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The First Lady Should Resign

Clinton scandals: Enabling immoral conduct squanders her legacy of power and influence.

September 13, 1998|SUSAN CARPENTER McMILLAN | Susan Carpenter McMillan is a television commentator and spokesperson for the Woman's Coalition

A vote for me is a vote for Hillary. Remember that campaign promise? While conservatives balked, liberals, especially feminists, loved it. Truth is, it was a rare moment of honesty coming from the Clintons. Hillary the ideologue, strategist and motivator. Bill the charismatic charmer with flexibility. Calculated agenda with Southern flair, an indisputably formidable team. The question now is, if half the team has no morals, does the other half have standards?

To answer that question, Hillary Rodham Clinton could do something quite courageous: Resign as first lady. Symbolic? Yes. Unthinkable? It ought not to be.

While many would argue that this would be silly and moot because her position is not an elected one, I disagree. Never before in U.S. history has a first lady been given presidential power over one-seventh of the economy by heading a task force to overhaul health care. Never before has a first lady been allowed to revamp the office of travel or lay out her political agenda during a keynote speech at a national political convention. Her handpicked Cabinet members have left more than mere fingerprints on this administration. Mrs. Clinton's influence is undeniable.

I applaud the overdue end of the coffee-pouring first lady era, but with responsibility comes accountability. The bridge to the 21st century cannot be paved with serial affairs that trivialize the institution of marriage and cast young women into the role of sexual toys. The first lady must either admit that she is a poster wife for accepted infidelity and an enabler of immoral conduct or emerge as a strong leader for this and the next generation of children, wives, mothers and professional women.

Publicly and privately, liberal feminists have begun to voice their disappointment in Mrs. Clinton's perceived tolerance of emotional abuse, fearing their icon is behaving more like Mary Jo Buttafuoco than Gloria Steinem.

From the very beginning of this shared administration, the Clintons have proved to be the most effective symbols of symbolism. So Mrs. Clinton's symbolic resignation would unite women from around the political spectrum overnight. Women from the religious right would say that she has biblical grounds. Liberal feminists would cheer. Soccer moms might even help her pack.

In every activist's life--and make no mistake, Mrs. Clinton has been a strident feminist activist, even pre-Bill--there comes that moment of choice: to become a great leader or fade into a forgotten fanatic. For Mrs. Clinton, that moment has arrived. Will she place principle above politics and act on her beliefs, or will she help destroy the rights of women and preside over the devastating downward spiral of morality and virtue?

Infidelity is a cross many wives have been forced to bear, but reckless, obsessive sexual deviancy is inexcusable. When a private matter becomes a public destroyer of truth and justice, dramatic steps are called for. With the president's out-of-control pubescent behavior permeating this dual presidency, it is left to the first lady to take the lead. Mrs. Clinton must shun the hollow arguments of "the economy is good," because forcing this country into moral bankruptcy would be far more destructive to our children than the Great Depression was to our parents.

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