Saturday, December 4, 2021

‘Impeachment: An American Crime Story’: Hillary Clinton Explained

Below are spoilers for Episode 8 of Impeachment: An American Crime Story. Check out the full review of this series here.

Impeachment has finally dealt with all this Hillary.

Episode 8 of FX tells the story of a woman who played a central role in the impeachment saga – and in the life of Bill Clinton – but was still a ghost character in the series: Hillary Clinton. Perhaps you have heard of her?

Using two of her most famous media appearances – the 1992 sit-down on “60 Minutes,” which helped save Bill from political oblivion in the New Hampshire primaries, and a 1998 interview on “Today,” which reimagined the conversation around the scandal with Monica Lewinsky, – Support Your Man explores Hillary’s complex role as a devoted wife and staunch political ally of a man who has repeatedly cheated on her.

Written by Flora Birnbaum, the episode opens during the 1992 Democratic primaries, when Bill Clinton’s rebel attempts to run for president nearly collapsed over accusations of his 12-year romance with a former Arkansas government employee and singer named Jennifer Flowers. Clinton, who needed a first or second place in New Hampshire to keep his campaign afloat, was in trouble.

This continued until Hillary came to his aid in 60 minutes. In an interview that aired after the Super Bowl and was seen by about 50 million viewers, Hillary defended her husband, denying dating rumors and denying that their marriage was a politically advantageous deal.

“I don’t sit here like some little woman standing next to my man like Tammy Winette,” she said. “I am sitting here because I love him, respect and respect what he went through and what we went through together. And you know, if this is not enough for people, then, damn it, don’t vote for him. “

Clinton took a strong second place, earning him the nickname “The Returning Child” due to his seemingly superhuman political stamina. “Hillary actually saved him,” former Clinton rival Bob Kerry later told The New York Times. (For his part, Bill eventually admitted in a 1998 testimony that he did have sex with Flowers, though he denied an ongoing romance.)

In the meantime, Hillary has found herself in a role that has become familiar: a culture war hotspot. While her husband was gaining traction in polls, Hillary was embroiled in a public feud with Wynette, portrayed as an elite career woman who did not understand more traditional wives – the perception solidified weeks later when Hillary made another notorious misstep. , saying that she “could have stayed at home and baked cookies and had tea” instead of working as a lawyer.

“Ms. Clinton, you have insulted every woman and man who loves this song – there are several million,” the singer wrote in an open letter of apology. “I would like you to appear with me on any forum, including the networks , cable or talk shows, and stood face to face with me. I assure you, despite your education, you will find me as smart as you. “

Hillary has apologized to Vinette – on multiple occasions – but the interview has cemented her polarity in American life. Everyone had their own opinion of her, even Richard Nixon, who told the New York Times: “If the wife is too strong and too smart, it makes the husband a weakling.”

The 60 Minutes interview was typical of the impossible high-profile actor that Hillary would have had to do throughout her tenure as first lady: she needed to be supportive but not seem like a dummy, strong but not overly assertive. The interview also established a model that will shape much of her political life, saving her husband’s image at the cost of her own reputation.

“This is probably one of the greatest missed political opportunities of all time,” Richard Mintz, Hillary’s chief of staff, told Politico during the campaign, immersing himself beautifully in the fateful 60 Minutes interview.

Hillary believed her husband (again) when he denied having an affair with Monica Lewinsky and defended him on TV (again).

As Clinton recounted in her 2003 memoir Living History and the 2020 documentary series Hillary, the president woke her early on January 21, 1998, sat on the edge of the bed, and warned her of the newly published stories that he had an affair with. a former White House trainee. He categorically denied the reports and suggested that perhaps his attention to Lewinsky was misinterpreted.

Clinton accepted her husband’s explanation, which he also gave in private to his friends and assistants. “For me, the confusing story of Lewinsky seemed just another brutal scandal created by political opponents,” she wrote in Living Memory.

In the days following Lewinsky’s revelations, the president’s legal team and political aides argued over how to respond. “The First Lady was a leading advocate of an aggressive strategy against Starr,” the Washington Post reported, citing Kenneth W. Starr, whose four-year independent lawyer investigation led to the 1998 House of Representatives impeachment of President Clinton.

First, Bill Clinton used a routine White House event on education to deny this connection – the infamous “I had no sexual relationship with this woman,” episode 7, The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky.

A few days later, the first lady was interviewed by Matt Lauer – oh, what an irony – on NBC’s Today show, vehemently denying that her husband had an inappropriate romance and claiming that he was the victim of a politically motivated attack by his opponents.

