Dowd: Folksy Bill Tasked With Melting Wife’s Sphinx-like Aura at DNC

Former President Clinton defended Hillary Clinton's career during his speech at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, the night she formally became the party's presidential nominee. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Former President Clinton defended Hillary Clinton’s career during his speech at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, the night she formally became the party’s presidential nominee. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

by Maureen Dowd

His life took off, he said, when he fell in love with “that girl.”

He told a familiar love story, recounted in his memoir, about springtime at Yale Law School in 1971 and a “magnetic” girl with thick blond hair and big glasses and no makeup and a long, white flowery skirt.

He said when he first saw her in a political and civil rights class that he wanted to tap her on the shoulder but he knew if he did, he would be starting something beyond his control.

With a sky-blue tie and silvery hair and an easy smile, the 69-year-old looked healthier than he has on the trail. And he was sharp.

The Big Dog basked in the unique historic moment: a former president and a husband and a wannabe first lad making the case for a former first lady, a wife and a wannabe first woman president.

In an act of amazing self-restraint, the man who relishes the word “I” managed to make the talk, as he prefers to call his folksy speeches, all about her. He was positively uxorious.

She “calls you when you’re sick, when your kid’s in trouble or when there’s a death in the family,” Bill said of his partner of 40 years.

It has been said that the essence of the Clinton marriage is coming to each other’s rescue in critical moments. Or maybe more precisely, their byzantine conjugal dynamic works like this: One of them creates chaos — usually Bill — and then they get out of it together. Or as a former aide described the Clinton pattern: “Hubris. Funk. Reintroduction.”

“You could drop her in any trouble spot, pick one, come back in a month and somehow, some way, she will have made it better,” he said, in a line that could have applied to global crises or marital. (An earlier celebrity speaker tonight was Tony Goldwyn, who plays the philandering president in a series inspired by Bill and Monica).

After the email shaming and a bloodless campaign, tonight it was Bill’s turn to rescue Hillary from being the most unknown known person in history. One of the most liked presidents was charged with humanizing one of the least liked presidential candidates.

“One of the most seductive characters we’ve seen in American politics in our lifetime,” as David Axelrod calls Bill Clinton, had to melt the sphinx-like aura of his guarded wife.

The uncontrollable Clinton had to make the tightly-controlled Clinton seem less coiled and more endearing. The Protean pol had to take his wife’s ever-shifting personas and policies, and paint a cohesive portrait. He rivaled Ivanka in his talent for airbrushing, but he probably won’t be offering his convention outfit for sale tonight.

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SOURCE: The New York Times