkwardness of the situation. And now, to defend the integrity of the Justice Department, she has had to absolutely vow to accept whatever recommendations career staff make about whether to indict Clinton or not.
Lynch would have been on the hot seat, no matter what. But Bill’s incursion into her space robs her of any discretion or oversight as the investigation moves forward. It also makes it far easier for Republicans to challenge whatever Justice decides, short of indictment.
If that were the only time Bill screwed up, we might pass it off as the spontaneous gesture of a spouse trying to, perhaps, butter up someone with a lot of power over his wife, or merely an unthinking “Hey, neighbor” between two folks in private planes parked at the same airport.
Granted, Bill has a history of risky behavior (See Monica Lewinsky). And he’s the type of guy who seems to be more comfortable asking for forgiveness, than seeking permission. But his screw-ups have happened awfully frequently, both in 2008 and during the current campaign.
Search google for the term “Bill Clinton” and gaffes, and up come 122,000 results.
- In March 2016, at a time when Hillary was making some political hay by charging Bernie Sanders with insufficient loyalty to President Obama, USA Today quoted Bill referring to the “awful legacy” of the last eight years, a remark the campaign quickly said was misconstrued and did not refer to the Obama White House, but the intransigence of a Republican Congress.
- The following month, he blew up when Black Lives Matter protesters challenged him about the draconian crime bill that was part of his presidential legacy. His defense of the 1994 bill, termed condescending and worse by the media, seemed to at least partially reverse the regret he had expressed the year before about the law’s unforeseen consequences. It certainly did not help his spouse, who had apologized for referring to young, black “super-predators” when discussing crime in 1996, and was fighting to woo young black voters away from the Sanders camp.
- In 2008, Clinton made similar, damaging errors. He termed Barack Obama’s opposition to the Iraq War, a “fairy tale.” After Hillary had said she misspoke when she recounted an experience dodging gunfire in Bosnia, he brought the subject up again.
There are more examples, but this gives you the idea. Look, when spouses have the same career, there can be feelings of professional jealousy. I know there have been times when I’ve been jealous of my husband’s success. I’m not proud of those times, but they happen.
Is it so crazy to speculate that Bill Clinton is feeling a bit threatened by the idea of his spouse in possession of the nuclear codes? Yes, Hillary has reassured Bill that she’ll probably still pick out the china, and that he’ll be one of her trusted, though unofficial, advisers. But he’d be doing that, at least initially, at the “kitchen table,”certainly not in the situation room.That’s still not the same as being commander-in-chief. Not by a long shot.
Marriage counselors see this phenomenon, although not played out on the world stage. It is not unusual for men, threatened by the growing power of their wives, to find ways to throw them off kilter, conscious or unconscious. One can only hope that if Bill Clinton is threatened, he and Hillary find a way for him to face his demons head-on. Not on the campaign trail.
This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post