The Slatest

No, Bill Clinton’s Speech About Hillary Didn’t Address the Elephant in the Room

Bill Clinton gave a long, personal speech about Hillary Clinton on Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention—how they met, how he bought their first house, what it was like dropping their daughter off at college. Hanging over his remarks was an obvious tension: Could Bill Clinton possibly give a speech explicitly about his relationship with Hillary without mentioning his high-profile public infidelities? The answer turned out to be yes. In telling his and Hillary’s story chronologically, Clinton noticeably skipped past events closely associated with his affairs, like the 1992 campaign in which he acknowledged having caused “pain in my marriage” and the Monica Lewinsky/impeachment mess.

This is about the closest Bill Clinton came to referencing anything about the challenges his wife has faced in their marriage:

I just went ahead and asked her to take a walk down to the art museum. We’ve been walking, talking, and laughing together ever since. And we’ve done it in good times and bad, through joy and heartbreak.

On the one hand, even an oblique acknowledgement—something about Hillary never having quit on him, maybe—might have made his speech seem more honest and made its message about her empathetic indefatigability more effective. On the other hand, it would have opened up discussion of his behavior as a legitimate topic of discussion in the 2016 race, which Hillary would probably consider to be at best a distraction and at worst a reminder of the things about her and her husband that some voters don’t like. In this case, whatever the reasoning, Bill Clinton decided to play it safe.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.