Role reversal: Bill Clinton, adoring spouse, in VIP box at nomination
Philadelphia — This time, Bill Clinton will be the adoring spouse, rapt and smiling when the cameras cut away from the candidate in the spotlight.
He’ll be the He in the VIP box watching as She accepts the presidential nomination at the Democratic convention on Thursday.
It’s one small step in the role reversal Americans will need to get used to if Hillary Clinton wins the White House in November.
Already, satires and spoofs are circulating, taking note of Bill’s fashion choices, accessories and hair style. How about that fetching pantsuit! And that nice head of hair! Whose shoes is he wearing?
After all, that’s what political wives have come to expect.
Much of the world is watching this shift in the U.S. cultural-gender zeitgeist with a bit of a yawn. Dozens of female leaders have served across Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and Australia, after all.
But it’s new territory in the U.S., and the novelty is still, well, a novelty.
Bill Clinton, utterly comfortable in his own skin, seems to be just fine with trading places with his wife, the former first lady. He’s shown no hint of awkwardness about his new supporting role.
Historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony, of the National First Ladies’ Library, said that because the Bill-Hillary team is so well known to the nation, it may make the gender shift less startling than otherwise, if she wins.
“He’ll stand in his tuxedo on the north steps, greeting a state leader beside Hillary in an evening gown. And we’ll know that one is now president and one is now first gentleman,” said Anthony. “But it’ll still be Bill and Hillary. And I think that will probably make the transition a little bit easier.”
There’s something to be said for familiarity, yes. But it could have a downside, too, given the unsavory chapters in the Clintons’ marital history, including his numerous affairs.
Still to be determined: what title Bill would hold on a return trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
First gentleman, perhaps?
Or first dude?
The latter is what Gary Sebelius favored when his wife, Kathleen, was elected Kansas governor in 2012.
Chelsea Clinton, interviewed Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show, said her dad “likes to hearken back to his kind of Irish roots, so I think he’d love to be called First Laddie.”
“I’m definitely voting for First Gentleman,” she quickly added.
Bill Clinton’s title may still be up for debate, but his wife already has been giving thought to the division of labor should she win.
She said in a debate last year: “I am probably still going to pick the flowers and the china for state dinners and stuff like that. But I will certainly turn to him, as prior presidents have, for special missions, for advice.”
Does all of this mean that Hillary Clinton’s clothes, figure and hairstyle will no longer be fair game for debate?
Theresa May’s leopard-print kitten heels were a global conversation piece when news broke earlier this month that she would be Britain’s next prime minister. One tabloid splashed her shoes across the front page with the headline: “Heel, boys!”