Hillary Clinton referenced “my husband’ in the first debate the other night - this was unusual, and a critic quoted in the New York Times said it was a remark that "put women back years" but it could be a good move. Although most commentators felt she won the debate hands down; the polling in the swing states is still close. If what people like about Donald Trump is that he’s a real person and they see her as a patronising know-all, then her long marriage to Bill shows Hill in a different light.
The political class have never forgiven Bill. You can see them having flashbacks when his name is mentioned. The crudity of the sex scandal that engulfed the White House during his presidency is all too vivid in their memories. The embarrassment, the humiliation that they felt as the world’s media swarmed into Washington, holding their hands over their mouths to mask their giggles, still surfaces easily.
For readers who don’t remember the 90s, Bill Clinton was found to have been having an affair with a young intern named Monica Lewinsky, aged 25. He famously went on TV and denied having had ‘sexual relations with that woman’ but it later transpired that he was kidding himself and everyone else - he simply meant they hadn't had penetrative sex. All kinds of messing about had gone on. Lewinsky was persuaded to hand over a dress awaiting dry cleaning which had a stain on the shoulder. Analysis proved it to be Bill’s semen.
The ensuing scandal engulfed American politics; it was Newsnight crossed with the Jeremy Kyle show. Many Americans, understandably hated this. They saw the office of President as having been demeaned. A barely-repressed shudder and a curled lip still accompany many mentions of Bill’s name on TV.
But does the disempowered white guy with a pick up truck and bad tattoos see it that way? Does his long-suffering girlfriend? Trump said after the debate that he had planned to attack Bill Clinton but he couldn't bring himself to, because of his respect for Chelsea Clinton, who was in the audience.Maybe the real reasons Trump didn’t attack Bill for his sexual exploits was that he knew it wouldn’t help with his demographic.
For people who see themselves as rhinestone cowboys, Bill’s tale may feel like something they can relate to; a sort of Samson and Delilah with sex tips.
Is there any man in America who has had their private flaws more ruthlessly exposed to the public eye, who has been more thoroughly humiliated and yet who has managed to stay standing throughout the process; finding a third act as a supportive spouse.
And Hillary stayed by his side and faced the music with him. People say now - and I was arguing with a young waitress about this the other day - that she she held onto Bill because she knew it would benefit her political career.
But I don’t think anyone who lived through it would think that. When the scandal was in the process of erupting all over the news channels, Bill Clinton had hardly a friend in the world. Hillary was criticised by many for turning out to be a doormat and letting the sisterhood down. She could have cut him loose. It wouldn’t have hurt her politically - quite the reverse. She could have found herself another suit-able escort.
Trump also has had an interesting love life. When I couldn’t sleep the other night, I found myself reading all about his family. It’s like a Jackie Collins saga or Dynasty. He has five good looking children, four of whom were a the debate last night. He has been married three times and there was a showdown on the ski slopes when number one wife, the impressive Ivana Trump, found out about his affair with the woman who became her replacement. Then Trump moved on again. Trump on marriage: he has talked about how he often advises his friends, if it’s not going well they should do as he does, ”cut their losses” and move on.
Clinton could have taken that advice. But she didn’t. There must be many long marriages that come across shoals in the water, infidelity, or other things - look at Brangelina. But sometimes the two people in a relationship decide that instead of throwing each other overboard they are going to stay in the boat and weather the storm together.
In Edinburgh this summer, a friend captured an image of photographer Harry Benson in front of his iconic image of Bill and Hillary Clinton kissing.The Clintons Kiss, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1992 is a beautiful photo. And if it ever turns out to be one of two presidents smooching it will be worth a fortune. But I don’t think you can look at that photograph and not feel the real reason Hillary hung onto Bill is probably that she loves him.
Bill Clinton is popular in the UK where he played a key role in brokering peace in Northern Ireland. He would be a welcome guest for the Queen and Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace. At home and abroad, Bill Clinton would make a great first spouse. It’s time he came in from the cold and was embraced by the Democratic Party. They should wheel Bill out on the stump in the rustbelt; he understands the voters they need to win over. No-one ever said Bill Clinton couldn't work a room. He could be their Trump card.