Clinton in crisis: Hillary's role is crucial

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The Independent Online
THE NEXT few days will be crucial for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her words, gestures and appearances will help to determine public attitudes towards the scandal which threatens to plunge her and her husband into ignominy, writes Andrew Marshall.

The President spent last week executing a complex manoeuvre known as a Bakker with Half Turn. Like the televangelist Jimmy Bakker, he tearfully repented, while positioning himself to counter the legal charges brought by the Starr inquiry. Now his wife, if she is to help get him out of his troubles, must perform the even more demanding Full Wynette. She must stand by her man, in public, perhaps with a hint of emotion but always with a determined and steely love for her husband.

After all she has put up with, this must stick in her throat. Ms Clinton has dutifully stuck by her husband. When the scandal first broke earlier this year, she did two televised interviews, powerfully defending the President and her marriage. Last week she spoke up for him on several occasions, and sat by his side at ceremonial events, usually with an impassive face. The press has watched carefully to see when she has held his hand and when she has not; in the next few days, that scrutiny will intensify.

On Friday, she was blazing with passion when she addressed a meeting of Irish-Americans at the White House. She smiled at her husband before referring to "Bill and me".

That she has maintained her schedule of events shows she is willing to accompany the man who has repeatedly betrayed her. Polls demonstrate that the public holds her in high esteem and that more believe she shares their values than trust the President.

Another TV interview has been raised as a possibility in the press, but has not materialised yet. The timing may be wrong: to work, it must come after the President's contrition has sunk in. While attention is focused on the Starr report's lurid details, it would be overshadowed.