The Marriage Behind The Clintons

Former President Bill Clinton, is embraced by his wife Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., as he introduces her at a Rally for Change at the University of Iowa Tuesday, July 3, 2007 in Iowa City, Iowa.
The marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton is one of the most fascinating and scrutinized of our time.

A simple Google search reveals more than 40 books about the couple.

In the latest, "For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years," author and Vanity Fair contributing editor Sally Bedell Smith takes an intricate look at the ties that bind them. She examines the impact their relationship has had, and continues to have, on their careers, and the nation, as Hillary seeks to build on her role as a New York Senator to become the second Clinton in the Oval Office.

It details everything from Hillary's short-lived healthcare policy push early in Bill's administration, to her subsequent, extended behind-the-scenes role in her husband's White House, to Bill's sex scandals, and their celebrity status today. It also explores the sometimes strained relationship among Bill, Hillary and Al Gore.

The book's publisher, Random House, says, "During their eight years in the White House, Bill and Hillary Clinton worked together more closely than the public ever knew. Their intertwined personal and professional lives had far-reaching consequences for politics, domestic policy, and international affairs, and their marital troubles became a national soap opera."

Bedell Smith looks at how they fed and feed off each other to make what Random House calls "two halves of a unique whole," explains the dynamics of their relationship, and shows that, as Random House says, "It is impossible to understand one Clinton without factoring in the other."

Bedell Smith talked about it all with co-anchor Harry Smith on The Early Show Tuesday.

Though she didn't speak with either Clinton for the book, Bedell Smith does draw on dozens of interviews with Clinton insiders including Cabinet members, other top administration officials, and close personal friends.

Asked by Harry Smith whether the impression the book left him with, that "ambition trumps everything" in the Clinton marriage, seemed true, Bedell Smith replied, "I think ambition has been very much a part of their lives from the beginning. Politics is something that really attracted them to each other in the very beginning.

"Back in 1972, one of the first things they did was work for the (George) McGovern (presidential) campaign. And they have been such a political unit.

"Their marriage is so unusual, and they have such a unique, collaborative relationship that, when they were back in Arkansas, people called them 'Billary.' It was a term of sort of admiration and disparagement. And those habits of close collaborations carried through into the White House, which is why, now that we are seeing the prospects of possibly having two presidents in the White House (one former, one current), which is really unprecedented, the way to understand how they might work together in the White House, were she to return as president and he to return as president, you have to look back and see the dynamics of that relationship."

"She was sort of omnipresent in his presidency," Harry Smith observed. "If she were to become president, would you assume that he would have a similar sort of role?"

"It's absolutely consistent with the way they operated back then," Bedell Smith responded. "... She was, in effect, a kind of ... de facto vice president for him. I kind of think we should look at them as more a president and a chairman of the board."

Having "two presidents in the White House," Bedell Smith pointed out, "is something the founders never anticipated, not only two presidents but two presidents married to each other, with all the undercurrents."

"We have a 22nd Amendment," Bedell Smith emphasized, "that precludes a president from serving more than two terms. And it might not be too far-fetched to say that this is sort of an end-run.

"It was interesting, during the healthcare debate, for example, somebody who was in the healthcare industry said at one point, 'Two Clintons are working so much at cross-purposes with each other that there's a Hillary White House and a there's a Bill White House, and we don't know who's in charge."

To read an excerpt of "For Love of Politics," click here.