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Two for the price of one, if Hillary wins

London Telegraph | June 20, 2007

If Americans elect Hillary Clinton as president next year they will also be re-electing her husband Bill, according to the author of a new biography of the former First Lady.

Carl Bernstein, one of the reporters who broke the Watergate scandal which brought down Richard Nixon, told The Daily Telegraph that the couple would operate a joint presidency in which Bill would advise on policy and tactics as well as act as trouble shooter.

"There is no question in my mind it would be a co-presidency because he has better judgment than she does on most political matters. He would be a constant presence," said Mr Bernstein.

On the campaign trail to win the Democrat Party's nomination Mrs Clinton has said that she would use her husband as a global ambassador for America. But his real role would go much further, Mr Bernstein believes.

His book, A Woman in Charge, involved 200 interviews with Clinton advisors, colleagues and friends, many speaking for the first time.

It underlines how the Clintons began Bill's presidency in 1993 as a joint operation which only foundered when Hillary's plans to overhaul health care collapsed.

"The first partnership in the White House failed, but this time it would have a better chance of working, because they have both learned. She would not make the same mistakes as on health care because she would compromise," said Mr Bernstein.

As a couple, they feel the last years of his presidency were wasted by the Monica Lewinsky affair and his failed impeachment, and that they have unfinished business, particularly on health reform and restoring America's standing in the world.

"You can see this sort of thing is in their mind already," said Mr Bernstein, who has no doubt Mr Clinton would move back into the White House. For all the pain caused by his infidelity, the marriage remains strong.

"It's a love affair and my guess is that would be enhanced by her being president. They were in love when the first met, and people who know them well believe they are in love to this day. You or I might think 'what about all this dysfunction?' - to use the psychobabble of the day - but they have decided to weather it out," he said.

The book details how the Clintons' relationship bonded around politics and ideas only for Hillary to put Bill's career first, even though her friends urged her to run for office. Her own presidency would restore the balance.

The author thinks Mr Clinton would, overall, be more of a help than a hindrance to his spouse, but if he was caught philandering again "the great national soap opera would come back to town".

That prospect even has some Democrats hoping that Hillary will not win and, as the campaign gathers pace, memories of the mistakes, controversies and scandals of the 1990s will be revived by Republicans.

However Mr Clinton's charisma is still a huge draw to most Democrats, and has helped raise record sums (£14 million in this year's first quarter) for his wife's campaign.

Will she win? "She is favourite for the Democrat nomination, but then it is a crap shoot. The whole dynamic of a campaign is unpredictable. It will depend largely on who her opponent is," said Mr Bernstein, whose book took eight years to research and write and has been praised by reviewers for its fairness and thoroughness. He can but admire how Mrs Clinton has "restored some real dignity to their partnership" after the global exposure of his misbehaviour and their failures first time round. The couple's rehablitation began with her election as senator for New York in 2000, his last year in office, which gave Hillary her first taste of independence since their marriage.

Vilified as First Lady for a self-righteous refusal to negotiate, she also learned the art of compromise in the Senate, a lesson that would serve her well as the nation's leader.

"She would also have more experience and comprehension of the presidency than any new president has ever known and that will be hugely valuable," said Mr Bernstein at his Manhattan office.

It was 35 years ago yesterday that Mr Bernstein, now 63, and Bob Woodward were called into the news editor's office at the Washington Post to have it confirmed that they would work together on what became the story of a lifetime - the break-in at the Democrat Party HQ at the Watergate building, and the subsequent cover-up by the Nixon administration that brought about his resignation.

"Nixon was an amazing story but let me tell you this is every bit as amazing. If Hillary could turn about to be a great president after everything that has gone before - what an incredible thing it would be for both of them," he said.

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