Strange things about Hillary and Bill Clinton's marriage

It's easy to throw around the term "power couple" when it comes to celebrity marriages, but not even JAY-Z and Beyonce (Sorry, Beyhive!) can compare to the actual power that Hillary and Bill Clinton commanded during the course of their marriage. Over the past four decades, one of them has either been a governor, the president, a United States senator, the Secretary of State, and at one point, almost America's first female president. But as marriages between two wildly ambitious people often go, things haven't always been easy. Yet the Clintons have shown that they're not like any other couple, and their unusual approach to marriage has made them a force to be reckoned with.

It started with a wedding in their living room

While the Clintons have been at the forefront of American politics for decades, their marriage couldn't have a more humble beginning. After refusing Bill's proposal three times, Hillary eventually said yes, and the two wed in the living room of their small Fayetteville, Ark. house in front of 14 friends. The reception was held at another friend's house, and like most weddings, there was a bit of family drama.

"Some people headed to an off-campus dive bar for dancing," The Guardian writes, "and the festivities continued until a 4am call from the local drunk tank. The bride's brother had been pulled over on a DUI while driving her yellow Fiat, according to the groom's memoir."

But six months after the wedding, Bill decided to make a run for state attorney general and the ambitious couple would soon start planning election strategy across the dinner table. According to The Guardian, they called it the "war room." And if you watch a certain political series on Netflix, this scenario is probably sounding pretty familiar.

House of Cards is basically about the Clintons

Despite the fact that House of Cards, the popular Netflix series about the deviously ambitious Frank and Claire Underwood, is adapted from a British TV series that aired two years before Bill Clinton became president, there's no denying the current incarnation is heavily based on the Clintons. The creator of the British version, Lord Dobbs, has even said as much to BuzzFeed.

"Hillary [Clinton]," Dobbs says after being asked which real-life individual is closest to Robin Wright's Claire Underwood. "She is a political figure in her own right – behind the scenes, but now increasingly in front of the scenes. That is much more of a Claire character."

Bill Clinton has even gone so far as to compliment the show's accuracy by personally calling up star Kevin Spacey, according to an interview with Gotham magazine. "Kevin, 99% of what you do on that show is real," Spacey said. "The 1% you get wrong is you could never get an education bill passed that fast." Most likely, Clinton is referring to the overall cutthroat nature of politics in Washington, D.C. and not the show's loose adaptation of his marriage. Or is he?

Bill was the duck, Hillary was the decoy

Much like the Underwoods on House of Cards, the Clintons were skilled politicians when it came time for Bill to run for president. The two quickly developed a strategy that helped turn the narrative away from accusations that Bill had an affair with lounge singer Gennifer Flowers.

"Bill Clinton was the duck. Hillary Clinton was the decoy," The Guardian writes. "As the wife, Hillary Clinton was constantly under attack for exhibiting traits that might be admired in a man. Her intelligence and tenacity – which would have been an asset in a man – made people uncomfortable, according to pollsters. She needed to project a softer side. And Clinton told [close friend Diane] Blair, the White House operatives went along with that because it directed the criticism away from Bill Clinton."

However, those same White House operatives would later regret using this strategy as it took away from Hillary's fierce advocacy for children and education reform. But at the end of the day, Hillary knew how to push America's buttons, and the campaign used it to get Bill in the White House.

Hillary wasn't your average candidate's wife

When the allegations of Bill's affair with Flowers hit during the campaign, Hillary immediately went on the offensive by admiring on 60 Minutes next to her husband. For the record, Bill eventually admitted to the affair in 1998. And while it seems safe to assume that Hillary knew it was true the moment the news hit, she shocked America by showing herself to be a fiercely independent woman during the couple's first sit-down interview together that aired directly after the Super Bowl on January 26, 1992.

"You know, I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette," she told 60 Minutes (via Politico). "I'm sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he's been through and what we've been through together. And you know, if that's not enough for people, then heck—don't vote for him."

