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Why Do I Feel Sorry For Hillary?

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Q: All of my friends are thrilled with Barack Obama. I feel some of that myself and I also appreciate the excitement he's injected into the presidential race and the vast numbers of new people he's attracted to the political process. Still, I can't help feeling sorry for Hillary Clinton. This is not something I've felt with other politicians. They win, they lose and it's all part of the process. This, time, though, it's different. Why?

A: Let's put aside the possibility that you may be seeing something in Hillary that reminds you of your own relationship or your own fear of exposure. Let's instead just deal with what Hillary personally, not politically, may be going through.

In the first place, how many times have you sat with friends and the question is, "Should Hillary leave Bill"? When I am asked that question, I always point out that no two relationships are the same and they all don't have the same breaking points. While one person may insist on conventional sexual fidelity, another may prefer the (virtually sexual) excitement of a shared intellectual journey and shared goals. Sexual fidelity may be preferred, but not a deal breaker.

Hillary and Bill always seemed to be on the same career track. One or the other of them -preferably both - would wield vast political power. To achieve that goal, Hillary may have set aside any thoughts of sexual fidelity on Bill's part. Their partnership was more important than any affair, their goals more important than any other woman. If Hillary wins the presidency, we could all say, "Oh, we understand now why they stayed together and how they enjoyed and needed each other." If Hillary loses -- and at this point, things are not looking good for her -- she and we have to revisit her rationale for staying in the marriage.

In addition, Hillary has to revisit that sickening feeling of betrayal. When she had to publicly face the humiliation of her husband's dalliance, she had to privately or unconsciously deal with the ultimate question, "Am I not appealing enough?" If Hillary is rejected by the voters, after having previously been seen as virtually invincible, she has to ask a version of that same question: "Why aren't I likable enough?"

We have to have compassion for someone who has to publicly or privately face defeat and, whatever she says, a kind of humiliation. And when, as all losing candidates must do, she put on her game face and cheerfully supports Obama for president, she will in effect be mimicking the face she put on for her wandering husband and the support she gave through so much pain and humiliation. It's painful to watch this happening -for her, certainly, but for us, too.

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