Hillary Clinton crosses the threshold of the White House in another role

WASHINGTON (AP) — During her husband’s 1992 presidential campaign Hillary Clinton noted that “our lives are a mix of different roles” and said that most people try to find the right balance.

“For me, that balance is family, work and service,” she said.

Clinton juggled those roles — and more — for eight years as first lady in the White House. She comes back on Tuesday Her first public appearance in the building since the Obama years to indulge their love of art.

In her years in the White House, she has been a wife, mother and hostess to the country, but also a wronged wife, head of a national health care task force and on the cover of Vogue. In later years she crossed the threshold of the White House as a visiting senator and cabinet member, but never in the long-awaited role of Madam President.

Early in her term as first lady, she held a rare news conference where she was questioned about the Clintons’ previous real estate dealings and explained that she had been “demoted” from her privacy.

Former first lady and current first lady Jill Biden will appear together to announce the award recipients Praemium Imperiale, an annual global art lifetime achievement award from the Japan Art Association. Both women will give speeches.

Your return visit is likely to be sentimental.

“I have to imagine she’s really looking forward to being back and being with the Bidens, who she’s been close with for a long time,” said Lisa Caputo, the Clinton White House press secretary.

Clinton’s ties to the White House shaped her time as first lady.

The first visits came when she accompanied Bill Clinton to the executive mansion for annual receptions for the country’s governors when he was governor of Arkansas from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.

In her posts as U.S. senator and secretary of state, she was a regular at the White House, a position that came with a permanent seat next to the president at Cabinet meetings.

She sought the ultimate White House post twice, in 2008 and 2016 during the election campaign to become the first woman to be elected president. She failed every time and kept her distance from the White House during the Trump years.

Ellen Fitzpatrick, professor emeritus of history at the University of New Hampshire, said returning to the White House brings back memories for every former first lady.

She recalled Jacqueline Kennedy’s trip with her children years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The former first lady later told President Richard Nixon in a thank-you letter that a day she had been dreading turned out to be one of the most treasured days she spent with her children.

“I think it’s definitely going to be quite a moment for Hillary herself to get back in,” said Fitzpatrick, author of “The Highest Glass Ceiling,” a book about women running for president.

Clinton left behind some good and not so good memories of the White House.

“My eight years in the White House tested my faith and political beliefs, my marriage and the constitution of our nation,” she wrote in her memoir, “Living History.” “I became a lightning rod for political and ideological battles over the future of America and a magnet for feelings, good and bad, about women’s choices and roles.”

In his first year in office, President Clinton stood with his wife in the East Room and appointed her to head a national health care task force to make health insurance available to every American. Never before had a first lady been responsible for shaping such important public policy. The work, carried out largely in secret, inevitably met with criticism. The plan ultimately failed without a vote in Congress.

In 1994, Clinton donned a pink sweater and spent more than an hour in the East Room answering questions about her financial dealings in the Whitewater affair, a real estate project in Arkansas in which the couple had lost money and which federal authorities were investigating.

At one point during the press conference she said: “I have always believed in a zone of privacy, and recently I was telling a friend that after much resistance I feel that I have been rezoned into a new zone.”

Another notable image of the Clintons in the White House came in 1998 after the president’s sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky was revealed. As the family made plans for a two-week vacation on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, the Clintons walked across the South Lawn to the waiting helicopter with a teenage Chelsea as a buffer between her parents.

Hillary Clinton was also among those in the Roosevelt Room of the White House when the president told the nation, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” She appeared on national television and made a “vast right-wing conspiracy” for her responsible for political problems.

Her public approval ratings rose as her marital problems were publicly expressed. She was also the first first lady to grace the cover of Vogue magazine, dressed in a long-sleeved black velvet dress and seated on a red couch in the Red Room of the White House.

After her husband was acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial in January 1999, she ran for and won a U.S. Senate seat in New York in 2000, her final year in the White House. For a short time, she continued her duties as a freshman lawmaker while also completing her post as first lady.

After Clinton lost the Democratic presidential nomination to her then-senator Barack Obama in 2008, he persuaded her to become his secretary of state. She was again a regular presence at the White House and sat next to Obama at the Cabinet table. She can be seen in the famous photo of officials crowding into the Situation Room when Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton will come full circle, so to speak. She and President Clinton first celebrated the Praemium Imperiale Awards at the White House in 1994. She is the U.S. international advisor for the awards.

Melanne Verveer, Hillary Clinton’s White House chief of staff, said Clinton’s love of the arts was a lesser-known part of her biography as a globetrotting policy wonk and diplomat.

The White House was “a place of enormous artistic hospitality” under Hillary Clinton, Verveer said, adding that she had a great interest in it National Endowment for the Arts and that National Endowment for the Humanities, Federal agencies whose funding the conservatives wanted to cut. She also showcased American sculptures in the First Lady’s Garden at the White House.

“It was just a big commitment to the arts, so in a way it doesn’t surprise me that the Praemium Imperiale will be happening with her presence at the White House,” Verveer said.

Whether she visits or not, Clinton will have a permanent presence in the White House: her portrait as First Lady hangs in a ground floor hallway.


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