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“This is a wonderful story for anyone who wants to find it, write about it and explain that this is a huge conspiracy of the right that conspired against my husband since the day he declared himself president,” she told the host. (Clinton also acknowledged that if the charges were confirmed, “it would be a very serious crime.”)

“I thought it was part of the whole Starr investigation. I was absolutely convinced from my own experience … that this guy is making it up, ”Clinton told Hillary. In the documentary series Hulu, Nancy Gertner, a classmate at Yale Law School, said that she and most of their friends believed Bill Clinton was having an affair with Lewinsky because “it just didn’t seem far from the person we knew.” But Hillary at the time denied this: “In those days, she would have been covered with a mask,” said Gertner.

Although Hillary Clinton instantly became famous for the phrase “vast conspiracy of the right,” the concept originated in an extensive memo, written by political consultants Chris Lehan and Mark Fabiani, outlining ways in which the conservative media helped spread dubious theories about Vince’s death. Foster and the Whitewater scandal. In her memoir, Clinton wrote, “I could have expressed my point more skillfully,” but she stuck to her characterization of the Starr investigation, despite the truth about her affair with Lewinsky.

Back in 1998, Hillary’s Segodny interview was seen as an effective counterattack that helped define clearly the topics of conversation for his political allies.

Clive Owen as Bill Clinton and Bini Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky in Impeachment: An American Crime Story.

(Tina Thorpe / FX)

But Bill is clean – at the last minute

Eventually, Hillary found out the truth. On August 15, 1998, two days before he was due to testify before a grand jury, Bill Clinton woke up his wife again and shared the bad news, telling her for the first time that the situation was more serious than he had previously. admitted.

“I could hardly breathe,” Hillary recalled in Living Story. “Swallowing air, I started crying and shouting at him:“ What do you mean? What you said? Why did you lie to me? “

The revelation left her “stunned, heartbroken and outraged that I believed him at all,” she wrote, admitting that she “wanted to break his neck.” Hillary also told Bill that he would have to confess to their daughter Chelsea before the news went public.

A few days later, the first family went on summer vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. On the way to Marine One, Chelsea walked between her parents and took their hands in support. But the weeks that followed were frosty, and Hillary rarely spoke to her husband. Their dog Buddy joined them on vacation and was “the only member of our family who was still willing” to spend time with the president, as Clinton wrote in her memoir.

Clinton defended her husband throughout the impeachment process, ultimately deciding that his behavior did not warrant removal from office. When it came to their marriage, the answer was less straightforward.

“I still had to decide whether I wanted to stay married and whether I thought it was worth saving. We saw the consultant, we had painful, painful discussions, ”she told Hillary.

Oddly enough, public humiliation benefited Hillary’s image. Opinion polls showed that the American public approved of her behavior throughout the scandal. At a time when her husband was toxic, she served as a valuable surrogate in the 1998 midterm elections, leading to Democratic success – a rarity for a party in the White House.

Effects

This ordeal also seems to have inspired Hillary to run for office herself, which she denied any interest in – partly because, according to Carl Bernstein’s biography, A Responsible Woman, partly because she was more interested in politics than campaigning. …

On the day the Senate voted to acquit President Clinton in his impeachment case, Hillary was in the office outside her office, reviewing maps of New York State and plotting her campaign plans. “There was something particularly challenging about choosing this moment to start making serious decisions,” Bernstein wrote, but she was determined to “fulfill part of the promise of their journey” to the White House.

“She subsequently told me that for the first time in 53 years, I spoke my own voice as a politician,” said Gail Sheehy, author of Hillary’s Choice, in the PBS Frontline special on the 2016 election. …

As we all now know, this historic presidential campaign has been plagued by years of her husband’s rash acts. Many have argued that it was Hillary Clinton, not Bill, who paid the price for these missteps, which were used against her – never more vividly than when Donald Trump invited Bill Clinton’s prosecutors to a debate in October 2016 to distract attention from Access. … Hollywood “. Clinton’s decision to stay married “haunts her in such a way that she can never get out from under her feet,” Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for the 2016 campaign, told Hillary.

In an interview with The Times last year, Clinton reflected on this chapter of her life. “The whole saga of impeachment, the terrible pain in our family and everything, as always, was hard to even think about,” she said. “A very positive attitude towards the decisions I have made in my life, even the most difficult ones, does not make it easier … I am glad to be on the other side of this decision all these years later. “

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