There have been married women heads of state, whose male spouses walked a step behind. And there was even once a president-dictator in Argentina, whose wife was more popular than he. India saw a daughter of a prime minister rise to power. But there has never been anything quite like Bill Clinton. There has never been a man who ran the most powerful nation on earth, whose wife, only a few years later, did the same thing, with him, still living, standing at her side.
What will his duties be? What laws will bind him? What ethical limits will restrain him?
First ladies give speeches and accept donations to favorite charities in return. Would that apply to first man? Will Bill Clinton be able to continue his lucrative speaking career?
Will he speak for a company that donates heavily to his presidential library or to the Clinton Foundation?
Can he write a book? Other first ladies have done so, why not a first man?
And how much of a cash advance can a friendly publishing company, owned by a friendly Wall Street conglomerate, wanting and needing government favors, legitimately offer him?
Then there are the awkward questions about his personal life.
A few years ago a book detailed Bill Clinton’s alleged ongoing relationships with young ladies outside of his marriage. Imagine for a moment if Jacqueline Kennedy or Nancy Reagan were promiscuous and took lovers during their White House years?
Even given a Clinton sympathetic media, and the assurances that such liaisons would be kept private, what problems would such an arrangement pose for national security?
How would the intelligence community be able to parse the needs of the nation with the necessity of their own political survival with Hillary Clinton as their boss?
Then, there is the question of geography. Where will Bill Clinton live? Will he live in the White House? Which room? First lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was often estranged from her husband, had her own rooms. Her close friend and sometime companion, Lorena Hickock had her own room as well. Will Bill meet friends and business associates at the White House?
Will he be able to take a prospective donor to dinner at the White House Mess, for example? Or let them catch a ride with him back to Washington or New York on Air Force One?
Will he have an entire suite of offices in the East Wing, just as a first lady would? Or will he be tucked away in the old Executive Office building? If he lives separately from his wife it will very clearly be what critics have long maintained, a marriage of convenience.
But if he runs his business from the White House when does it cease to be his business and become blatant corruption of power?
There is some indication that Chelsea Clinton, the daughter, will assume the more traditional role of first lady. This is not a wholly unreasonable idea. Many daughters and daughters-in-law have assumed such a role for the president, especially in the early years of American history. But this too creates its own set of questions.
Where would her "first man" live? He is a banker for Goldman Sachs, would he operate out of the White House as well, or take a leave of absence from the bank that runs America?
Hillary Clinton has said that she wants her husband to play a role in her administration. She would put him in charge of creating jobs. Would he sit in on Cabinet meetings? First lady Rosalynn Carter did.
Bill Clinton is 70 years old. It is possible that he might die during eight years of Hillary Clinton in office. If so, it would be a massive funeral, a truly unique moment in American history. But what if the reverse happened? Many questions were raised about her 2012 fall and concussion and hospitalization. What if she should become incapacitated? It happened to Woodrow Wilson, and his new wife, the first lady, became his doorkeeper and nurse mate.
When critics complained that she was running the country she protested that she was doing no such thing, she was only determining who he would see and what he would read and sign.
It is likely that President Hillary Clinton and her team will do everything within their power to diminish her husband’s role. She will have to be seen as a leader in her own right and not a reincarnation of her husband. And that would call for Bill Clinton to be seen and not heard. But is that likely?
Angela Merkel’s husband did not even attend his wife’s inauguration as chancellor of Germany. When Hillary is sworn in, Bill Clinton will be there.
Doug Wead is a presidential historian who served as a senior adviser to the Ron Paul presidential campaign. He is a New York Times best-selling author, philanthropist, and adviser to two presidents, including President George H.W. Bush, with whom he co-authored the book "Man of Integrity." Read more reports from Doug Wead — Click Here Now.
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