Déjà Bill

The Clintons, the Clintons, the Clintons

Every once in a while you read an article and have the strange sensation you’ve read it somewhere before. With Bill and Hillary Clinton, I always find this to be doubly true. Every aspect of their political and personal lives has been so thoroughly picked over, that even the recent publication of what were supposed to be two explosive new biographies of Hillary was met with little more than a yawn.

So on the face of it, there was something unsurprising about the déjà vu I experienced reading the stories out of Iowa this past week wherein it appears Bill was seriously upstaging Hill at the Independence Day parades and county fairs that dot the state. The piece that caught my eye was on the front page of my hometown paper, The New York Times, with this confusing headline: “Clintons Adjust To Her Star Turn In His Old Role.” Something felt stale and predictable about the analysis in this piece, as if the presence of Bill Clinton – with his long-established media stereotype as a gregarious, charismatic and eloquent, larger-than-life figure — could not have led to any other story but that he had loomed larger than his wife.

Well, it turns out that the déjà vu was not all in my head. Plugging in to LexisNexis the names of both Clintons and the word “overshadow” elicited eight responses over the past week. Their names plus “upstage” pulls up another eight. My favorite headlines from among these? This one from the St. Petersburg Times: “Clintons Balance His Aura and Her Era.”

My argument is not that there isn’t truth to this particular spin on the Clinton Iowa tour. It’s only that something feels suspiciously lazy when every reporter sees it the same way.

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Gal Beckerman is a former staff writer at CJR.