"Yes, he has weaknesses. Yes, he needs to be more disciplined, but it is remarkable, given his background, that he turned out to be the kind of person he is, capable of such leadership," she said.
Talking of his childhood in Arkansas, where his presumed father died before he was born and his step-father was a wife-beating alcoholic, Mrs Clinton said: "He was so young, barely four, when he was scarred by abuse. There was terrible conflict between his mother and grandmother." Hinting at the therapy she and her husband supposedly had, she said: "A psychologist once told me that for a boy, being in the middle of a conflict between two women is the worst possible situation. There is always a desire to please each one."
The US First Lady was interviewed by Lucinda Franks for the inaugural issue of Talk magazine, the new venture of the British-born editor, Tina Brown, which is underwritten by the Disney Corporation. The attention- grabbing look at the world's most scrutinised marriage was the latest volley in Talk's publicity campaign.
Equally, though, it may be seen as a gamble by Mrs Clinton, who is still deciding whether to run for the Senate for New York, to give sceptical voters answers to some of their more insistent questions before her campaign starts in earnest - questions such as "why does she stay with him?", "might she not be a little to blame?" and the widely circulating theory that there was a political payback for her in a share of his power.
Of the genuineness of their marriage, Mrs Clinton revealed with a tinge of regret, that until the Lewinsky scandal, she believed he had overcome his womanising. "I thought this was resolved 10 years ago," she said. "I thought he had conquered it; I thought he had understood it; but he didn't go deep enough or work hard enough."
And in an attempt to counter the impression that the marriage was just a succession of infidelities, she said of the period after his affair with the Arkansas nightclub singer, Gennifer Flowers, and before his relationship with Monica Lewinsky: "You know we did have a very good stretch - years and years of nothing."
Of her decision to stay, Mrs Clinton said he needed her to help him through his "dysfunction" and because, "we have love". She went on: "There has been enormous pain, enormous anger, but I have been with him half my life and he is a very, very good man. We just have a deep connection that transcends whatever happens."
She traced his affair to an accumulation of stresses and strains: the suicide of theirfriend and White House official, Vince Foster, and the deaths of her father and his mother. But she also insisted that his prime motive in lying about the affair - it was the lying rather than the adultery that put his job on the line - was to protect her.
While the interview is the most extensive that Mrs Clinton has given on so personal a subject, it offered few new insights. Some critics even suggested that one novel element, the introduction of psychological terminology, might be a misguided attempt to appeal to New York voters.Reuse content