many people have chosen to try when it comes to us.” Of all the assumptions made, she says, the notion that the couple had some cynical ‘arrangement’ that allowed Clinton to turn a blind eye to her husband’s behaviour was perhaps the most hurtful. And when a 1992 60 Minutes interview with the couple is replayed in the documentary — an interview filmed after the former lounge singer Gennifer Flowers declared she had been Bill’s mistress — interviewer Steve Kroft’s casual characterisation of their marriage as being based on “some sort of an understanding and an arrangement” does come across as remarkably patronising. “Right!” cries Clinton. “I couldn’t agree with you more. Listen, when I asked Bill if he wanted to participate in the documentary, I warned him that my deal with the director meant she could ask anything, and I’m really grateful he agreed, because I think it may help a lot of people to get a much better and truer view of us and our marriage and our commitment to each other.” Defending their marriage in that 60 Minutes interview, Bill cuts off Kroft with: “Wait a minute: you’re looking at two people who love each other. This is not an arrangement or an understanding. This is a marriage.” Decades later, I want to know whether, putting aside all external narratives, all ‘affirmation’ and ‘criticism’ her decision to stay receives to this day, that decision was neither ‘noble’ nor ‘ weak’ but simply based on the fact that she still loved her husband? “At the core of it love really was the driving reason,” she tells me. “But obviously it took an enormous amount of thought and counselling and talking to my friends. I literally prayed. And it took an enormous amount of forgiving. It was very painful.” She pauses. “Very, very painful. But I’ve always loved Bill, and I always knew he loved me. I’ve always believed in our marriage, our relationship, the parenting of our daughter and our shared life. So I made the decision that was right for me.” The details offered up by the 42nd President of the United States in Hillary — how, during the Lewinsky scandal, he “went and sat on the bed to talk to her, and told her exactly what happened and when it happened” — allow us to imagine the full extent of Clinton’s pain for the first time. Did she ever even fleetingly consider divorce? “Oh I thought of everything! Everything! I thought about boiling him in oil! So sure — of course I thought of divorce. But it was an affirmative decision to stay; it wasn’t a default decision... Even though I know people have always criticised me and had questions about that decision, I have never doubted it. Never. I made it very thoughtfully and carefully — and I have lived with it ever since.” It would take a stony heart not to feel a pinch of pity for Chelsea Clinton, who was just 17 and had finally escaped the White House fishbowl to study at Stanford University when the Lewinsky scandal engulfed her father’s presidency. The photos from the day after his mea culpa, in 1998, as she took the initiative to stand between her parents, holding both of their hands, are perhaps the most famous ever taken of her. And when, promoting The Book of Gutsy Women, co-authored by mother and daughter last year, Clinton told one interviewer that personally, the “gutsiest thing” she’d ever done was to stay in her marriage, Chelsea — now a 40-year-old global health advocate and mother of Of course I thought of divorce. But it was an affirmative decision to stay: it wasn’t a default decision 15 4 July 2020 IRISH INDEPENDENT Weekend Magazine
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