This was meant to be Hillary Clinton's moment, but everyone’s still talking about Bill

She might be lining up a run at the presidency, but it is her husband's misdemeanours that dominate the narrative

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The Independent Online

Is it worth it? For all her armadillo demeanour and notoriously steely resolve, there must have been times in the past few weeks when Hillary Clinton has at least entertained the question.

It might have popped into her head this week when Barack Obama wondered publicly why any highly accomplished sexagenarian would put themselves through “the pretty undignifying process” of running for the White House again. It might have flitted across her mind when she found herself on The One Show recently, playing a game of “Hard Choices” in which she was forced to choose between Bill and Barack. Or perhaps she thinks it every morning when she wakes up to yet another set of headlines relating to yet another “tell-all” book about the Clintons.

The former Secretary of State has yet to confirm if she will run for the White House in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped the world, his wife and their bodyguards pitching in with their two cents. Clinton’s possible bid has triggered a mini publishing boom in America. She wrote a book herself, of course – Hard Choices, which has reportedly helped her on her way to earning $12m (£7m) since she left the State Department in February last year. But for all that it comes straight from the (diplomatic) horse’s mouth, Hard Choices has just been outsold by the far less well-sourced Blood Feud: The Clintons vs the Obamas, Edward Klein’s salacious, soapy account of rumbles at the White House. Also out this month are Clinton Inc: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine and The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.

Here, in case you missed them, are the top-line allegations from each. Bill Clinton has a mistress called “The Energizer”, who is blond, has “perky” fake breasts, bakes cookies for his bodyguards and shows up the minute Hillary’s black Cadillac pulls out of the drive. Bill Clinton indulged in X-rated phone sex sessions with Monica Lewinsky which were tapped by British, Russian and Israeli spies and once caused a diplomatic incident when the Prime Minister of Israel tried to use the transcripts for blackmail. Bill Clinton is worried that everyone thinks he is about to die but is determined not to do so until he is back in the White House. If the worst does happen, however, he has advised Hillary to have a big state funeral, with pomp, circumstance and full widow’s weeds because “it should be worth a couple of million votes”.

There’s a theme there. It might be Hillary lining up a run at the presidency but it is Bill and his misdemeanours that continue to dominate the narrative. And there is more to come. A forthcoming memoir by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lucinda Franks contains an interview with Hillary Clinton from the year after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. In it, Clinton apparently blames her husband’s affair on the fact that he was abused by his mother. “When a mother does what she does, it affects you for ever,” she said. “It scars you. You keep looking in all the wrong places for the parent who abused you.” It is surely the murkiest furrow ploughed so far; whatever the intentions of Clinton in saying it or the writer in revealing it now, the yoking of child abuse with an office affair leaves a nasty taste.

The extract will prompt more speculation at a time when what Clinton ought to be building is serious support. The coals of the Lewinsky affair, never truly cold, have been raked again and Clinton is still quizzed about whether she has forgiven the former intern or her husband: domestic relations trump foreign policy every time. This week Bill Clinton said that when he left the White House in 2001, he told his wife that he owed her 26 years in return for the quarter-century of sacrifices she made to support his career. So far he has granted her 16 years of talking about his under-desk antics.

When will it end? Not with a confirmed White House bid, which will only fuel the Republican revelation factory. By the time inauguration day comes round in January 2017, Hillary Clinton will be 69 years old. There is a long way, and more muck-raking, to go. Is it worth it? To be the most powerful woman in the world? To make history and smash the thickest glass ceiling there is? To never have to play second fiddle to her husband and explain his indiscretions ever again? I think she’d probably say yes.