Last night we asked Bill Clinton whether he was ready to become America’s first male First Lady (OK, first gentleman.)
“If the American people are ready to elect [Hillary Clinton], I am,” the 61-year-old Mr. Clinton told The Transom. “I’ll do whatever I’m asked to do. I hope they will, because I think it’ll be good for America and the world, but whatever happens…” And then he gave a slight shrug.
A little before 9 p.m., the 42nd president had just arrived at Tabla, on the edge of Madison Square Park, where he was hosting a party for Ian Klaus’ new book, Elvis Is Titanic: Classroom Tales from the Other Iraq (Knopf). Its 240 pages provide a detailed account of the author’s stint teaching U.S. history and English to students in Abril, Iraqi Kurdistan’s largest city.
Mr. Klaus, a 28-year-old graduate student of history at Harvard, became friendly with Mr. and Mrs. Clinton when he was famously dating their daughter Chelsea, whom he met when the two were studying at Oxford in 2001. (Mr. Klaus will not likely become First Gentleman Junior; the pair officially split in the fall of 2005.)
Mr. Clinton said he hopes that Mr. Klaus’ exemplary tenure in Iraq not only influences other American citizens, but that it will somehow affect the course of foreign policy on the world stage. “I do think it’s a very important part of what the United States, and in fact the whole global community, has to be doing,” Mr. Clinton explained, before a solemn pause. He went on, “I was glad to see the U.N. taking a new interest in finding a way to get back involved in Iraq, because whatever we do or don’t do, there’ll be continuing violence to establish some kind of coherent community. And at bottom, there are all these young people who have these dreams. All we have to do is create a set of dreams they can pursue that don’t require them to kill other people.”
He’s already auditioning for the role! It seems Mr. Clinton also sees in the young author, who was wearing a dark suit over a black dress shirt and bright red stole, a trait that isn’t shared by many of his fellow nationals.
“We Americans are very good when we’re in the solutions business, and we’re not very good when we’re in the whining or complaining or division business,” he explained with his signature nod and squinty-eyed beam.
Mr. Clinton then went on to press flesh with other gushing guests, who included current Nobel Prize winner for literature Orhan Pamuk, several professorial types, a smattering of Mr. Klaus’ friends and family, his editor George Andreou, fellow writers and, yes, Chelsea Clinton, who appeared to be very affectionate with her onetime beau.Elvis Is Titanic’s dedication page reads: “To my mother and Chelsea, for understanding.”
Both Mr. Pamuk and Ms. Clinton refused to offer a comment to the Transom, the latter explaining matter-of-factly: “Oh, I don’t ever speak to the press.”
Another guest, Aaron Hicklin, the editor-in-chief of Out—America’s leading magazine for gay men—was anything but cagey. After being asked what it might be like to have a man playing second fiddle to a no-nonsense woman at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Hicklin grinned and began to chuckle sheepishly. “He’ll be the royal entertainer! He is American royalty, and I’ve always really loved the idea of the ‘first man,’” he explained, before adding: “I hope he takes great care in terms of, like, his wardrobe and his dinners and maybe produce a White House cookbook. But I’d really like to see a man kind of embracing his inner-woman in the White House, and kind of just showing that men can do that. I was very excited about the idea of ‘two for the price of one’—I know it’s a cliché, but you know.”
Any guesses about what kind of White House china Mr. Clinton might select if his wife is elected in 2008?
“Probably, for Bill, I think it’s going to be Crate and Barrel or something,” Mr. Hicklin quipped. “I don’t think he’s a china man. He’s not really got the class for the Royal Dalton/Wedgwood thing. I think it’s not going to be pastels; I think it’s going to be black and white for Bill, sadly. Something that doesn’t show the marks. You know, he’s practical like that—he doesn’t want stains to show.”
No, he doesn’t indeed.