The 2012 election is still 61 days away, but reporters and the public alike are already over it. Can't say I blame them — this year's process has already worn my neurons down to frayed, dysfunctional wires that register nothing phrases like "create opportunity" and "get America working" like actual sentences that mean things rather than meaningless verbal empty calories. But don't worry! Help is on the way! Last night, a long, expertly-delivered speech by former President Bill Clinton reminded the country that they have something big to look forward to in 2016 — Hillary Clinton. Will 2016 be the magical year that America is finally ready for a female President?
Bill Clinton's virtuoso performance last night at the DNC in Charlotte went for a full 30 minutes beyond the time allotted for the keynote address, but probably could have held my attention for a good hour or so longer. Clintonianly (I can say "Clintonian" because Andrea Mitchell said it last night), the ex-Pres seemed to have memorized his speech, often deviating from the script to ad lib and play to the crowd. He dismantled, point by point, common Republican attacks on President Obama. He was funny and sharp and reasonable. I felt like up to this point, I was watching the political equivalent of a bunch of high school playground basketball players try to scrimmage against each other, and then last night, a pre-knee injury Derrick Rose showed up and schooled everyone. Ah, this is how basketball looks. Oh, so this is how political speeches are supposed to sound. Minus an occasional tremor in his hands, the 66-year-old seemed like the same saxophone-playing cool guy the country elected to office twenty years ago.
But one noticeable difference between now and 1992 — now, in this bummer of a shitstorm of an election, Bill's wife Hillary is no longer a puffy headband wearing reluctant smiling sidekick ragged on by conservative commentators for being a power hungry battleaxe; she's a wildly popular diplomat with an impressive resume of her own (back in May, Gallup found that 66% of Americans viewed her favorably; a pretty impressive feat — in contrast, as of the RNC, only 42% of Gallup respondents view Ann Romney favorably, and Ann Romney basically only talks about hugs). Now, even conservatives who in the past discouraged women from running for office are drafting young female leaders. The future character of the GOP and the DNC aren't shaped by Phylis Schlafly and Geraldine Ferraro — they're shaped by groups like the Susan B. Anthony List and EMILY's List. And Bill's off-script hat tip to Hillary has gotten people buzzing hopefully that maybe, just maybe, come 4 years from now, he might be delivering the world's first major party convention First Gentleman speech.
Hillary has denied, and denied, and denied any rumors that she may run for President in 2016 and has even remarked that she's tired of the political "tight rope" she walks every day as a government official. She'll be 68 years old by the time the next election rolls around, barely younger than Ronald Reagan when he was elected to his first term. By all accounts, after this election, her Secretary of State-ing days are over. But that didn't stop the AP from speculating, based entirely on Bill's ad-libbed line — "I'm so proud of her and grateful to our entire national security team." — that he "may also have started setting the stage for another White House bid by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton."
The speculation is extra ridiculous when you consider that Clinton didn't even attend the convention to watch her husband's speech. Madame Secretary had a good excuse — she was pantsuit-deep in a swing through Asia and direct flights from East Timor to Charlotte aren't easy to come by, plus people in her position don't traditionally attend political conventions. It was the first DNC the former First Lady and ex-Senator has missed in four decades, but she was able to watch her husband sing her praises via an associate's internet connection.
While from where I'm standing, it seems terribly unlikely that Hillary will run (Chelsea Clinton has mentioned that she won't rule out a career in politics), we should take newfound, eager media fanfiction involving the Secretary of State's future imagined Presidency as an encouraging sign that the country is finally, actually, for-real-this-time ready for a woman occupant of the Oval Office. Obviously things could change drastically between now and 2016, especially if Paul Ryan implements the Gilead of his dreams, but the writing's on the wall (and in the newspapers) — we will see a female President of the US, and soon. It's not a matter of if, but of when. And of who.