New book: Bill's presence kept Hillary Clinton off the ticket in 2008

Washington's top power couple has always been dramatic. Today, the question is whether former President Clinton helps or hinders his wife's career.

Charles Dharapak/AP/File
Attending the inaugural prayer service at Washington National Cathedral on Jan. 21 were: first lady Michelle Obama; President Obama; Vice President Joe Biden; his wife, Jill Biden; former President Clinton; and Hillary Clinton, the pick for secretary of State.

For Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the shadow of a prominent husband hasn’t been so easy to shake.

The latest example of former President Bill Clinton’s impact on his wife’s career: She might have been Barack Obama’s vice president if not for him.

In his new memoir, David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, says that the president-elect seriously considered his former rival to be his No. 2 in the White House, but ultimately decided against it because of Mr. Clinton.

Obama, Mr. Plouffe says, explained his decision saying, “I think Bill may be too big a complication. If I picked her, my concern is that there would be more than two of us in the relationship.”

This is not the first example of the “Bill effect” for Mrs. Clinton.

Her nomination to her current post of secretary of State hinged on negotiations with Mr. Clinton over his speaking engagements and international fundraising for his William J. Clinton Foundation. She was formally nominated only after Mr. Clinton turned over information on more than 200,000 donors to his foundation and agreed to conditions on his charity work.

Back when Mrs. Clinton was a candidate in the 2008 presidential election, Mr. Clinton was also criticized by some as a liability to her campaign for what some perceived to be overly aggressive criticisms of other candidates. Whether his criticisms helped or hurt her campaign, Mr. Clinton was labeled his wife’s “attack dog.” Even Obama complained, "I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes.”

More recently, Mrs. Clinton’s trip to Africa in August was momentarily overshadowed by her husband’s negotiation of the release of two journalists who had been detained in North Korea. Later in the trip, she was widely perceived to have lashed out at a Congolese student who asked about Mr. Clinton. She said, “My husband is not secretary of State; I am. I am not going to be channeling my husband."

But Mr. Clinton maintains that his main priority since leaving office has been supporting the political ambitions of his wife.

Back on the campaign trail, he singled out a man in the back of the Iowa fairgrounds where he was stumping for his wife.

“I want to thank all of you who are here,” he said. “But there’s one guy back in the back over there that represents the group I belong to.”

His sign? It said, “Husbands for Hillary.”


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