"Talking It Over" with Hillary: The First Lady as Syndicated Columnist, 1995-2000
This dissertation critically appraises over two hundred and fifty newspaper columns
penned by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton over the course of nearly five years.
From July 1995 to December 2000, the first lady wrote a weekly syndicated column distributed
through Creators Syndicate and carried by hundreds of newspapers across the nation
and the globe. Through “Talking It Over,” the first lady not only shared with the
public her personal opinions and experiences, but also reported on and offered judgments
about a host of political issues of both national and international importance. The
topics the first lady wrote about include, but are not limited to, health care, education,
adoption, welfare, domestic violence, caring for war veterans, literacy, mental illness,
family planning, sex trafficking, and terrorism. Interestingly, the column was either
suspended or dropped by a number of newspapers throughout its syndication. Some newspaper
editors found the column to be “too political,” while others complained that the column
seemed “content-free”: thus, underscoring the ambiguous nature of the first lady position,
which is both undefined and unofficial regarding what the first lady can and cannot
do. Locating this ambiguity in the text of this newspaper column and its reception,
as well as considering it in light of the sitting first lady’s historic run for the
United States Senate as she wrote the column, I argue that “Talking It Over” functioned
as a site for Hillary Rodham Clinton to couple together two seemingly discrete objectives:
imagining and defining the first lady position and crafting a political candidacy.
This coupling, I contend, both reflects and contributes to the increased politicization
of the first lady position during Rodham Clinton’s tenure.
University of Memphis