Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Deciphering the Clinton Marriage

Why oh why do people care? I feel like I shouldn't even link to this drivel but completeness compels me. Another screed analyzing the Clinton marriage.

I can't say it much better than Pandagon said here:

Now, for a lot of us, the idea of a couple that is (gasp!) mutually supportive, where they’re both attracted to each other intellectually, is commonplace. But for some reason, it’s still treated as an unheard-of novelty in the news media. Think of poor Maureen Dowd, who seems to really believe that it’s her ambition and not her choice in men that has left her single in middle age. The novelty of the Clinton marriage endures; maybe Barack and Michelle Obama will be spared some of the freak show treatment if he wins the nomination, having had the path carved out for them by the Clintons.

A married couple with roughly equal ambition and ability is a novelty to our media, and an affront to many conservative "traditional marriage" backers who cried "Billary" during the first days of the Clinton presidency. The same pattern is now repeating on a smaller scale with both Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards, both of whom also reject the notion that wives should be seen and not heard. (Unless talking about children's literacy or other proper wifely causes) It's sad that these relationships are news to people rather than the norm.

Marriage is billed as an equal partnership but to many people "separate but equal" would be more appropriate, or perhaps "equal but different." Wife tends the house and raises the kids, husband does the work. Here's an interview you probably won't see with Bill and Hillary:

Many readers asked how you handle stress.
THE PRESIDENT: I pray daily. I exercise nearly daily, and I've got a loving wife who provides a comfortable, warm place for me to come home to.

Now that's a proper wife! (Or a comfy bed, take your pick) The questions directed at Mrs. Bush in the interview are all proper wifely questions -- about the kids and the holidays and how she comforts her husband.

That is the model of marriage our traditional media accepts unquestioningly. They never ask if the Bush marriage is a sham or imply that Laura Bush's lack of political involvement makes her a disinterested unequal partner. They never ponder why she is so incurious or attack her lack of ambition. Rarely do they ask her about her own husband's policies. The understanding is that her primary duty is to provide that "comfortable, warm place."

But the questions never end for the Clintons, because Hillary has explicitly rejected that model of marriage. Here is a transcript of a frontline show centered on Hillary and the famous "baking cookies" comment:

TED KOPPEL (VO): Meet the new political wife. She has a career, she has opinions. A partner in every way.
JUDD (VO): There's never been a candidate's wife quite like Hillary Clinton, outspoken, independent, smart, but her strengths have been used to make Bill Clinton look like a wimp, even by a president who used to be accused of wimpiness himself.

The entire thing is worth a read for how hilariously awful it is. She has a career! She has opinions! She's a partner! Scary!

Yet here we are, 15 years later, and our media still can't get over the notion that equal partnership talk went beyond wedding-day pomp into the actual marriage of two bright, ambitious people. It's so foreign and unusual to them that they've spent over a decade trying to make sense of it.

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