And what a village it was!
First, her close confidantes Diane Blair (a friend of the Clintons since the 1970s) and Betsy Ebeling (a childhood friend) came to visit the White House. “It made me feel better to have friends around who had known me forever,” Clinton writes of their visit in September 1998, “who had seen me pregnant and sick and happy and sad and could understand what I was going through now.”
While Blair and Ebeling were visiting, Stevie Wonder stopped by the White House to play a song he had written specifically for the first lady. “He hadn’t finished all the words,” Clinton writes, “but the song was about the power of forgiveness, with the refrain, ‘You don’t have to walk on water. … ’ ” She adds that: “This was one of the kindest gestures anyone made during this incredibly difficult period.”
Katharine Graham, The Washington Post publisher “who had had her own experience with the agony of infidelity,” Clinton notes, “made a point of inviting me to lunch.”
Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue magazine, called the first lady to propose an article and photo shoot. “It was gutsy of her to offer and counterintuitive for me to accept,” Clinton writes. “In fact, the experience did wonders for my spirits. I wore a glorious burgundy velvet Oscar de la Renta creation for the cover shoot. For a day, I escaped into a world of makeup artists and haute couture. The Annie Leibovitz photographs were great, giving me the chance to look good when I had been feeling so low.”
Nelson Mandela, who at the time was president of South Africa, visited the White House after a session of the U.N. General Assembly. Clinton describes how, at a reception for African American religious leaders, Mandela praised the relationship Bill Clinton formed with South Africa and the rest of the continent. When Mandela said publicly that “We have often said that our morality does not allow us to desert our friends” — and addressed Bill directly by saying “We are thinking of you in this difficult and uncertain time in your life” — Hillary viewed this as a “plea to Americans” to stop the effort to impeach the president. “If Mandela could forgive,” Clinton writes, “I would try. But it was hard, even with the help of many friends and role models.”
The Dalai Lama also came for a visit. He presented the first lady with a white prayer scarf and told her that he thought of her often. “He encouraged me to be strong and not give in to bitterness and anger in the face of pain and injustice,” Clinton writes.
Hillary Clinton said that Democratic members of Congress called to see what they could do. One congressman told her, “Hillary, if you were my sister, I’d punch Bill Clinton right in the nose!” And some Republicans let her know that they disagreed with their party’s push to impeach the president.
In addition to that village of friends and supporters, the first lady writes of regaining her footing through campaigning for, among others, Sen. Barbara Boxer in California, Patty Murray in Washington and Rep. Chuck Schumer’s Senate campaign in New York.
Shortly after the 1998 election, Rep. Charlie Rangel called the first lady and urged her to run for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s seat in the U.S. Senate. At first she thought the idea was “absurd,” she writes, before eventually changing her mind.
One of the benefits of pondering a run for the Senate, Clinton writes, was that she and Bill were talking about things other than their relationship. “The tables were now turned,” she writes, “as he played for me the role I had always played for him.”
That sentence has new relevance now, as we could see the Clintons back in the White House, spousal roles once again reversed.