Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How the Spitzer thing affects Hillary

There were two reactions to Eliot Spitzer's prostitute problem - the initial one was pure schadenfreude. People then moved on quickly to pity for his wife who had the painful job of standing next to him while he made his statement.

On the Newsweek site the article on Wronged Wives is the second most popular. People increasingly feel that the poor wives should not be dragged out like this. And of course all discussions of the wronged wife recall the most famous wronged wife of them all - one Hillary Rodham Clinton. She too was sent to defend Bill when the Lewinsky allegations first broke, and she did her best, telling the Today show that it was all one "vast right-wing conspiracy". She probably believed it too, till Bill was forced later to come clean (even Hillary didn't think Bill would be so dumb as to risk his presidency for sex).

It's hard to get wronged wives to talk - who would want the extra humiliation? - but another wronged wife, Dina McGreevey, who was dragged out to stand by her husband (the former Governor of New Jersey) while he admitted that he was a "gay American" in 2004, has come forward and been all over the newspapers, magazines and TV giving her opinions. In her Newsweek interview she says that after her dreadful stand-by-your-man press conference, she consulted Hillary, who told her to look out for herself and to "get your own counsel, don't rely on his advisers". McGreevey took it to heart and has just concluded a spectacular divorce from her husband.

How will these reminders of Hillary's painful past play with American voters? Another Newsweek article points out that voters have repeatedly shown that they don't much like it when they perceive Hillary to be attacked or to be hurting:

For much of 1992, the campaign's internal polling showed Hillary had significantly high negatives. Then a remarkable thing happened—the Republican National Convention. As would be expected, Bill Clinton took much of the Republican assault. But a special scorn, shrill and almost comically over the top, was reserved for Hillary. Almost overnight her negatives dropped, and for the rest of that campaign most voters viewed her favorably. It happened again during the impeachment saga of her husband, and we have since seen it more than once. Nothing helps her more than to be attacked by her enemies (think of the phenomenon as a slightly bizarre twist on FDR's maxim about an unsavory Latin American potentate: "He may be an S.O.B., but he's our S.O.B.").

Michelle Obama has in the past taken a shot at Hillary's marital problems saying "if you can't run your own house, you can't run the White House" - her view is not shared, most people thought it was well below the belt. Sympathy for the Wronged Wives is at an all time high, and while Hillary might feel embarassed at having her past dragged up again because of the Spitzer affair, it might actually help her.

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