Hillary Clinton: Partner as Much as Wife

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When that job ended in 1974, she decided to see whether she could adjust to life in flyover country. Like Doc Hollywood, she discovered small-town life was O.K.: "I liked people tapping me on the shoulder at the grocery store and saying, 'Aren't you that lady professor at the law school?' " She and Clinton got married in 1975, and Hillary kept her maiden name. But Clinton lost a bid for a second term as Governor, in part because voters resented a feminist living at the Governor's mansion yet refusing to use his name. "I gave it up," she says. "It meant more to them than it did to me."

She hasn't given up much else, demonstrating that while men put together careers, women put together lives. "I am pursuing the goals I always envisioned, perhaps with more success here," she says. Twice named one of the top 100 lawyers in the U.S. by the National Law Journal, Hillary Clinton is now a top-dollar litigator at the old-line Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, earning about three times her husband's $35,000 salary. She serves on 17 civic and corporate boards, hardly ever missing a softball game or school play.

While Hillary says she is glad she "followed her heart" to Arkansas, running an official mansion that attracts 20,000 visitors a year can be wearing. Unlike her husband, who has yet to encounter a back he doesn't want to slap, she occasionally tires of the fishbowl. Blair notes that Hillary has enormous patience, "but none for people who are incompetent or behave like fools" -- which could make life in Washington an ordeal. Already she is under a microscope, with questions about everything from her hair (blondish) to her exercise program (a stationary bike). Her humor could prove a land mine. Reporters didn't start scribbling at a recent campaign stop until a fan suggested her for co-President and she demurred, joking that she nonetheless sometimes wished "she had the constitutional power to declare war on a few people."

With her marriage being held up to the light for cracks, Hillary Clinton wonders how much of her intimate life a political spouse has to offer up. "My marriage is solid, full of love and friendship," she says, "but it's too profound to talk about glibly." In recent years, political reporters have come to think themselves as qualified to analyze a marriage as they are to sort out the deficit. But of course a marriage is infinitely more complicated. "Maybe this time the candidate and the press will get it right," Hillary says. "The public can learn enough to know whether a candidate is a decent person without having to pick you apart so much that there is nothing left at the end."

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