03/21/2008 12:14 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Blue Dress, the Stain, and the Deal

Hillary Clinton's first lady schedules, or most of them--17, 481 pages, some redacted--were released on March 19, and "Brian Ross and the ABC News Investigative Unit" pounced: They reported that the schedules showed that Hillary had spent the night in the White House on February 28, 1997, the dark day that her husband soiled his legacy by leaving his semen on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress.

Hillary was likely unaware of the bad aim that brought humiliation and impeachment upon her husband, and that, as Hardball's Chris Matthews said and later was forced to apologize for, probably had much to do with her winning her senate seat in 2000 and then running for the democratic nomination for president in 2008. Her husband, in all his baffling and self-defeating lack of discipline, owed her.

Hillary is not one to take her eye off the prize; she made up her mind how her husband would repay her--as he had repaid her before in the wake of Jennifer Flowers, et al, by giving her the health care portfolio and acceding to her demands that he nominate a woman as attorney general

Although Hillary was furious with Bill over Monica, especially for subjecting their daughter Chelsea to the seamiest details of a tryst with a woman not much older than she was, Hillary knew her political viability rested on keeping up appearances.

On Saturday, April 25, 1998, roughly three months after the Lewinsky scandal broke, Hillary was deposed by Ken Starr right there in the White House (the Starr session does not appear on her just released first lady schedules)--her husband was out playing golf-- and then she gathered herself, dressed and accompanied Bill to the White House Correspondents Association dinner. One of the celebrity guests was Paula Jones, the Arkansas state worker who had sued Clinton for sexual harassment; a suit that eventually exposed the Monica affair and spawned impeachment.

There was no way that night that Bill would have wanted to return home to a quiet, private evening with Hillary; not when Paula Jones and the first lady in the same room had become the embarrassing headline. Another White House Correspondents guest, actress Sharon Stone, recently married to a San Francisco newsman, had been linked over the White House years to Bill Clinton, who, had he not become president, would have made a great social director. He had the Lincoln Bedroom and the Queen's bedroom booked with friends and contributors, and when the first couple returned home, the president asked all seven of them up to the private quarters to join him and Hillary for drinks and conversation.

And so their deal, with its history-changing terms, continued to hold in the face of obstacles and embarrassments that would have deterred a less determined couple.