Clintons' personal, political partnership remains national influence

Sep 26, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she will retire after the current term, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, says he has "no earthly idea" if she'll mount another run for the White House. With the country poised to vote in November, veteran Clinton watchers are already looking ahead to 2016.

WAMC's Ian Pickus speaks with Duke University history professor William Chafe about the partnership between the two -- a partnership that has helped shape decades of American history.

Chafe has spent his career studying and writing about civil rights, the women’s movement and American politics, so the Clintons are a perfect intersection of those interests.

Brilliant political practitioners who had national aspirations from their teens, Bill and Hillary represented a new generation of well-educated and driven thinkers shaped by the turmoil of the 60s — but who were able to see the wisdom of working within the system for change.

Their often challenging marriage has been the subject of untold numbers of books, articles and hours of airtime, and their personal life still fascinates. Both born into demanding home lives, they joined forces in the pursuit of their ambitious goals, and remarkably, by staying together, they have achieved most of them: governor, president, first lady, Senator, Secretary of State, respected elder statesman, and who knows what next.

The road there has been anything but smooth, as Chafe documents in the compelling new book Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal, which is published by FSG. In it, Chafe documents a partnership that, at its best, reached heights few else could, but whose ascension was often derailed by self-destructive tendencies and psychodrama played out on a national scale.