A long time ago in London in the very early 1990s, my girlfriend and I were waiting for a bus, in the Strand, at about 10.30 in the evening, and who should come walking along but Dennis Thatcher, heading more or less in the direction of the Houses of Parliament. Margaret Thatcher was still an MP at that time, though no longer Prime Minister.
Even so it was a surprise to see Dennis walking all by himself, no bodyguard or security detail in sight. My girlfriend and I sort of looked at him, and he sort of looked at us, but we really didn't acknowledge each other’s existence, although the moment he’d gone my girlfriend and I simultaneously said, “That really was Dennis Thatcher, wasn’t it?” And there was no doubt whatsoever that it was.
Largely thanks to Private Eye’s portrayal of him as a gin-drinking, golf-playing, saloon bar bore, Dennis Thatcher was largely a figure of fun in Britain during the Thatcher years, but there are much worse things to be. He was wise enough to keep his mouth shut and stay out of trouble, which seems to me as much as we can or should demand of the spouse of a political leader.
In the United States however things run a little differently. If you want to be president you have to drag out your spouse at the party convention to make a speech saying what a good egg you are. When your spouse just happens to be Bill Clinton, well, it’s no surprise than he turns up the rhetoric pretty effectively.
The home life of the Clintons remains inscrutable, in fact downright unimaginable, to most of us. And needless to say Bill Clinton’s speech made no mention of jetting around on Air Force One, of hobnobbing with dubious international dignitaries. nor how he and Hillary enjoy the many billions contributed to the Clinton Foundation. No, folksiness was the order of the day, and what’s more folksy than WALKING?
First there was the cute meet:
“I saw the girl again, standing at the opposite end of that long room. Finally, she was staring back at me. So I watched her. She closed her book, put it down, and started walking toward me. She walked the whole length of the library, came up to me, and said, "Look, if you are going to keep staring at me, we at least ought to know each other's name. I'm Hillary Rodham, who are you?"
Obviously things went pretty well:
“I asked her to take a walk down to the art museum. We have been walking, and talking, and laughing together ever since.”
Yes walking is apparently one of their things, and yes, judging by the pictures a dog is
usually involved. He went on:
“I can tell you this — if you were sitting where I am sitting and you heard what I have heard and at every dinner conversation, every lunch conversation, on every long walk, you would say, "This woman has never been satisfied with the status quo in anything.’”
Some might think that a series of long walks with somebody who’s constantly expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo might be a little wearisome, but Bill’s obviously made of sterner stuff. And of course he insisted that walking isn’t just the province of rich white folks:
“If you are a young African-American disillusioned and afraid, we saw in Dallas how great our police officers can be. Help us build a future where nobody is afraid to walk outside, including the people who wear blue to protect our future.”
Who could disagree? And I’m not saying it isn’t a damn good speech, and if it helps put Hillary (and him) in the White House, then that’s OK by me. I’m just not wholly convinced that the two of them really do a whole lot of walking together, unless there’s a photographer nearby. And I suppose any number of bodyguards.