It is no one’s business how Hillary and Bill Clinton have worked through their marriage challenges.
As a congregational rabbi of 36 years, I have counseled many couples as infidelity tears marriages apart. In those rare instances when the partners’ love for one another is strong enough and they are forgiving enough and repentant enough, some couples can stay married successfully and happily.
Marriage and long-term relationship commitments are often difficult. Most married individuals, at one time or another, are seduced or almost seduced to violate their marriage bond and commitment. That there were violations in the Clinton marriage is, frankly, none of America’s business. Whatever indiscretions Bill committed, Hillary staying with him does not make Hillary an enabler, as Donald Trump self-righteously and cruelly barked last week, but rather, it suggests that Hillary is a strong, forgiving and loving wife.
In reading Carl Bernstein’s excellent un-authorized biography of Hillary Clinton A Woman in Charge (publ. 2007), I came away with the sense that the Clintons are honest with each other, that they know each other exceptionally well, have made peace with each other’s frailties, and that they have enough together that they want to stay married. If that reflects a deficiency of character, then perhaps I have learned nothing in my life as a Jew and a rabbi. To the contrary, I believe that their suffering, reconciliation and ability to move forward together is a sign of strong character and abiding love.
When Hillary Clinton was a Senator, my wife Barbara and I spent 10 minutes speaking with her privately at an LA fundraiser. She had just delivered a sermon on Yom Kippur at a congregation in Los Angeles on the theme of forgiveness. I asked her what she said as I had just spoken on the same theme in my synagogue, and she looked me in the eye and explained that she loves her husband and despite the humiliation she suffered following the Monica Lewinsky affair, as a Christian she found it in her heart to forgive him, that Bill never wanted to lose her as his wife, that he loved her and she loved him, and that they had built a life together far beyond politics that they cherished and did not want to lose.
Bernstein discussed this dynamic at some length in his book, and it became clear to me, as I have learned counseling couples over the years, that everyone, including Hillary and Bill, is different. Every couple is different and every marriage is different. Those that survive threats to their marriage become stronger and more committed to each other as a consequence and are to be respected, not vilified.
So – let’s stick to the issues of this important presidential campaign and judge the capacity of the respective candidates on the basis of their philosophy of governing, their judgement, temperament, perspective, experience, and understanding of the nation and the world, and decide based on those metrics what this nation needs going forward and not allow ourselves to speculate on what happens inside anyone’s marriage. Frankly, we don’t have a clue and it’s none of our business.