Chastened Hillary faces down her critics

HEALTH CARE reform may be dead, but political obituaries of its most celebrated architect are decidedly premature. Hillary Clinton, make no mistake, is a chastened, saddened and perhaps wiser woman in the wake of the most crushing failure of her husband's presidency. But she is not about to turn to a life of cookie-baking.

Not long ago, when the health bill's demise was a foregone conclusion, she was portrayed as being in a state of clinical depression. But the most influential First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt is as resilient as she is controversial. This week, in a rare series of interviews, she suugested that while her role in the second half of Bill Clinton's term may be different, it will not be that of a shrinking violet.

The last 18 months have been rough for Mrs Clinton. They have seen the death of her father, the suicide of Vince Foster, the ousting of old friends from Arkansas from the White House inner circle, Whitewater, and the embarrassment over her prowess at cattle futures trading. Then came the debacle over health care, where her political instincts, supposedly keener than her husband's, failed to tell her that without bi-partisan support, an attempt at reform was doomed. Worst of all, her chemistry with the public is working against her.

Once, she was more popular than the President, lauded as Saint Hillary on the cover of the New York Times magazine. But, according to a Wall Street Journal-NBC poll yesterday, her approval rating has dropped to 39 per cent, lower even than Mr Clinton's 41 per cent.

'It's not been easy but we've learned a lot,' she told the Washington Post. 'Boy, have we learned a lot.' She had not yet thought through how she intended to tackle the next two years, Mrs Clinton told the Wall Street Journal. 'But I want to be as effective as possible.'

Mrs Clinton will not abandon the cause of health care. On Thursday she was on national television, addressing students at George Washington University. 'Health care reform is not a boxing match that goes 15 rounds and suddenly it's over,' she said, but 'a journey we must keep making together'.

Two days before, she played the traditional First Lady, as she accompanied Nina Yeltsin around Washington, talking about 'food and flowers and children and husbands'. But that display of wifely meekness came on the heels of her return from vigorous campaigning for Kathleen Brown as California's Governor.

Hillary Mark Two may not be that different from the orginal version, perhaps a mite more attentive to her official role, but still a highly visible spokeswoman for the administration and for Democratic candidates, especially women, in this autumn's mid- term elections.

She must disarm her critics, not just conservatives and the virulent radio hosts, but feminists, who accuse her of not doing enough to keep women in high positions.

She finds solace in biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt. One of Ms Roosevelt's aphorisms is a special favourite. 'A woman is like a teabag. When she is in hot water she just gets stronger.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Regional Sales Manager - OTE £100,000

£45000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Sales Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company provides IT support...

Recruitment Genius: IT Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manager is for a successfu...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific