Come January, there could be two presidents in the White House. That is, if Democrat Hillary Clinton prevails over Republican Donald Trump at the polls November 8.
The second president would be Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, who would take on the role as ... first lady? First spouse? First man?
At this point, we don't know. The protocol for the first-ever scenario is really guesswork.
“There are no precedents,” said Allan Litchman, professor of history at American University in Washington, D.C. “But certainly he should not be called the first lady. He should be called the first gentleman, of course.”
In the United States, a first lady traditionally maintains a low profile and a quietly supportive role. Historically, first ladies adopt a non-controversial policy initiative; just think of first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to reduce childhood obesity. It’s an issue that the vast majority of Americans can support.
Hillary Clinton tried a different approach, taking on the overhaul of the U.S. health care system, a very complex, controversial policy issue with many stakeholders. Ultimately, that effort failed.
The Clintons have already indicated that Bill Clinton will relinquish his role at the Clinton Foundation to avoid any appearance of conflicts of interests.
So, what role might he take on should he become America’s first-ever first gentleman? Will he host teas or choose the White House decor?
“He’s going to have to learn," Lichtman said. "And I think he can at the age of 70. He’s certainly smart enough to figure all of that out.”
But Clinton is a known “loose cannon,” Litchman points out. And if he overshadows his wife, the president (if she is elected president), Litchman says that could cause problems.
“Whether he can keep himself under control is the bigger and much more interesting question,” he said.