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Love And Marriage -- Former First Couple On The Couch And The Front Page

(CBS)
There it sits, the first story to catch your eye on the front-page of The New York Times: "For Clintons, Delicate Dance Of Married and Public Lives." The story, based on "interviews with some 50 people" and a "review" of the Clintons "respective activities" since they left the White House in 2000, paints an interesting, but not surprising, picture of the former first couple's current relationship. Already, however, the blogosphere sees ulterior motives at work in the story. Liberal blogger Digby says:
I think this deserves some pushback from the blogosphere. Regardless of your feelings for Hillary, this is obviously just the beginning of another trivializing smear fest against Democrats in general. This stuff is done for no other reason than to make Democrats appear unserious, immoral and halfway nuts. There is a concerted effort coming from somewhere to create a drumbeat that when Democrats are in the spotlight the country is going to be back in trivial tabloid scandal land. It almost has the feeling of being a threat.
At least part of what's bothering some about this story is its prominent, above-the-fold placement and the belief that discussing the Clintons relationship at all is a veiled attempt at dredging up the couple's past problems. And, in claiming this to be "Topic A" among Democrats looking ahead toward the 2008 campaign, some see it as an unfair shot at the New York Senator's possible aspirations. Parts of the story lend a little weight to those concerns:
Since the start of 2005, the Clintons have been together about 14 days a month on average, according to aides who reviewed the couple's schedules. Sometimes it is a full day of relaxing at home in Chappaqua; sometimes it is meeting up late at night. At their busiest, they saw each other on a single day, Valentine's Day, in February 2005 — a month when each was traveling a great deal. Last August, they saw each other at some point on 24 out of 31 days. Out of the last 73 weekends, they spent 51 together.
It's not exactly clear what the importance of those numbers are. Are those unusual numbers for the average married couple (and what does "together" really mean)? Are they unusual for a couple that happen to be a former president and a sitting United States senator? Is there really anything about the Clintons that is "usual" or "average?" But outside a couple questionable assumptions like that, it's hard to see this as some opening salvo in a media offensive against Mrs. Clinton's political future.

Whatever anyone thought of the Monica Lewinsky "scandal," and all the theatrics which followed, it is now a part of everyone's collective memory. It wasn't by any means the first time the relationship had been part of the debate (remember "two for the price of one," I could have stayed home and baked cookies and Gennifer Flowers?). Former president Clinton and Sen. Clinton have lived through more than a decade of national rumor and innuendo about their personal life, it can't be a shock to them that it continues.

Aside from the past, there are the political realities of Hillary Clinton's possible (expected in many quarters) presidential campaign in 2008. She's already made history by becoming the first sitting First Lady to be elected to the U.S. Senate (the first First Lady, sitting or former, elected to Congress at all for that matter). Could she become the first to win the White House – and bring a former president along to become the first First Man?

A good chunk of The New York Times story is spent on the reality of this tricky political question. The former president is described as aware of the potential for him to "step" on his wife's public career and reports that he takes pains to avoid doing so. Another issue that will certainly be front and center should Mrs. Clinton run for president is President Clinton's role in her campaign – not to mention a potential role should he return to the White House. This is uncharted territory here and all these legitimate issues will be on the table.

Perhaps today's story delves a little too much into the kind of pop-psychology questions like their emotional bond and connection. But it's hardly trivial or unexpected. You can bet the ranch the Clintons themselves understand that their marriage will be dissected many more times should she run in 2008.

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