WashPost Book Critic Entertains Theory Bill Clinton's Adultery Made His Marriage More 'Functional and Productive'

Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley reviewed a new book on Sunday by historian William Chafe called Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal. The book included this bizarre concept: "in the strangest of ways, Clinton’s reckless sexual behavior actually enhanced their personal ties. It made their relationship more functional and productive."

Yardley called this "a bit of a stretch." Just a bit??

This relationship may have seemed more "functional and productive" to the Clintons, but what about to the country? What the country was "awarded" was more than 200 days of blatant lying about a sexual relationship with an intern, combined with denunciations of a "vast right wing conspiracy" to anyone who cared about whether Clinton had committed perjury in a sexual harassment lawsuit -- a lawsuit he eventually settled for a very large six-figure sum.

For all the love he felt for Hillary, Bill “was afraid of her.” The “fear of losing her ultimately became the critical variable in his response to their conflicts. He would not go against her wishes or alienate her.” No doubt that was intensified by her reluctant willingness to move to Arkansas and accept the role of loyal wife as he began his political rise. The result was not so much that this gave her leverage, though doubtless it did (especially when she stood by him amid charges of sexual misbehavior during the 1992 presidential campaign), as that he was always aware that he had to act within the limits sanctioned by her.

Much though his compulsive womanizing hurt her, she was committed to the marriage. This continued through his terms as governor of Arkansas and of course into the White House: “The pattern was by now familiar. Clinton, by his own admission, had a sex addiction. Hillary was an enabler who actually acquired power, and husbandly affection, when she came to his aid. Both features of their partnership were evident in the Lewinsky affair.” Chafe writes:

“In some respects, their partnership achieved a new intimacy and camaraderie when she stood by him in the face of his misbehavior. Thus, in the strangest of ways, Clinton’s reckless sexual behavior actually enhanced their personal ties. It made their relationship more functional and productive. Arguably — and in the strangest irony of all — it was at the heart of their partnership, the centerpiece that made it work.”

This may be a bit of a stretch, but surely Bill Clinton’s sexual forays, combined with other aspects of both partners — his “facile tongue” and “unmatched capacity for ambiguity,” her haughty attitude toward the media and all who disagreed with her — had much to do with creating the “political poison” that infused the country during the impeachment proceedings against him. It is no small irony, in a tale full of such, that as the country became ever more divided, tensions between the Clintons abated.

Hillary's run for the Senate apparently "liberated" the two of them, we are told. Now, their marriage is peaceful, as if that's all anyone in America wants, for the Clintons to be contented. Yardley concluded:

He became “a supportive, not a dominant, presence,” while she in turn mellowed, returning to the conciliatory person she had been before their marriage: “Rather than defining herself by those she chose to do battle with, she created her Senate identity by reaching out to colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” which she has continued to do throughout her admirable service as secretary of state.

Peace — it’s wonderful.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis