HILLARY CLINTON'S "Bill Clinton Problem" is a joke that has become not so funny. In a debate earlier this year, Mitt Romney got a huge laugh line when he said, "The idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House with nothing to do is something I can't imagine." Hillary Clinton answered with a joke of her own when she assured David Letterman, "Well, look, you know, in my White House, we will know who wears the pantsuits."

Yet, it was reported this week that Bill Clinton has worked hard to promote the Colombia Free Trade deal, while Sen. Clinton says she has worked to oppose it. Yes, this is the same Colombia pact that cost her top campaign adviser his job when it was revealed that he was working on the side for the Colombian government.

According to the Huffington Post, Bill Clinton received $800,000 to take part in a speaking tour sponsored by Gold Service International, a Colombian outfit that supports the free trade deal. Just after, his Clinton Global Initiative announced millions of dollars of investment, including in Colombia. Just last year, Clinton participated in an event for, and received an award from, Colombian President Uribe - a man whose human and labor rights record is so odious that Al Gore backed out of an environmental event when he found out Uribe would be there. The award Clinton received was described as ABC News as part of a PR effort to "counter [Colombia's] negative image among Washington Democrats."

The Clinton campaign's press secretary, Jay Carson, offered a petulant response, telling Ben Smith of The Politico, "Yawn."

Excuse me if this problem doesn't make me as drowsy as Sen. Clinton's spokesperson. I would expect, and even welcome, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton arguing about policy behind closed doors. It can only help the senator form a more informed, wise position on critical issues. But, this is not a marital squabble.

At some point, when Sen. Clinton claims she was trying to defeat the Colombian Free Trade Deal, Bill Clinton must have told her that he was planning on making some money to promote the deal, and helping the Colombian President deflect attention from his offensive record. What did Sen. Clinton tell the former president at that point?

Either she told him that it was OK, and she didn't mind him working to pass the trade deal, which calls into question just how opposed to this policy proposal she really is. Or, she told Bill Clinton that she didn't want him doing that, and he did it anyway. Certainly, during this campaign, Bill Clinton seems to have gone off on his own, saying and doing things that Hillary Clinton later had to apologize for. The former president's crass comparison of Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson, in South Carolina, comes to mind.

Whatever the case, this is problematic. In this critical time, we cannot afford to have a president who says one thing, while the first spouse publicly works towards an opposite end. Sen. Clinton must better explain to voters why the former president goes off on his own like this, and how she will better control him if she should find herself in the Oval Office.

This is now serious, and answering this question with jokes won't cut it anymore. *

Flavia Colgan is a member of the Daily News editorial board. Check out her blog, CitizenHunter, at www.citizenhunter.com.