life has been put in front of her by political opponents,
feminists, conservatives and many others. This time she
took command and told her own story in 528 page.
Yonca POYRAZ DOGAN*
Rodham Clinton took command
and told her own story in "Living History
As soon as you enter bookstores, it's right in front of
you: Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now, New York Senator Rodham Clinton, she candidly
talks about her upbringing in middle-class America in
the 1950s and her transformation from Republican to student
activist to controversial First Lady. Living History is her memoir of life through the White House years.
And her book proves that she is at her best when she is
least guarded about herself.
On the shelves in June, the book immediately started breaking records.
It sold 250 thousand copies on the first day that it was
out in the stores. 1 million copies have been printed
and more copies are on the way.
She has made headlines again. After 11 years, Time noted in a cover
story that "She was a lightening rod almost from
the start." From local to the national media, Hillary
is in demand. Some publish excerpts from the book, some
have psychologists to analyze Hillary's marriage with
Bill, and some talk about what she is going to do with
the 8 million dollar advance from the publisher for the
book. In 1995, she wrote It Takes a Village, which explored
the responsibility of raising children, and she donated
the one million dollar that she got from the book sales
to children's foundations.
Hillary does not seem bothered
by the attention she receives. On the contrary, that’s
probably what she wanted. There are more than 20 books
about her out there. Rarely has the spouse of a president
been so closely scrutinized. Her private life has been
put in front of her by political opponents, feminists,
conservatives and many others. This time she took command
and told her own story in 528 pages.
Why is she still with Bill?
From local to the national news media, this is the question
everybody has in mind. Her own answer is in the book,
on page 75:
"It's not a question that I welcome, but given the public nature of
our lives, it's one I know will be asked again and again.
What can I say to explain a love that has persisted for
decades and has grown through our shared experiences of
parenting a daughter, burying our parents and tending
our extended families, a lifetime's worth of friends,
a common faith and an abiding commitment to our country?
All I know is that no one understands me better and no
one can make me laugh the way Bill does. Even after all
these years, he is still the most interesting, energizing
and fully alive person I have ever met. Bill Clinton and
I started a conversation in the spring of 1971, and more
than thirty years later we're still talking."
may not be the answer feminists would like. But Hillary
has been always controversial. When she said she won't
be baking cookies, at the beginning of her White House
years as a First Lady, she angered homemakers and had
pleased feminists. When she became a public figure, her
foremost supporters were university educated women. After
she was "cheated" by her husband, she received
lots of support from men and from not so educated women.
Later on, feminists found new answers for the puzzle of Hillary-Bill relationship.
They said, women should be able to do whatever they want,
the important thing is that women
should be free to choose. And Hillary fit that
formula. After all, she had chosen to stay with Bill by
her own free will.
she really love him?
Hillary wanted to "wring Bill's neck" after
finding out about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. That's
what she wrote in her book. She also wrote that nobody
has been able to impress her so far, as much as Bill Clinton.
Has her love been politically motivated? Does she really love him? Hillary
has her own answers:
"My personal feelings and political beliefs were on a collision course.
As his wife, I wanted to wring Bill's neck. But he was
also my President, and I thought that, in spite of everything,
Bill led America and the world in a way that I continued
to support. No matter what he had done, I did not think
that any person deserved the abusive treatment he had
received. His privacy, my privacy, Monica Lewinsky's privacy
and the privacy of our families had been invaded in a
cruel and gratuitous manner. I believe what my husband
did was morally wrong. So was lying to me and misleading
the American people about it. I also knew his failing
was not a betrayal of his country."
We may never know the real answer to the question of her love for her husband.
And maybe we don't need to know. But reading some passages
from the book, one thinks that these words cannot be coming
out of a woman who does not love:
"To this day, he can astonish me with the connections he weaves between
ideas and words and how he makes it all sound like music.
I still love the way he thinks and the way he looks. One
of the first things I noticed about Bill was the shape
of his hands. His wrists are narrow and his fingers tapered
and deft, like those of a pianist or a surgeon. When we
first met as students, I loved watching him turn the pages
of a book. Now his hands are showing signs of age after
thousands of handshakes and golf swings and miles of signatures.
They are, like their owner, weathered but still expressive,
attractive and resilient."
Indeed, after reading their life story from Hillary's book, it is not so
difficult to understand why Hillary and Bill are such
a good fit. They are coming from a similar social class,
they share similar values. A lot has been written about
Bill Clinton's abusive step father and struggling mother
who was a nurse, but Hillary's past has not been explored
that much except that her father was a staunch Republican.
Hillary tells in her book that she is coming from a middle class family.
Her mother had been abandoned when she was a small child.
Hillary's father had been in the Navy and started a small
drapery fabric business after the war. Hillary recalls
that her father was a thrifty man and had always lessons
for his children. For example, if he saw a toothpaste
left in the bathroom without a lid, he would throw it
away from the window and have the children find it out
among the bushes no matter it's winter or rainy. To this
day, Hillary writes, she packs away the smallest pieces
of leftovers and cannot waste even a crumbled piece of
Hillary has been working since she was thirteen. The most
challenging of her jobs maybe the one in Alaska where
she slimed fish in Valdez in a temporary salmon factory
on a pier.
From Eleanor to Hillary
Hillary is an
admirer of Eleanor Roosevelt, the controversial First Lady
of her own time in 1930s and 1940s. There is a chapter in
Hillary's book called "Conversations With Eleanor."
"I often joked in my speeches that I had imaginary conversations with
Mrs. Roosevelt to solicit her advice on a range of subjects.
It's actually a useful mental exercise to help analyze
problems, provided you choose the right person to visualize.
Eleanor Roosevelt was ideal," wrote Hillary.
And a memorable saying from Eleanor for Hillary was:
"A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong she is until
she's in hot water."
When Hillary decided to move to Arkansas to be with Bill Clinton despite
of her own promising career, she recalled another Eleanor
"Do what you're most afraid to do."
Hillary writes that she was afraid to go to Arkansas because she didn’t
know the place and didn’t have any friends there.
She was also in Washington to work for the House Judiciary
Committee on its Nixon impeachment inquiry.
In her own words, she followed her heart instead of her head and moved
to Arkansas. Hillary also accepted a teaching job at the
University of Arkansas law school.
Run Hillary run
there had never been before a student speaker at graduation.
Hillary, from the class of 1969, delivered a memorable
The only time Hillary wasn't employed since she was thirteen was the eight
years she spent in the White House. Meanwhile, she became
the first woman partner at Little Rock's Rose Law Firm.
She was also the first First Lady to have a public office in the White
House. Hillary became the first First Lady to be elected
for a public office and became a senator.
Now, everybody wonders: Is she going to run for President? She says no
but predictions are that she might change her mind until
_ . _
to Yonca Poyraz Dogan:
(Yonca Poyraz Dogan is an international broadcaster at
the Voice of America www.voanews.com/turkish A Turkish version of
this article was published in Radikal 2 on June 22)