Dove Magazine

Clinton: A first lady with White House dreams

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she delivers a speech during a conference at the National Auditorium in Mexico City. Hillary Clinton launched her bid April 12, 2015 to become the first woman to win the White House. PHOTO  AFP

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she delivers a speech during a conference at the National Auditorium in Mexico City. Hillary Clinton launched her bid April 12, 2015 to become the first woman to win the White House. PHOTO AFP

WASHINGTON,

She is perhaps the most admired, most criticized, most over-analysed woman in US history.

Hillary Clinton has been a public fixture for 37 years, and at 67 she is aiming once again to win over a sceptical America.

Who after all remains unfamiliar with the lives of Hillary and Bill Clinton?

They have not just endured but suffered and thrived in symbiotic tandem under the political spotlight since 1977, the year before Bill’s election as governor of Arkansas.

Parts of first lady Clinton’s archives have been made public, and candid papers of Hillary confidante Diane Blair, who died in 2000, are available at the University of Arkansas.

Bill Clinton’s sexual proclivities were laid out in explicit detail. Hillary herself has recalled the rage she felt against her mentor-husband after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the threat of divorce, the marriage-counselling.

By 1993, People magazine offered a cover-story peek into “The Real Woman Hillary Clinton.”

Twenty-two years later, following a US Senate stint and four years as the international face of the Obama administration — and her announcement on Sunday that she is again running for president — she remains omni-present in the public eye.

Supporters of a Hillary Rodham Clinton’s yet to be announced presidential campaign participate in a rally in Manhattan on April 11, 2015 in New York City. PHOTO | AFP

MEETING BILL

Hillary Diane Rodham was born October 26, 1947 and raised in a middle-class household in Chicago suburb Park Ridge.

She adored her mother Dorothy but described her father Hugh Rodham, born from Welsh immigrants, as a stubborn and rigid taskmaster.

He imposed his work ethic on young Hillary, but also his frugality. She still puts uneaten olives back in the jar and is loath to waste anything, she wrote in her 2003 autobiography, Living History.

Clinton shared her father’s Republican convictions in adolescence, as well as his thunderous laugh. The family is Methodist, and to this day Hillary Clinton remains in the church.

From age 13, she took odd jobs to help finance her studies. Smart and ambitious, Hillary was admitted in 1965 to Wellesley, an elite women’s college near Harvard where she was eventually elected president of her class.

With 1960s America in turmoil, Clinton’s academic years opened her eyes to civil rights and gender-quality struggles, and the cultural divide over Vietnam.

After she was accepted in 1969 at the prestigious Yale Law School, she met Bill Clinton, the “Viking” from Arkansas who would change the course of her life.

After a period in Washington in 1974, when a commission hired her to help investigate the Watergate scandal, she gave in and joined Bill in Arkansas.

He was soon elected Arkansas governor and Hillary Rodham joined a prestigious law firm, eventually becoming its first female partner.

She soon dropped her maiden name and became Hillary Clinton, first lady of Arkansas and then the nation after her husband’s White House election victory in 1992.

Her style contrasted with her predecessors’. She played an active political role, symbolized by the location of her office in the West Wing.

Her relations with lawmakers and journalists quickly soured. Republicans branded her a radical feminist.

POWERFUL STATESMAN

She suffered intense humiliation during her husband’s presidential affair with intern Monica Lewinsky in 1998. But her popularity has never been higher than the 67-percent approval rating she enjoyed in December 1998, according to a Gallup poll at the time.

Pressured by friends and associates in Hillaryland, the first lady launched herself into politics, winning an election in 2000 to be the new US senator from New York.

She laid low during the 2004 presidential race, but four years later she entered the fray to challenge fellow senator Barack Obama, who savaged her vote supporting the Iraq war.

Clinton chose to run on her experience, refusing to campaign on gender. But Americans opted instead on the 40-something political neophyte Obama, bringing hope of change after eight years of George W. Bush.

After finding detente with his party rival, Obama appointed Clinton secretary of state.

