Will Hillary let Bill serve?

Art Buchwald

December 08, 1992|By Art Buchwald

FOR all its Southern charm Washington can still be a bitchy town -- particularly when a new administration is coming in.

Right now the tongues are wagging about how much influence Bill Clinton will have in the White House when his wife, First Lady Hillary Clinton, takes office.

Rumors have it that Mr. Clinton will try to take over and be in on all of Hillary's decisions. But this has been adamantly denied by close friends of the Clintons.

One told me, "Bill Clinton will have no more influence on governing the country than Ronald Reagan did when Nancy Reagan was in power. The press has been constantly speculating about Bill's obsession with interfering, but that's not his style. He never got involved when Hillary ran things in Arkansas, and he is not about to now."

Another friend said, "It's unrealistic to think that when the Clintons retire at night, Bill will not ask Hillary, 'What happened in the country today?' It would be foolhardy to assume that Hillary would hold back, except, of course, on national security matters. But you have to expect that sometimes Hillary will use Bill as a sounding board."

I spoke to a newspaperman from Little Rock and he said, "You're going to see the hand of Bill Clinton in everything Hillary does. When he was governor he promised to keep out of Hillary's politics, but, unlike what his friends claim, he never did. Bill is one of those husbands who likes to meddle in things he doesn't understand."

"I guess the question everyone in Washington is asking is how much Hillary will make use of Clinton?" I said.

"Well, she's giving him his own office and secretary in the White House, and she has already announced that her door to the Oval Office will always be open to him. There is no doubt that Clinton will be given assignments such as representing Hillary at luncheons when she can't make it herself. She has also indicated that Bill will attend Cabinet meetings. There's nothing wrong with that. George Bush did it, and so did Jimmy Carter. Most first ladies like to have someone around that they can trust."

"People seem to be afraid that Bill Clinton may have his own agenda unlike Ronald Reagan, who didn't have one. Will Hillary be as tough about moving forward as Nancy?"

"Every First Lady has a mandate from the American people, but you don't know until she takes over what she will do with it. Barbara Bush started out as a cuddly bear, but by the time the election rolled around she turned into a man-eating tiger. Politics affects first ladies like that."

Finally, I posed the big question to a director of the League of Women Voters. "Do you believe that a First Lady should serve more than two terms?"

"The League has not taken a position on that, but personally I feel that there should not be limits. There are some first ladies who aren't worth two months and others who could easily serve a lifetime. I feel that if a First Lady knew she was going to be in for only eight years she might not give it her all."

"I know that this is not an easy one, but if you were Hillary what would be the first thing you'd ask President Clinton to do?"

"I would require him to accompany me on all my trips for the American public to see that he is not the ambitious, conniving person everyone in the media has made him out to be."

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