- AMERICA'S first lady, Hillary Clinton, who is also the
country's most publicly betrayed wife, has revealed for the first time
why she has stood by the president. She said his infidelities were a
"weakness" caused by the psychological trauma of childhood abuse.
- In an interview that gives an unprecedented insight into
their marriage, Hillary reveals that she believes Bill Clinton's childhood
experiences set a pattern for his philandering.
- She also discloses that, until the scandal broke over
his affair with Monica Lewinsky, she thought he had "conquered"
- "Yes, he has weaknesses. Yes, he needs to be more
disciplined, but it is remarkable given his background that he turned
out to be the kind of person he is, capable of such leadership,"
- "He was so young, barely four, when he was scarred
by abuse. There was terrible conflict between his mother and grandmother.
A psychologist once told me that for a boy being in the middle of a conflict
between two women is the worst possible situation. There is always a desire
to please each one."
- Ever since arriving in the governor's mansion in Arkansas
in 1978, Clinton was known, in the parlance of the state, as a "hard
dog to keep on the porch". When he became president in 1993 Betsey
Wright, his assistant, had to devote much of her time to coping with "bimbo
eruptions". But only when the Lewinsky affair was exposed did Hillary
realise that her husband had not changed.
- "You have to be alert to it, vigilant in helping.
I thought this was resolved 10 years ago. I thought he had conquered it;
I thought he understood it, but he didn't go deep enough or work hard
enough," she said.
- Referring to the period after Clinton's affair with Gennifer
Flowers, the Arkansas beauty queen who claimed a 12-year relationship,
Hillary said: "You know we did have a very good stretch - years and
years of nothing."
- The interview, to be published this week in Talk, a new
magazine edited by Tina Brown, former editor of The New Yorker, is the
first time Hillary has talked about her marriage since her husband was
impeached for lying about his sexual relationship with Lewinsky, the 21-year-old
White House trainee. Asked by Lucinda Franks, the interviewer, whether
their marriage would survive the strain of her standing for the Senate
in New York, Hillary replied: "He's responsible for his own behaviour
whether I'm there or 100 miles away. You have the confrontation with the
person and then it is their responsibility, whether it's gambling, drinking
or whatever. Nobody can do it for you.
- "He has been working on himself very hard in the
past year. He has become more aware of his past and what was causing this
- Hillary emphasised that the affair with Lewinsky occurred
after the deaths of his mother, her father and their old friend Vincent
Foster, who shot himself. "He couldn't protect me, so he lied,"
she said simply.
- "You know in Christian theology there are sins of
weakness and sins of malice, and this was a sin of weakness."
- When Hillary was challenged that many people believed
she had stuck by Clinton for her own benefit, she revealed her deeper
motivations for loyalty. She said she had learnt the lessons of her mother's
bitter experience: Dorothy Rodham, the product of a divorce, was put on
a train at the age of eight with her three-year-old sister to be brought
up by her grandparents.
- "My mother never had any education. She had terrible
obstacles but she vowed that she would break the pattern of abandonment
in her family, and she did," Hillary said.
- "Everybody has some dysfunction in their families.
They have to deal with it. You don't walk away if you love someone. You
help the person."
- When Hillary tried to draw a comparison from the Bible
to describe her allegiance, the interviewer suggested a passage from
Corinthians. "Love endures all things? No, I love that, but I was
thinking of when Peter betrayed Jesus three times and Jesus knew it but
loved him anyway. Life is not a linear progression. It has many paths
and challenges; and we need to help one another."
- "And it is love, isn't it?" asked the interviewer.
- "Yes, it is," Hillary replied. "We have
- She survived the infidelities and the public outcry through
"soul-searching, friends, religious faith and long hard discussions".
She said: "I don't believe in denying things. I believe in working
through it. Is he ashamed? Yes. Is he sorry? Yes. But does this negate
everything he has done as a husband, a father, a president?
- "There has been enormous pain, enormous anger, but
I have been with him half my life and he is a very, very good man. We
just have a deep connection that transcends whatever happens."
- Her chief of staff, Melanne Verveer, said that as the
president tried to make up for what he had done she had seen "physical
passion" come back into their lives. But the rapprochement emerged
slowly, according to another aide, who said Hillary had "barely spoken"
to Clinton for eight months after the semen stain on Lewinsky's dress
was made public.
- During the past 18 months Hillary has lost weight, changed
her hairstyle and started wearing smart clothes. Clinton, say aides, has
noticed the difference with some surprise. "Doesn't she look beautiful?"
he is said to have observed to friends.
- Hillary says she and Clinton enjoy the intimacies of
any married couple. "We talk. We talk in the solarium, in the bedroom,
in the kitchen - it's just constant conversation. We like to lie in bed
and watch old movies, you know, those little individual video machines
you can hold on your lap."
- News of the interview began to circulate in Washington
a few days after a court fined the president $90,686 (£56,700) for
lying in the harassment case brought by Paula Jones. It was the first
time a sitting president had been fined for contempt. Jones had accused
Clinton of making an unwanted sexual advance to her in a hotel in Arkansas
before he became president.