Her critics argue she can claim no major diplomatic successes, but her four globe-trotting years in the post cemented her image as a powerful stateswoman.

In 2007, in his definitive Clinton biography, journalist Carl Bernstein cited his subject’s dominant characteristic as “passion,” exuded in her “enthusiasm, humour, tempestuousness, inner strength,” and her “lethal (almost) powers of retribution.”

A Machiavellian image, one painted by her many enemies, clings to Clinton, especially in the eyes of voters who remember the turmoil of the 1990s.

Only voters born after 1980 have a majority opinion of her as “honest and trustworthy,” according to a CNN poll. Republicans continue to describe her as living in a self-centred bubble.

Fuelling that perception, Clinton said in 2014 that she and Bill were “dead broke” 

This March 9, 2015 file photo shows Hillary Clinton as she speaks at a women’s equality event in New York. PHOTO | AFP

Hillary Clinton: 10 important dates in her own words

Hillary Clinton officially launched her 2016 presidential bid Sunday.

Here in her own words are 10 of the most important events leading up to her biggest challenge yet.

– 1947: Birth – 

Hillary Diane Rodham was born in Chicago on October 26, to a middle-class suburban family.

“I was born an American in the middle of the twentieth century, a fortunate time and place. I was free to make choices unavailable to past generations of women in my own country and inconceivable to many women in the world today.” – Clinton in her memoir “Living History”

– 1969: Yale – 

Clinton enrolled at prestigious Yale Law School where she would meet her future husband Bill Clinton in the spring of 1971. The couple married in Arkansas in 1975.

“So I stood up from the desk, walked over to him and said, ‘If you’re going to keep looking at me, and I’m going to keep looking back, we might as well be introduced. I’m Hillary Rodham.’ That was it. The way Bill tells the story, he couldn’t remember his own name.” – Clinton in her memoir “Living History”

– 1978: Arkansas –

Bill Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas, making Hillary Rodham the state’s first lady. Yielding to pressure, she agreed to take Bill’s last name several years later.

“I decided it was more important for Bill to be governor again than for me to keep my maiden name. So when Bill announced his run for another term on Chelsea’s second birthday, I began calling myself Hillary Rodham Clinton.” – Clinton in her memoir   “Living History”

– 1995: Beijing – 

As US first lady, Clinton spoke at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, where she delivered her now famous line, which she still evokes 20 years on.

“Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” – Clinton at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women plenary session

– 1998: Lewinsky –

Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky captivated national attention. Hillary Clinton initially believed his denial and supported her husband publicly.

“Bill and I have been accused of everything, including murder, by some of the very same people who are behind these allegations. So from my perspective, this is part of the continuing political campaign against my husband,” – Clinton in an NBC “Today Show” interview

– 2000: Senator – 

Clinton is easily elected to the US Senate two months before she and Bill left the White House.

“Why the Senate and why New York and why me? And all I can say is that I care deeply about the issues that are important in this state, that I’ve already been learning about and hearing about.” – Clinton tells reporters in Davenport, New York in 1999

– 2002: War in Iraq – 

Senator Clinton voted to authorize president George W. Bush to use military force against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It’s a vote she will later say she came to regret.

“I take the president at his word that he will try hard to pass a United Nations resolution and seek to avoid war, if possible.” – Clinton on the Senate floor

– 2008: Primaries –

Clinton entered the Democratic presidential primary race in January 2007 and was favored to win. However she was beaten 17 months later by fellow senator Barack Obama.

“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.” – Clinton tells supporters conceding defeat

– 2009: Secretary of State – 

Clinton takes on the role of US top diplomat, visiting 112 countries as Secretary of State, including a historic trip to Burma in which she met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“I believe with all my heart that this is a new era for America,” – Clinton on her first day as secretary of state

– 2012: Benghazi –

Four Americans including the ambassador were killed in attacks on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012.

Clinton testified in January 2013 in tense hearings before lawmakers on the attacks.

“As I have said many times, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right.” – Clinton at Senate hearing

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