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Hillary Clinton and power couple issues

Categories: Career Talk, Relationships & Marriage, Working Women Issues


Photo from LA TimesPhoto from LA Times

The latest political buzz is hard to escape — apparently President-elect Obama has offered Hillary Clinton the job of Secretary of State. Yes, unofficially, unconfirmed, rumored, but seemingly true if you trust the many news outlets reporting this.

What I’ve found really fascinating in all the discussions is how much her husband is playing into the picture. Of course, her husband isn’t just some high-profile guy. It’s THE high-profile guy, Bill Clinton. The concrete issues surrounding him are the various contributions and payments he has received and continues to receive from international organizations as speaking fees and to fund his philanthropic activities. According to the NY Times lawyers from the Obama team are now looking into Mr. Clinton’s finances and activities to ensure that there will be no conflict of interest if his wife were to take on the Secretary of State job.

But it doesn’t stop there. Many political analysts wonder what Obama is thinking in potentially bringing Hillary onto his team because of the strong influence that Bill Clinton would then have in the administration. I remember hearing after Obama wont the Democratic primary, when someone joked (and forgive me for not having a source here) that if he asked Hillary to be his VP there would be three people in the White House who wanted to be President. Bill and Hillary are clearly a team — one that frankly has endured more together than I think most couples can deal with — but should such strong consideration be given to him in determining what path she takes on in her own career?

Balancing two demanding careers is difficult in any family. I have friends who have had to quit jobs they loved because their husband got a dream job across the country and I know of one couple where the father became a stay-at-home dad because the mom is traveling so much for her job as a VP for an international corporation. I remember once during an interview I was asked what my husband does for a living. It was a seemingly informal conversation-making question but then I realized later on that the interviewer was trying to access whether he has a super-demanding career or could be the more flexible one when it comes to childcare, etc.

My husband and I certainly are a team when it comes to navigating our various careers and as a family, we do try to balance things out — right now I am the one with an insane job and his is a bit more manageable, but this might change later on. But I’d hate to ever know that what I do for a living has some impact on whether or not he gets a certain job or not and vice versa.

What do you think? Is it fair to Hillary that her husband plays such a big role in whether she gets a certain job? Should employers ever consider what your spouse or partner does when offering you a job?

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7 comments so far...

  • Yes, what your partner does for a living matters. Because it affects everything.
    My former employer knew that my husband is a pharmacist. for my employer that meant that I didn’t really have to work as my hubby has a “well paying job.” I had many child care issues. I changed three nannies in the first year of my daughter’s life. At one point I was indirectly asked, why I work?

    Well guess what, now I don’t work for anyone. I am taking control of my future by starting my own business. Slowly but surely I am now working on building my own empire. My former boss actually said at one point, “we will all go work for Vera, one day.”

    So the fact that my husband has a job that pays well and is highly in demand, helps me work on my big vision. Like my husband said it himself, “I work for the short term, you work for the long term.”

    Whether it’s fair or not for Hillary. Hard to say. It is what it is.

    Vera Babayeva  |  November 20th, 2008 at 10:09 am

  • I don’t know whether one’s spouse’s activities/job should impact the other, but the fact is that it does. For years, while I worked for a CPA firm, we always had to be wary of my husband’s employment and investment activities (lest they run afoul of the independence requirements I needed for my job). Now the shoe is on the other foot. I’m out of the CPA firm, but my husband is a judge. There are all kinds of things that I (we) have to consider before doing lest his judicial independence be impaired.

    I’m not so sure that Bill/Hillary are so much a team these days. I don’t think anyone in New York has alleged that Bill has had a huge influence on Hillary’s activities. However, I think the Obama folks are very (rightfully) concerned with the perception of conflicts as well as actual conflicts. I’m not so sure Hillary would want to stop being a Senator in any event (she wields a fair amount of power and would definitely have some sway with the executive branch). Plus…maybe she’s holding out for a Supreme Court nomination!

    Mary  |  November 20th, 2008 at 10:40 am

  • Considering that Hillary wouldn’t be remotely in contention if she hadn’t been and remained married to Bill, it seems rather strange to suggest her association with him should be ignored for this one purpose.

    Condoleeza Rice has been listed as “the” most powerful woman in the world. The post she holds is too important to take associations of any kind lightly. Especially marriage, in which Hillary along with Bill was (and is) materially enriched by his global, politically-relevant activities.

    So here’s a lighthearted question - should Hillary have applied for that divorce after all? And when should she have done it?

    On the more down-to-earth side, most of us shouldn’t have our employment impacted by whatever our spouse does (or if we have a spouse). But of course this does happen. It’s an attitude thing, one you can’t really legislate away. I must say things are a lot better than they used to be. When I was young and unaccomplished, I recall people asking me “what does your father do” but never “what does your mother do.” My working mom was always peeved that her eligibility to do things often depended more on whom she was married to than what she could do (and my dad was no Bill Clinton).

    SKL  |  November 20th, 2008 at 3:06 pm

  • Just for the record? TOTALLY against the law for the interviewer to ask you a question like that about your husband’s career (or even existence).

    Jan  |  November 20th, 2008 at 4:45 pm

  • And what about the impact of her husband’s new job to Michelle Obama’s career?

    SoftwareMom  |  November 20th, 2008 at 4:51 pm

  • Good points, Vera, Mary and SLK. Jan — I thought so, just didn’t react at the time. And SoftwareMom — I’ve been thinking about that a lot, actually. I am really interested in how she transitions — and all this talk about her just being mom in chief, I don’t know, I am not buying it.

    Nataly  |  November 20th, 2008 at 8:42 pm

  • I wish the Obama administration to succeed.

    Hillary Clinton has too much in common with George W. Bush.

    Elena Sassower, a constituent reported judicial corruption to Clinton’s office. Instead of considering what was brought into the light, allegedly Hillary Clinton saw to it her constituent was jailed for 6 months to shut her up. Bush and Clinton have the support of a questionable judge in common, Judge Wesley.

    Steven G. Erickson  |  November 27th, 2008 at 11:28 pm