As Politico observes, Hillary's strategy worked, and her "feisty but dutiful" defense of her husband won the White House, but it angered traditionalists along the way. And Tammy Wynette was not happy.

Tammy Wynette wanted to fight Hillary

In the aftermath of the 60 Minutes interview, Politico reports that Wynette's fifth husband told USA Today that "Tammy was mad as hell." And, yes, we realize the irony of the "Stand By Your Man" singer having a fifth husband. But Wynette went even further by writing an open letter challenging Hillary to a face-to-face meeting.

"I believe you have offended every person who has made it on their own with no one to take them to the White House," Politico quotes the country singer writing before challenging Hillary to stand "toe-to-toe" with her. "I can assure you, in spite of your education, you will find me to be just as bright."

Hillary would publicly apologize to Wynette, but not after rolling her eyes and slapping her forehead upon hearing about that letter, according to Politico. Hillary didn't have time for this. She had more fires to put out.

Bill had lots of affairs and Hillary knew all about them

In another striking parallel to House of Cards in which the Underwoods would openly discuss their infidelities, later accounts of the '92 campaign would reveal that Hillary was well aware of Bill's philandering, and the couple would often shock staffers with how candidly they spoke about the issue.

As The New York Times reports, "Stanley Greenberg, a pollster for the campaign who had strategized with the Clintons in the fall of 1991 about how to handle the rumors of infidelity, recalled Mrs. Clinton's acknowledgment that her husband had strayed. 'It was an uncomfortable meeting,' Mr. Greenberg said in an interview for an oral history of Mr. Clinton's presidency conducted by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. 'I remember Hillary saying that, 'obviously, if I could say no to this question, we would say no, and therefore, there is an issue.'"

Things were so open that Bill practically bragged about his affairs, according to US News. "Betsey Wright, who was his chief of staff and one of Hillary's closest supporters—her experience will surprise people. She had a list of all the people that she knew that Bill had slept with when he was governor, and then she was stunned when she confronted Bill with this and he added to that list large numbers of names."

The campaign hired a shifty detective to deal with the affairs

While Wright is more forthcoming in her later years, during the campaign, she actually boasted to The Washington Post about hiring controversial detective to deal with the women alleging to have slept with Bill. Or "bimbo eruptions" as Wright would not so eloquently put it.

"Since the convention, the gold-digger growth is enormous," Wright openly told the Post. "There is a whole industry being spawned. The real heroes are the women—some of them low-income people—who have been offered six figures to lie and have said no. … This is a Scud missile on American politics."

Not exactly the height of feminism, and the attacks on Bill's alleged mistresses would come back to haunt Hillary during her 2016 presidential run. While The New York Times reports there's some discrepancy about whether or not Hillary authorized Pellicano's smear tactics, Bill's former campaign strategist would ultimately jump on that grenade: "It's just ridiculous to imagine that she was somehow directing our response operation. That was my job, not hers."

Hillary became Bill's co-president in exchange for protecting him

Even though she did stand by her man, Hillary didn't go to bat for Bill entirely out of the goodness of her heart. According to Duke University history professor William Chafe, Hillary earned a significant amount of pull in the White House for her efforts.

"He owed her because she had saved him." Chafe told US News. "So in response to that, he talks about her being co-president and he ensures that she will have an office in the West Wing of the White House alongside Al Gore's office and his office. He gives her command of the healthcare task force, which is his major domestic reform initiative. He basically allows her to run that even though his own political advisers and he himself have some doubts about the way in which she's doing it. But he is beholden to her and he really cannot challenge her."

Essentially, Hillary had become the most powerful woman in America, which would answer a lot of questions about why she stood by her man again despite his involvement in one of the most explosive political scandals in recent history.

Hillary sticks with Bill after the Monica Lewinsky scandal

In 1998, Bill found himself embroiled in a massive political scandal after the Drudge Report famously broke the story that the then-president had an affair with a young White House named Monica Lewinsky. It was an embarrassing moment for the Clintons that has cast a shadow over them ever since and nearly led to Bill being forced out of office.

