Thursday, November 4, 2010

Barbecues & Elections

Hillary Clinton has arrived in windy Wellington. It’s a cloudy day. There’s to be a barbecue for her this evening at Premier House. Wild boar sausages, whitebait fritters, pavlova, catered for by Logan Brown the city’s premier restaurant. Fit food for a Secretary of State and the most powerful woman in the world.

A barbecue in Wellington is always an iffy thing. In Auckland one can usually plan and count on warm weather. Likewise in Canterbury, the large sky gives ample warning of an approaching gale. But Wellington? In my salad days I got tired of standing around on chill evenings, dodging smoke, pretending to enjoy charred steak and sausages with uncooked central entrails. Once in a blue moon the host strikes it lucky. Successful barbecues in the capital city are usually impromptu affairs.

At Farm Rd we had the best of both worlds, large French doors opening onto the patio – the steak could be cooked inside and consumed outside. I make a confession. I’ve never been at ease standing up and eating – it seems an unnatural pose. And now, it is no longer an issue.

John Key got a photo opportunity earlier this year worth thousands of votes. Prince William, aproned, cooking sausages on the barbie, while the PM had a can of beer in his hand as he oversaw proceedings. I’m sure something similar will be attempted this evening.

Two and half years ago Mrs Clinton was locked in a huge struggle with Obama. For what it is worth I was backing Hillary. More experience I believed. Obama won that titanic struggle. At the time I believed that having bested the Clintons he’d hold his own against McCain. And so it proved. America had its first Black president.

I suspect many Americans have had trouble coming to terms with that. As I suspect many Americans would have had trouble accepting the first woman president. And Hillary did carry some baggage of her own as well as her husband’s.

But I wonder if she ever says to Bill ‘I could’ve done a better job’. We are not privy to such pillow talk. She is a pro – she knows what to say and what not to say. She has been loyal. And she is on the other side of the world while Obama has taken an electoral whipping.

He inherited a financial crisis and two wars. He has carried through into law a far-reaching health reform. He is stuck with a constitution that is unique and in many ways cuts across its own first principles plus he’s been subject to an ideological campaign of vitriolic proportions. The next two years will measure his calibre. I do not doubt his idealism. I still have reservations about his ability.

If he should stumble badly I wonder what Bill’s wife will do. I’ve always had a hunch that she’s a better politician than her husband. And ironically, his charm and charisma are her biggest assets.

I’m sure she’ll smile a lot at tonight’s barbecue. Indeed, I’d bet on it. And I'm sure John Key will also have a grin. The tide that turned against Obama almost from day one has not happened here. His opposition is huff and puff compared with that across the Pacific.

But a lot can happen in a year, let alone two years. Mayor Wade-Brown greeted Clinton this morning. Who'd have dreamnt that happening a few months ago.

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