Americans need a new elder statesman.
And, for some reason, they seem to have chosen Bill Clinton.
I felt the shift in the American gestalt last week when - unintentionally, I assure you - I found myself listening to a discussion of Mr. Clinton on a radio talk show. The tone was laudatory and respectful, and the discussion produced in me a warm, fuzzy feeling that I immediately recognized.
Nostalgia. Otherwise known as a re-creation of the past, giving rise to a revisionist retro-history, which replaces our real memories, leaving us with the conviction that we were, once, actually happy.
Disconcerted, I asked myself, "What happened to Ronald Reagan?"
Americans witnessed the same phenomenon several years after Reagan left office, with very few compelling reasons. Once considered a somewhat ditzy old geezer with highly questionable economic policies, Mr. Reagan suddenly morphed into the Grand Poobah of conservative political thought, The Greatest President Who Ever Lived, with the nostalgic frenzy culminating in the last Republican presidential candidate debate which was less about the issues-of-the-day than an argument over who Ronald Reagan liked (or would have liked, upon reaching adulthood) best.
And now, with a whisper and not a bang, I sense the change in the air. People are wistfully talking about The Clinton Era in much the same way as erstwhile voices spoke of Ronald Reagan in the not-too-distant past. Probably with the same glassy-eyed look.
What a break for Hillary. Who, until now, didn't have a prayer of a chance of becoming president.
I don't dislike Hillary. I really don't. Eleanor of Aquitaine she's not, but - hey! - who is? My former position that she was unelectable had nothing to do with her qualifications or experience. It was, instead, based on an incident from my childhood.
One summer, back in the days before air conditioning and video games, when children spent long, hot summers left to their own devices only returning home to be grudgingly fed once or twice a day, all the girls on my block - a 1968 Chicago bubble universe - signed up for the course at Sears Charm School. Yes, Sears had a "charm school" for 12- to 16-year-old girls, the efficacy of which was measured by "before" and "after" photographs, the former documenting a tragic mess of puberty-ridden girl; the latter a perfect portrait of the poised, confident young woman.
Everybody went. Everybody. Even Ruthie, the nasty (and ugly) little rich girl whose daddy owned their apartment building and who had a double lot with a garden and her own room with her own portable record player. Even she was to experience this miraculous transformation, hopeless as the case may have seemed at the time.
I didn't go. And I never became charming. (And Ruthie, the only reason I hung out with you and think of you today with considerably less rancor than you deserve, is that you were fatter than I was.)
So, figure that Hillary and I are about the same age and that only twenty miles separate the scenes of our respective childhood crimes. Take my word for it, and I am sorry, but she simply screams "Sears Charm School". That doesn't play well with the television cameras or with Instagram, even after a well-intentioned intervention by Oscar de la Renta. Now that I've put my finger on it, I am willing to wager that a large percentage of the American voting populace thinks that Hillary was a Ruthie.
There. I can't explain it any better.
But, lo and behold - just when I thought that Hillary's only chance at the presidency would be to run against Marco Rubio - the cavalry, in the form of some kind of collective American political/religious experience, arrives. Out with crinkly, leathery, twinkly-eyed, ol' Dutch, too long gone to be relevant. In with big, happy, twinkly-eyed Papa Bear Bill, all sins forgiven. If only because people under 60 can remember him.
How does this affect Hillary's candidacy for president? Well, aside from the fact that the media is suddenly showing all of her "cute" pictures from back-in-the-day-with-Bill, riddle me this: if John McCain had chosen Nancy Reagan to be his running mate, instead of Governor Weather Girl, would he not have wiped the electoral college floor with Obama?
The answer is yes, probably. That was a close call.