Jewish World Review June 9, 2003 / 9 Sivan, 5763

Zev Chafets

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Why Hillary did believe Bubba and what it says about her prospective presidency | Like most men, I thought Sen. Hillary Clinton was lying when she wrote in her new book, "Living History," that she didn't know her husband was doing the mess-around with Monica Lewinsky until he actually admitted it.

How could that be? It was front-page news for months. In the history of caught husbands, rarely has anyone been as caught as Bill Clinton.

Besides, Hillary knew her husband had a history of fooling around with other women. He admitted as much on "60 Minutes," with her sitting right next to him.

I was living in Israel during the scandal, and even I knew the names of Clinton's conquests and strikeouts --- Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and the rest. How could Hillary have not known?

But since The AP published its pirated excerpts from Sen. Clinton's new autobiography, I have learned that there is another way to look at this story.

"What happened to Hillary has happened to most of us," a very perceptive female friend told me. "Husbands lie to wives. If the wives want to stay married, they learn to convince themselves that they're not being lied to. They say, 'After all the pain he's put me through in the past, he wouldn't dare lie to me again. He must be telling the truth this time.'" "Yeah, but the whole country knew about Clinton .... "

"Hillary was in denial," said my friend. "She had a blind spot. She didn't want to be hurt. So she made herself believe. It's what wives do."

There is something endearing about this explanation. No longer is Hillary the haughty Wesleyan superwoman who sneers at the little ladies of America for baking cookies and standing by their men. Now she's a member of the wives club (in a week when Tammy Wynette's classic was voted Best Country Song of all time).

"I could hardly breathe," she writes about being told by her husband of his betrayal. "Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him, 'What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me?'"

But if such an account humanizes Hillary, it also diminishes her as a public figure. Her denial may be recognizable to many women (and a lot of men who have been on the other end of this dynamic), but it also portrays her as a deluded victim.

In fact, Clinton's True Confessions make her sound so foolishly trusting that many confirmed Hillary-haters sense a trick. They think she's hanging the family's dirty linen out now so it will fade before 2008. Or that her story is a cynical (and divisive) appeal to the female sympathy vote. Either way, they believe the publication of "Living History" is a coldly calculated political ploy.

I disagree. Doubtless Clinton's book is calculated. It's unlikely that the ghost-written autobiography of any public figure would contain spontaneous emotional outbursts and unhinged confessions. "Living History" is Clinton's considered, official version of events. It is what she wants the public to know, a self-portrait of her behavior under great pressure and extreme provocation.

If Clinton thinks this portrait will help her get elected President, she's made a serious mistake. Weakness and a capacity for self-delusion aren't qualities the public wants in a wartime President, male or female. Try to imagine Margaret Thatcher afraid to stand up to Dennis. Or Golda Meir bursting into tears at her husband's betrayal. Nobody wants a commander-in-chief whose emotional fragility keeps her (or him) from seeing straight.

That's why I'm inclined to believe my friend when she says that Hillary Clinton isn't lying. Her revelations are too damning for that. They show something most people haven't suspected: A Hillary who comes across as a tough-minded woman but, like Bob Dylan's Queen Mary, breaks just like a little girl.

Allowing us to see that makes her seem warmer, more approachable, maybe even a little lovable. And completely unsuited for the presidency.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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05/30/03: NYTimes has a bigger problem than Blair and Bragg — Dowd
05/27/03: Political — and literal — suicide
05/12/03: That noise is Europe rising
05/09/03: Dems overplay the economy card
05/05/03: Truth or Consequences: To win Arab liberals' trust, Bush needs to find Iraq's WMDs
05/01/03: U.S. security, not economy, is key for prez
04/28/03: Real artists, not airheads
04/22/03: Sealed With a Kiss
04/14/03: Don't believe the cheers
04/03/03: Iraq's only the start --- Syria & Iran are next
04/01/03: War's happy troubadours
03/27/03: What's not going on is the key in this war
03/20/03: The big question: Can Arabs handle liberty?
03/17/03: In war, like in baseball, the idea is to make the other guy cry --- now, let's go get 'em!
03/13/03: Jewish plot? This pol has gone punchy
03/11/03: Prez is ready to finish off the Security Council, too
03/04/03: Those human shields need some star power
02/28/03: How prez could further racial pluralism but end affirnative action
02/24/03: Prof's arrest will test Arab Americans' loyalty
02/11/03: Rhyme, but no reason
02/04/03: McGovern's children
01/23/03: A peace movement that's going nowhere
01/13/03: No time for experts
01/07/03: Senator from Mayberry shouldn't alarm prez
12/31/02: Dem Dummies
12/19/02: Saudis still play Santa to Arafat
12/13/02: Lott has to be dumped to save W's authority
12/05/02: Kissinger's Saudi pals litter 9/11 money trail
11/25/02: Sharon looks like a winner
11/18/02: It's the war, stupid
11/14/02: The Dems don't have a prayer
11/07/02: Watch for Dubya to give Arik political hug
10/31/02: Sharpton the patriot
10/22/02: Rabin, gone but not missed
10/17/02: Israelis bracing for US' punch at Iraq
10/14/02: Geriatric war resisters
09/27/02: Al Gore: The Lost Boy of American politics
09/05/02: The intifadeh's over, and the Israelis won
08/29/02: At the world summit, just anger & hypocrisy
08/21/02: No time for weak knees on Iraq
08/16/02: A pro-Arab pol may get the beating she deserves
08/13/02: Fight it out now
08/02/02: Memo to The Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. values won't sell in Arab world
07/31/02: Israel's nutty neighbors

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