Hillary's displeasure: Did Bill really urn it?


It is always difficult to know when one should print humiliating and unconfirmable rumors about famous people.

But the standard seems to be: When the rumors are really, really juicy.

So on March 22, Newsweek printed this about Hillary Clinton: "Who cares about health care? What's this we hear about lamp-tossing?"

If the public at large was confused by this, reporters who cover the White House were not.

Both Hillary and Bill have real tempers and while their flare-ups have occasionally been witnessed in public, these are nothing, rumor has it, compared to their private ill-humors.

And while Newsweek heard that Hillary had tossed a lamp in Bill's general direction, other reporters were convinced this was not true.

"I heard it was an urn, not a lamp," one White House reporter told me. "If it happened at all."

But last week, the Washingtonian, a highly respected city magazine, hit the streets with an illustration of Hillary standing on Bill's Oval Office desk and aiming a lamp at his head while a broken urn sits on the floor.

The magazine also reported that Mark Gearan, deputy White House chief of staff, was asked by reporters whether Bill and Hillary were having loud fights in the White House. And he responded with a careful: "I have never personally heard them argue."

In Washington, this amounts to a non-denial denial.

The magazine also reported that a prominent senator heard "Hillary shouting at Bill and threatening to throw something at him" and that the Clintons trade lots of "bad language including lots of the twelve-letter 'm' word."

This latter accusation may not be as bad as it sounds. I can imagine the following exchange:

"Meatballhead!" Hillary yells at Bill.

"Mollycoddler!" Bill yells back.

"Meeoowwwwwww!" Socks interjects.

But let's put all these rumors in perspective: Both Clintons have just undergone a year in hell, known as the presidential campaign.

And most Americans first got to meet them through a Jan. 26, 1992 "60 Minutes" segment in which Bill had to admit to "wrongdoing" with women and "causing pain in my marriage" while Hillary was forced to sit beside him and listen.

But she performed a critical role that night.

"I'm not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette," Hillary said, punching the air for emphasis. "I'm sitting here because I love him and I respect him and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together. And you know, if that's not enough for people, then heck -- don't vote for him."

Although Tammy Wynette was upset at the reference to her hit record, Hillary's performance was a huge plus. Without it, I personally do not think Bill Clinton would have survived to fight his other battles.

So after they both went through this long meat grinder of a campaign, how can you expect them to turn around on a dime and relax and become easygoing?

OK, but did Hillary actually throw an urn (or lamp) at the presidential noggin? I called several sources and could not confirm it. But I do know that if she did, she was not really trying to hit him.

How can I know that? Easy: She missed.

Besides which all these rumors about shouting and fighting and tossing things may actually be carefully crafted leaks from the White House itself.

Consider: Former presidential families have tried to appear as if they were out of "Ozzie and Harriet" or "Father Knows Best." Everyone was impossibly good, impossibly loving, impossibly sweet.

And no ordinary person in America could really identify with a family like that.

So what image have the Clintons chosen for themselves? Dan and Roseanne Conner from "Roseanne." They yell. They are short-tempered. They love each other, but sometimes they bug each other.

And that is an image every family in America can live up to.

Hillary threw an urn at Bill? If so, he must have had it coming.

To us, Bill Clinton is the president, the leader of the free world, the man who symbolizes the hope of an entire generation.

To Hillary, he's the guy who leaves the seat up.

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