Of course, when it comes to Bill Clinton, the bad also comes along with the good. Amid all the plaudits have emerged reports that Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern whose tryst with Clinton became a decade-defining sex scandal, is planning to write a tell-all book. If it does emerge, it will no doubt see a rehash of all the seedy low points of Clinton’s presidency.
However, few expect it to have any real impact. The Lewinsky affair is old news and — as he does not have an elected office — Clinton is immune to the effect of such scandals.
So far the political career of his wife has been scandal-free. As secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton has carved out a reputation as a tough operator whose term of office has been a resounding success. Indeed, after being narrowly beaten by Obama for the 2008 nomination, many now see her as a natural runner for 2016. Clinton herself, who is standing down from her diplomatic job in 2013, has said she has no such plans. However, the firm denials have done nothing to dampen down the speculation and most experts see a huge opportunity for her.
“Clinton has done best by staying out of the way of the 2012 race. If you are not getting down in the mud with everyone else, then you stay clean,” Smith said.
Though Clinton would be 68 by 2016 few people see her age as a real block to her ambitions. Instead, they see a powerful candidate, hugely popular with the crucial demographic of women voters, who might be able to take advantage of a Democratic base suffering from “buyer’s remorse” when it comes to the high initial hopes for the Obama presidency.
Her campaign organization from 2008 would also be relatively easy to revitalize, giving her a huge advantage in fund-raising and on-the-ground activists.
“The folks I know who worked for her in New Hampshire have kept the organization together. She could go pretty quickly and hit the ground running,” Smith said.
Of course, the key question is: Does Clinton want to run again? No one knows the answer, including probably Clinton herself.
“I bet she hasn’t figured it out yet,” Haas said.
What seems certain is that the moment for a decision will come some time in 2014. If she says yes, then not only will the US be once again facing up to the idea of a historic Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency, but Bill will be right there alongside her. For if the country has learned one thing about the Clintons, it is that — despite their many differences and difficulties — they seem to come as a pair.
“The last chapter of this saga has not been written yet,” Galston said.
The Clintonian Timeline
‧ Bill Clinton is elected attorney general of Arkansas, two years after being defeated in a race for a Congress seat. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a leading lawyer and children’s rights advocate who had worked for President Jimmy Carter.
‧ Bill Clinton becomes governor of Arkansas and Hillary the state’s first lady, but her law career goes from strength to strength (she earns more than her husband until they get to the White House).
‧ Bill Clinton runs for the White House. Though seen as an outside bet and with a campaign rocked by a sex scandal, he eventually wins the Democratic nomination and — in a shock result — ultimately defeats President George HW Bush. A task force headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton attempts — but fails — to reform healthcare. Their first term is also marred by the so-called Whitewater scandal over an Arkansas land deal.