America has a rather unique role for the wives of Presidents and other office holders -- we designate them “First Ladies” and make available to them the bloody pulpit of their husbands’ office and considerable staff support. At times there is a public benefit: teacher-librarian Laura Bush did considerable work to expand literacy. But then there are times when we rather wish the first would be last among us. Eleanor Roosevelt pestered FDR to reduce his enthusiasm for imperialist Winston Churchill; fortunately for the WWII war effort, her husband paid little heed. Hillary Clinton’s work in the health care field almost brought Bill’s government down -- the arrogant secrecy surrounding its formulation and her love of central government direction were precursors of things to come, and made Obamacare seem like a benign alternative to Hillarycare. Michelle Obama opted for the role of First Parent and directed mothers and fathers what to pack in their kids’ lunch boxes.
Then there is the First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, wife of mayor Bill de Blasio. Ms. McCray, whose husband has assigned her a taxpayer funded staff, has taken to dropping in on administration officials meeting to discuss children’s issues, a role the electorate neglected to confer on her. Never mind. At a recent meeting she asked for permission to sing to the assembled pols, and treated them to a lullaby she had used with her own children, presumably to emphasize the importance of music to children. After what could only be characterized as an obligatory round of applause, reports the New York Times, the administration aides “taken with Ms. McCray’s impromptu performance” decided to record her lullaby, which “will soon be featured in a promotion about early childhood development.” Talent will out.
Of course, none of this first lady stuff will be relevant should Hillary Clinton succeed in bringing her family back to the White House, along with her private email server. We have had no experience with a First Gentleman, so one hopes Bill will take Margaret Thatcher’s husband, Denis as a model. Denis always kept out of the limelight: his motto, “Always present, never there.” With the exception of an outburst or two -- refusing to act as escort to Winnie Mandela at an official function being one such. His money-making career ended when his wife became Prime Minister, and she in turn prepared his breakfast whenever her travel schedule permitted. It is, of course, uncertain that Bill has the capacity for self-effacement that Denis exhibited. If Hillary proves a less attractive campaigner than Bill, we may never know.