Bill Clinton's Half-Baked Entry in the Presidential Cookie Contest

A quarter-century ago, Hillary Clinton made a snippy remark about baking cookies, then won a competition with Barbara Bush. Can the prospective first gentleman measure up?

Hillary Clinton serves cookies as Bill looks on at a 1993 White House reception. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Hillary Clinton has been nationally controversial more or less since the 1992 presidential election, when she first became a national figure. In one early incident, Bill Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Governor Jerry Brown of California, accused him of sending business to the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas, where Hillary Clinton was a partner. She responded by implying the charge was sexist, “the sort of thing that happens to women who have their own careers.”

But reporters kept pressing her, asking if she should have avoided the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life,” she snapped.

The comment blew up, becoming a major gaffe story on the campaign trail. Critics charged Clinton with belittling women who chose not to work, portraying them as quaint homemakers. She was on the defensive for some time—one of the early episodes that led the poisonous distrust of the press Clinton often exhibits today.

There was, however , some sweet revenge for Clinton, if you will. Later that fall, after Bill Clinton had won the Democratic nomination and was running against President George H.W. Bush, Hillary Clinton participated in a bake-off against First Lady Barbara Bush, sponsored by Family Circle magazine. Each of them submitted a recipe, and then readers were given a chance to bake the cookies and choose for themselves which was better. Clinton won. And she won again in 1996, too.

The prospect of a woman president has raised many questions, with some of the least important but most discussed hinging on what happens with the presidential spouse isn’t a woman. Perhaps the most mundane of these: How would Bill approach the Family Circle cookie bake-off?

Now we know. Family Circle announced Thursday that the prospective first gentleman had indeed entered, submitting the same oatmeal chocolate chips that carried Hillary Clinton to victory twice before. Melania Trump offered up star cookies made with sugar cream.

It’s a little disappointing that Bill Clinton went with an old recipe, even if it’s a proven favorite, rathe than something more original. Couldn’t he have come up with a new recipe that would match the vegan lifestyle he now (mostly) leads? Moreover, with the Clinton family facing renewed scrutiny over conflicts of interest, this time related to his work at the Clinton Foundation and hers at the State Department, a little time away from globe-trotting and in the test kitchen might be just the thing—much more than in 1992.