The Original Power Couple Emerges Again With Hillary on Top...

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Phil Bronstein Executive Vice President and Editor-at-Large, San Francisco Chronicle

Barack and Michele Obama, the couple, continue to captivate the public and the press, most recently in the cover story of the NY Times Sunday magazine: "The first marriage. It's modern, it's a formidable international brand and it's an ongoing negotiation." Sounds like a reality show promo to me. Behind the scenes with those sleek and powerful Obamas.

The First Lady's Halloween leopard outfit was definitely the most overtly tangy executive spouse action since Jackie purred seductively on the phone to Lyndon Johnson in her breathless, Marilyn Monroe style only weeks after her husband's assassination.

But let's not lose sight of the most rubber-necked and mysteriously complex White House relationship of the modern era. What's up with the Big Dog and Big Cat Clintons?

A number of national political writers who covered the Clintons have told me that competition was one of the key things that kept the two together.

The Clinton marriage is probably less of a negotiation than a long-term range war (not without genuine affection.) But surveying the battlefield, it's clear that Hillary has advanced her public personality position way ahead of his.

It might have seemed things were going Bill's way after his wife spiraled out of the presidential race and took a job that only Henry Kissinger before her had been able to turn into a genuinely starring role.

There was the North Korean hostage release where Bill bitch-slapped former bus tour partner Al Gore out of the spotlight and upstaged his own wife with Pyongyang photo ops. And a few weeks ago, Mr. Clinton jetted to California to be the major big foot fundraiser for Gavin Newsom's gubernatorial campaign (RIP).

Then yesterday Bill was in Kosovo for the unveiling of a full-length statue dedicated to him on Pristina's main drag. It appears that he's finally out of that doghouse.

But the Kosovo thing is a little tin-horny Kim Jong Bill. He could barely raise pennies for his pup, Gavin. And he was forced to muzzle himself at the emotional homecoming of the Current TV journalists.

Hillary, meantime, has become a fire-breathing, in-their-face lioness. She's sharp, tireless and blunt. While local pols in DC were trembling even at the idea of rowdy Town Hall meetings, she dove directly into Pakistan, where they eat tea baggers and US officials for lunch. She seems to relish the clash of ideas and told already angry Pakistanis that their government wasn't doing its part in the war.

Snap! No wonder one press report called her the "White Goddess."

Not enough action for the Secretary of State? She then goes to the Mideast and high fives the Israelis for slowing down West Bank Settlements, infuriating the Palestinian leadership. So much for the Obama tilt toward the Muslim world.

This all seems less like the arrogance and repressed anger of the old Hillary and more like a tough, independent-minded superstar.

Agree with her specific positions or not, but in the Clinton wars, my money's on Hillary.