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Billary: 7 Moving Excerpts from Carl Bernstein’s A Woman in Charge

Billary: 7 Moving Excerpts from Carl Bernstein’s A Woman in Charge

One of the most enlightening and informative biographies I have ever read is Carl Bernstein’s Hillary Clinton biography, A Woman in Charge. I started reading it before the 2016 elections and hoped to see the unwritten end of the story in full colour as she became America’s first female president, but that did not happen.

However, I learnt a lot about Hillary Clinton that I did not know before. I got to know her better as an American, as a lawyer, as a politician. I also got to know her better as Bill’s woman, before and after their wedding. The role she played in his life and career inspired me to greater wifehood sometimes, and at other times left me speechless and in awe. These excerpts, in particular, moved me:

1. On her being the wind beneath Bill’s wings:

“Bill Clinton, as he was falling in love with Hillary, perceived that she possessed the one necessary quality that was not native to his soul: a kind of toughness, the significance and nature of which would be endlessly debated by the Clintons’ friends, advocates and adversaries. Without it, Bill would never have gotten to the presidency.”

2. On the first proposal in England, and the others:

“At twilight one evening ‘on the shores of Ennerdale,’ in the English Lake District celebrated by the Romantic poets, he asked her to be his wife. She said no. She didn’t want to rush into a decision, she later explained. At that time she was ‘afraid of commitment in general and Bill’s intensity in particular.’ Many years afterwards, Hillary said the marriage almost didn’t happen. Bill proposed many times. ‘I never doubted my love for him, but I knew he was going to build his life in Arkansas. I couldn’t envision what my life would be like in a place where I had no family or friends.”

3. When Bill thought it was best to let her go:

“Bill recognized that to be married, to him, ‘would be a high-wire operation’ and that Arkansas was not her preferred residence. He’s been fortunate to rub elbows with the ablest people of his generation, but he regarded Hillary as ‘head and shoulders above them all in political potential. She had a big brain, a good heart, better organizational skills than I did, and political skills that were nearly as good as mine; I’d just had more experience.’ Her happiness was all-important to him, he said, and perhaps it was better if she proceeded without him.”

4. She gave it all up and chose to marry for love:

“In Arkansas, she would not be a woman in charge – something she knew was not necessarily antithetical to being married, but antithetical to being married to Bill Clinton, on his turf. She would, by choice, inhabit the more traditional universe in which she would invest her talent, dedication and energy to brighten her man’s star – as her Mother’s generation had done. She would be the partner, the manager, the adviser. She would follow her heart.

5. The crazy early days:

“‘They would constantly argue, and the next thing you know, they’d be falling all over each other with “Oh my darling… come here baby…you’re adorable…” then throwing things at each other, and then they’d be slobbering all over each other,’ a disaffected Clinton aide said with exaggerated disdain. Yet this dynamic would persist.”

6. The extraordinary synergy:

“Their friends observed a remarkable chemistry. ‘She’s the one that gets up in the morning with a dark cloud over her head, and he gets up with the bright sun,’ said a photojournalist who followed the Clintons in Arkansas and in Washington. ‘As the day goes on, he’s the one who falls into a funk and she’s the one who will refocus him. It’s one of those things that if they had never met neither of them would have reached the heights that they did.’”

7. On the give and take of marriage, and its seasons:

“‘She draws sustenance from the marriage, from him, from them,’ said a friend who had been present at their wedding. ‘And in some way, it all still hangs on the marriage for her.’ But in the season of her political ascendancy, Hillary had come to understand – and take comfort in – the fact that she is the dominant partner. Bill now contributed to their joint enterprise more in the way that she had in other seasons.”

David Broder sums “Billary” up succinctly:

“One thing is absolutely clear,” noted the political columnist David Broder, as Hillary’s grip on the presidential nominating process tightened. “Her marriage is the central fact in her life, and this partnership of Bill and Hillary Clinton is indissoluble. She cannot function without him, and he would not have been president without her. If she becomes president, he will play as central a role in her presidency as she did in his. And that is something the country will have to ponder.”

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Joy Ehonwa

Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at]

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