But one of the biggest questions is why Hillary stayed with Bill. There was no denying this affair, and during the course of the impeachment, Bill would reveal that the Flowers allegations were true. Fortunately, Hillary's closest Diane Blair kept detailed notes about their conversations, and according to The Guardian, Hillary "never seriously contemplated divorce."

"He has been her best friend for 25 years, her husband for 23 years, they're connected in every way imaginable, she feels strongly about him and family and Chelsea and marriage and she's just got to try to work it through," Blair wrote. "Because she's stubborn; partly her upbringing; partly her pride – but, mostly because she knows who she is and what her values and priorities are and she's straight with those – she really is OK."

Bill allegedly didn't stop cheating after Monica

In 2004, Bill would publish his memoirs. Titled My Life the book would go into sympathizing detail about the damage he caused to his marriage and the heartache he caused Hillary after admitting his affair with Lewinsky, according to CBS News. At that time, however, the public didn't know that Hillary had been aware of Bill's numerous infidelities, so it was easy to believe the book's narrative about the couple going to counseling and solidifying their marriage.

However, behind closed doors, Bill had allegedly engaged in another affair. The sketchy details came from former Secret Service agent Bill Kessler who claimed in his book The First Family Detail that, since 2001, Clinton was having regular visits from a Julie McMahon who had been dubbed the "Energizer." The New York Post reports that Kessler writes that another agent gave him specific instructions if he sees McMahon, "You don't stop her, you don't approach her, you just let her go in."

For the record, the affair with McMahon has never been confirmed, and Hillary's spokesman wryly responded to the accusations with two words, "Another book?" The Clintons had bigger fish to fry in 2014, namely launching a presidential campaign for Hillary. And by that point, the couple knew how to deal with haters.

They love driving their adversaries nuts

As the notes Blair kept on her talks with Hillary became media fodder leading up to the 2016 election, The New York Times published a revealing account about how Hillary actually started to enjoy surviving scandal after scandal in the aftermath of the Lewinsky affair.

"Mrs. Clinton expressed pleasure to her friend that she and her husband were able to drive 'their adversaries totally nuts' because they did not appear to be suffering." Blair reportedly wrote along with the following quote from Hillary. "Most people in this town have no pain threshold."

And Hillary would have that threshold tested when an old friend turned adversary handed the Clintons their most humiliating defeat.

They were close friends with the Trumps

Before the intensely polarizing 2016 election that saw Donald Trump win the White House through the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote to Hillary, the Clintons and the Trumps actually used to be close friends to the point where their daughters Ivanka and Chelsea practically grew up together. And yet after years of friendship, Trump would be the one to deliver the biggest blow to the Clintons. 

But the story of their friendship gets even more crazier when you consider the fact that Bill encouraged Trump to run, according to the Washington Post. Whoops! Yet the Clintons took the loss in stride and showed how thick their hides have grown by attending Trump's inauguration. And while we're pretty certain they got a kick out of his rough start in the White House, it couldn't have been easy watching their plans for the second half of their marriage go up in flames.

They actually made a deal to split over 50 years in politics

In a 2015 interview with Time, Bill showed his eagerness to support Hillary's run for president, and once again demonstrated the Clinton's well-laid plans to conquer Washington.

"I told her when she got elected to the Senate from New York that she'd given me 26 years, and so I intended to give her 26 years," Bill said. "Whatever she wanted to do was fine with me. If she wanted to know my opinion, I would tell her, but she had carte blanche to make whatever decisions she wanted, and tell me what I was supposed to do about it."

Granted, Bill would indirectly stop Hillary's political short by encouraging Trump to run, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Every marriage is different

While the Clintons might be one of the most controversial couple in politics thanks to their unconventional marriage that seemingly places career ambitions over traditional norms, it works for them. And at the end of the day, that's all that matters. Plus despite conspiracy theories to the contrary, it's not like they're really murdering people like the Underwoods on House of Cards. Or at least we hope they're not. Bill did say it was 99 percent real!