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Judging Hillary Clinton by Bill Clinton

What would you think if I said I liked or didn’t like Joan Didion’s writing based on the work of her husband?  If I picked up a John Dunne book and read it and said, “Well, now I know everything I need to know about Joan Didion’s writing style,” I think you’d cock your head to the side and say, “I don’t know how the two are connected.”

Even if I continued, “Well, she gave him writing advice and edits on all of his books.  So now that I’ve read his book, I can totally imagine how Joan Didion writes.”  You might counter, “But editing isn’t the same as writing.  If you read her work, you’re going to discover that they have two very different voices despite having lived and worked together for many years.”

This conversation isn’t really about Joan Didion and John Dunne.

The point is… Hillary Clinton isn’t Bill Clinton, and she should not be liked or not liked based on the leadership style of her husband.  Yes, they have worked closely together for many years, and I’m sure she has offered him advice.  But you cannot know how she’ll be as a president based on how Bill was as a president — good or bad.  She is her own person with her own foibles and strengths.

And neither her husband’s infidelity nor his policies have any place in a discussion of Hillary Clinton’s ability to serve as president any more that we would ever look at Melania Trump’s parenting or career in order to judge Donald Trump.  The fact that Trump keeps trying to bring this topic into the discussion means he’s treating the election like a tabloid article and not the American people hiring our next leader.

While I believe she has a lot of strengths and that her foibles are generally the ones of all politicians as well as the narrative created by the media, the decision to vote for her has to be about her.  Not about her husband or other Democratic leaders or the DNC itself.  Just a lone woman, standing on a public stage, requesting that we allow her to lead the country.

Yes, I am a little cranky as I read yet more coverage that doesn’t allow the woman to own her accomplishments and keeps bringing her future back to her husband’s past.  Which, when you think about judging Joan Didion’s work by her husband’s writing style, is reductive and demeaning towards the individual.

Plus Joan Didion’s books are amazing.  I would have really missed out if I hadn’t given her a chance as a writer based on her own merit.


1 Nicoleandmaggie { 10.04.16 at 7:33 am }

Preach it, sister.

2 Beth { 10.04.16 at 7:43 am }

Well said. And based on your blog, i bet your husband is very cool. 😉

3 torthuil { 10.04.16 at 9:12 am }

The one I’ll say about your election is that it’s making everybody talk about everything! Relevant or not. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I hope amongst the storm of propaganda and gossip and lies and distortion a and actual important issues people have the patience to figure out what actually matters for their country. It’s messy alright. But I think people have got to face up to the messiness.

4 a { 10.04.16 at 9:13 am }

Ha! Beth, FTW!

I am cranky at all of the coverage. 3am tweetstorms. Wikileaks. Remember the good old days of swiftboats and extramarital affairs that the CANDIDATE had? Who’d have ever thought those would be the good old days? Just another month…5 more weeks…surely I can last…

5 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.04.16 at 2:42 pm }

Once again, an apt analogy.

Still, I bet I would like Josh’s plays.

6 Jenny { 10.04.16 at 2:47 pm }

It’s just so offensive. It’s like she’s not even her own person; she’s just a reflection of Bill. I can’t see these things ever being said about a male candidate. I’m infuriated by it all – and I’m not even American!

7 Cristy { 10.04.16 at 4:57 pm }

Agreed. No one should be judged on the write of their partner/families member/group they are affiliated with. We should be judged on our own merits and accomplishments.

8 A. { 10.04.16 at 5:08 pm }

I mostly want to thank you for being brave enough to post about this election (it’s an easy way to get flamed to death by readers) which I find to me the most morally offensive of my lifetime. There is an unacknowledged misogyny and chauvinism providing the backdrop for this campaign, and the nature of the criticism surrounding Clinton drives me insane. I don’t much remember talking about Hillary during Bill’s 1992 campaign or Michelle during either Obama campaign or Laura during either Bush campaign. Why is he relevant to this election??? I thought the article in the Huffington Post was good: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-womack/stop-pretending-you-dont-_b_12191766.html. I really need this campaign to be over already.

9 Jess { 10.04.16 at 8:41 pm }

So well said. It drive me crazy when Hillary is judged on the merits or past of her husband, and it actually upsets me when she herself brings his policies into the conversation, because I feel it gives credence to those who do it negatively. Argh. I was FURIOUS to see that Trump had attacked Hillary because of her husband’s infidelity, that somehow this reflected poorly on her…Why on EARTH is this even part of the conversation? Definitely tabloidy and insane that it even garners coverage. And SO insulting. Especially coming from an adulterer himself, who said, “I don’t talk about that.” OH REALLY. Very frustrating. I haven’t read any Joan Didion but will add her to my list!

10 katherinea12 { 10.04.16 at 9:37 pm }

Well said. It’s been a huge frustration to me to see how much Hillary Clinton is judged based on Bill Clinton. She is an accomplished and qualified candidate. Who her husband is shouldn’t be relevant to that discussion.

11 Mali { 10.04.16 at 10:56 pm }

Yes! I would hate to be judged by my husband’s behaviours, preferences and flaws. He would equally hate to be judged by mine!

It’s all so rooted in misogyny, that a woman couldn’t possibly be judged in her own right.

12 Corinne Rodrigues { 10.05.16 at 9:41 pm }

The undertones of gender bias in the US elections shocks me, because we in India always think that it is bad here. But we had a woman Prime Minister, a very strong one at that, over 50 years ago. And she was not judged on the fact that she and her husband lived apart.
Don’t get me wrong, women continue to have a rough time in India in other spheres, but in politics, not so much.

13 Ashleigh { 10.06.16 at 6:29 pm }


14 loribeth { 10.08.16 at 8:47 pm }


In a similar vein, I saw a couple of great articles today — referencing The Donald’s latest disgusting remarks about women — asking why so many men are referencing their wives and daughters when they express their condemnation. I mean, I get that having a woman in your life makes it easy to imagine the same thing happening to them. But can’t we just condemn his remarks about women because women are human beings and deserve respect, period, not because of their relationship to a man or their role in his life?

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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